Road, Gravel, Mud
(Also posted on Medium. I will cross post anything I write, and archive them here.)
It’s been a while since I’ve written about work. Even longer since I’ve gotten on a bicycle.
In so many ways, running a startup is like a race. Some people like to do sprints. Some people like lycra.
More and more, I find myself preferring endurance sports and comfortable clothing — perhaps because that’s the closest sporting analogy I can find for the kind of work that I do.
In 2014, I moved to Indonesia to work on ‘financial inclusion for women’.
In 2015, I completed the ideabox accelerator, worked with no salary for a year and a bit, and worked on finding product / market fit.
In 2016, I finally raised my first tranche of funding. At that time, ‘Indonesia’ / ‘emerging markets’ and ‘social impact’ were three things that didn’t go together.
In 2017, I lost both of my cofounders for personal reasons, and struggled to not burn out myself. I did not succeed.
In 2018, I am still going at it. Wobe is growing everyday. We have great investors. I am supported by a team of hardworking people who are not only great at what they do, but they also believe that we can use tech to bring financial inclusion to emerging markets.
Grit and resilience don’t come naturally to me. I understand them as concepts and I live, to the fullest extent that is possible, with as much as I can muster. I’m also painfully autistic; I simply don’t see risk. Risk is not a discrete concept, nor is it something I can grasp. Therefore, it does not exist.
Early stage startups are hard.
You risk: running out of money, running out of steam, running out of time, running out of energy. Everything needs to be in perfect alignment and timing. You have to fashion a product and a company into existence, and do both really well, in a remarkably short period of time.
All of your flaws are amplified.
Everything needed to be done — yesterday.
Everything is broken. Everything is great.
Like so many startup folks, I decided to work it off. Triathlons are especially popular with us. I suppose if you do what we do for work, weekend competitions that are physically and mentally demanding are just yet another challenge. Another hill to climb. Another bendy road. Another slope to descend.
I did a bit of that, and I’m pretty good at it. But I realised my taste in sports is the same as my taste for business. I need gravel and mud. I need to fly face first into wet muddy terrain. I need to find a hill I’ve never climbed, with the equipment I have, and just pedal furiously.
I feel like I do that everyday at work, and everyday at play.
I’m at home in places where conditions are rough.
I like unpaved roads.
Maybe that’s why I’ve chosen to build a business in a space I care very much about (increasing access to financial services for the unbanked), in a country I love with all of the opportunities and challenges (Indonesia).
The road ahead is bumpy, wet and rocky. That’s when I know it’s time to hit the gravel.
Thank you, friends, family, investors, Wobe team members and our customers, for coming along on this ride. You push me to do better, be better, learn everyday, and do my best. Burn out is not fun. You lose so much time and focus. Growing is so much more fun! I want to share more stories from the trenches, growth, warts and all.