Some time ago, some people (read: entrepreneurs) I follow on Twitter posed a seemingly innocuous question. What drives us, as so-called entrepreneurs, to do what we do? Is it hubris? Ego? Is it an out-sized and unrealistic view of one’s abilities? For most of us, choosing this life also means the opportunity cost we left behind, often reluctantly: decently-paid jobs with career growth at startups, VC firms, tech companies, banks, even… bars. There has been no better time to be a tech exec. My friends, and I am sometimes envious of them, clearly smash through the income and lifestyle brackets in the top 1% of the cities they live in, even the world - what we do is such a upwardly mobile trajectory. The lifestyle, with the stock options in soon-to-IPO companies, global travel as part of international “launch teams” in the most successful tech startups, fuelled by the globalizing of venture capital and focus of said capital in my part of the world, is certainly tantalizing. No longer do you need to work in finance, it seems to say, with each job offer and recruitment mail, in order to eke out a nice life for yourself and your family. The stock options certainly don’t hurt.
So what can it possibly be that some of us choose to do this? Even though it’s easier than ever before to raise money and do your thing, the fact is no matter where in the world you do this, building a business is just terrible. It’s fun, otherwise we wouldn’t be drawn to it. It can also be rewarding, otherwise we wouldn’t try. But. It’s hard.
Between the deluge of entrepreneur porn articles and this shit is hard articles (like this, but 10x more pity) - I’m torn.
On the one hand, having the ability and the opportunity to start and run your own business, even to try, is a damn privilege. It really is.
On the other, there are so many moving parts. Skill sets you need to suddenly and abruptly become a ninja at. As a founder, from HR (super important) to project development to technical skills to payroll to accounting to taxes to… whatever challenges it throws at you, really.
The last couple of weeks have super hard.
Many startup founders come across founder depression at some point, and I think it’s a real risk you expose yourself to when you put so much of yourself on the line. No matter how well-adjusted you think you are, you need all the help you can get.
This is my second company. My first, right out of school, was a dev house that specialized in creating innovative marketing projects for advertising and FCMG companies through the then-new mobile and social platforms.
Pushing 30 this year, doing this at 30 is a world apart from how it was like to do this at 22. I’m sure there are many young startup founders who learn and grow on the job, or perhaps possess a certain self-awareness and ability which I did not have. But. I find myself, this week, making dozens of decisions daily - on the sorts of things which would have caused me a lot of grief, time, money or existential angst, back in the day.
I have the opportunity, the right teams, and the business partnerships to push through with the sort of tech business I have always want to do: tech, finance and social good.
Now, we ship. And learn. And ship again. And learn again.
I love it. I hate it. I love it.