As I look forward to April, I can sense the anticipation of talented individuals who are about to embark on remarkable journeys. This is also is when the foundations for these companies are being laid. Some will be starting out with their friends. As the gears churn away in the minds of the founders, they are carefully going over an important question in their minds – how can I include my co-founder best in what we’re about to do? Founding teams are hard to build, and once built they should be equally hard to pry apart. And yet it happens all too often.
… It was like a breakup scene from a Hollywood movie: it was raining and we were arguing in the street. We couldn’t even agree on where to walk next. And so we parted in anger, heading in opposite directions. As a metaphor for our company’s failure, this image of the two of us, lost in the rain and drifting apart, is perfect.
These words are from Eric Ries’ book ‘The Lean Startup‘. Not very long ago, I had bought into the vision of a couple of ideas and had contributed myself to each one. Along the way, spin-outs were proposed and a decision had to be made. I think I made the right one by letting go, especially considering I personally was not contributing and did not wish to continue contributing in startup mode at the time. Erics’ words closely reflect the ensuing turbulence in my mind at the time. I could not understand my choice as I felt that I was missing deserved attribution.
If one were to think of reality in only this one way, the point of it all would be sadly missed. It would be like trying to guess what an entire Jigsaw puzzle might look like based on just a single piece. When you start off together you know so little about each other except for a gut feeling that you are both going in the same direction and that you would like to share success. Given enough time and pressure, your relationship will develop into something that is closer to family and is less like a purely professional one. Beyond family, a co-founder can enrich your venture in a way that resonates with the spirit of your team and complement your own skills and mindset.
If we look at those who work with us in this way, we might be slightly embarrassed about holding back on many things. For instance, you may have thought your idea and existing work is worth a great deal of equity, or you might have missed out on attributing someone else in the past. That’s alright. It happens to the best of them. Perhaps you were just not ready for it at the time. Founders can choose to auto-adjust to each other to make these deviations irrelevant. It is also ok to find out that things are not going to work out after all. If that is where you are, the best piece of advice you can get would be to accept it and continue to move forward.
Building a founding team is hard work and in contrast it might be better to focus on a challenge that comes before that – how to get started. Success is an irresistible magnet that will help you attract the best talent. From that point, finding a right co-founder is as simple as looking for the right vibes.
If you do have the opportunity to start out with someone I suggest that you err on the side of family and not on the side of being professional. It will lay the foundation to what I believe is necessary for a great company. It might sound absurd but not much more than common wisdom that great companies are especially so because of great founders – not limited by an exact sense of ownership, or propriety.
A 1,000+ emails sent. Worked with the largest, to the smallest customer, all the way down to their end-users. Stumble occasionally but get back up and keep course – and then completely out of the blue, you strike the right note with someone. Can’t help but share this badge I earned.
What a delight to read your letter this morning as I opened my daily emails! You belong in customer service as you understand the pure human intent inherent in the term! Several things… thank you for communicating to me what my next step is; sending a message having a tone that tells it’s reader it was generated by a human being; and for being culpable, responsible for the information being sent out. Again, thank you for starting my morning off today with a happy, oft absent, nod to being genuine! Kudos to you!
(dec. 8th, 2011)
Merry Xmas & a Happy New Year to all!
* Fab.com: Customer Service Tips.
This post has been the most unusual one to write. It has been an effort of well over a year now to gather what I have learned and put it into proper words. Some introspection, a series of conversations with family, other entrepreneurs, friends and mentors helped me find them, and yet it must remain unfinished.
In April this year, I took up a full-time with ShopSocially and have been working there ever since. Before that people, including some who I did not even know – used several words to describe where I was at, including ‘struggling’, ‘stuck’ and so on. It was never a secret that times were difficult. Speaking carefully, I only recently discovered that my work on my venture was missing heart.
The problem did not lie in what I was building, or any of the million other things that I might have felt. It had simply become of paramount importance for me to succeed, and by staring so hard at only this one thing – the emotional content necessary to make things work vanished. With no freedom from failure, every thought became rigid, the negative amplified, and small details sadly missed.
It has been a hard-earned lesson, but a valuable one.
Fortunately, life decided to take me over and cut off my past. My time with those around me at work and home has given me an opportunity to train in their inherent cycle and recover original perspective to build on. Yes, I am not in a venture where I am in a position of risk, and I get that we all want to be that proverbial Tiger hunting it’s prey. I also think I understand now that in order for the Tiger to be a Tiger, he must put in the same amount of intensity in hunting a mouse as he must when hunting another animal that is much bigger or faster than itself.
If you read up stories of founders who made it (or did not), that will tell you that they did not know before hand all that they were building – but with uncommon sincerity did they mix their lives, work and ambitions to lay down layer upon layer. Take this blog site for example, I have to work on not only it’s contents, but how it looks and feels as well to make it agreeable to you. In order to discover that I must first write and so on further in. Same principle.
So what lies ahead? Truth is, all I know right now is the compass-bearing and am taking on challenges one at a time. I have plenty of moves left to get me to where it is that I am going. I am also constantly tinkering with my self to improve. For those of you who believed in me, encouraged me, I might be slow to come around but I stay in your debt as I go forward.
It turns out the answer is really quite simple, as a kind mentor once said to me – you just want someone to share your journey with. No further pondering needed :-).
A company who’s primary driver is the intellectual capital of 100′s of millions of people, 10′s of thousands of developers,
A company that wants to increase the value of ‘brand’ above everything else by driving down the value of privacy.
Interesting times indeed …
This might seem obvious: Facebook is on the Internet, and the Internet’s main function is to distribute information—of course Facebook can’t be private. That photo you just shared with “friends only”? Not only is it now stored on dozens of Facebook servers across the planet, but it has also lodged itself into each of your friends’ browser caches. What’s more, any of your “friends” is free to grab a screenshot of your image and spread it to the wider world. At best, then, the “privacy controls” on Facebook (or Google+, for that matter) should be regarded as aspirational, the most optimistic scenario for your data. Friends only, hopefully.