The Misunderstood Entrepreneur

I think people misunderstand us entrepreneurs.

For that, let me clarify what makes me and pretty much every other entrepreneur in this world do what we do.

When people think about entrepreneurs, they think of people like Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, and the like. But, what they forget is that at one point these folks were in the same spot as you; sacrificing, staying up all night coding, spending every last dollar on their dream. Yeah, they didn’t have shit on their way to the top, but they were happy doing something they were passionate about.

You see, people get caught up in the public face and the hype about a company but forget about what’s going on under the hood and the time that’s being put in to get to the top.

They never seem to ask either or take the time to understand. Then….one day, we surprise the hell out of them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, ‘To be great is to be misunderstood

Because I often feel misunderstood (Maybe you do too), I thought I would take a stab at helping others better understand us.

We have a method to our madness. We don’t sit around on our computers all day doing nothing. It may seem like the strangest thing, but every one of us have a process for thinking things through, strategizing, and making decisions. We are process oriented people and think like a builder. Sometimes we don’t even know what we are doing it just comes natural as it’s part of our fabric.

We trust our gut to the end. We’ve spent our lives absorbed in chasing our dreams and for this we are extremely confident when it comes to trusting our instincts and following whatever inspires us the time. We follow what we believe in, not what other people think is right or what society tells us we should do. We may listen to others, but it’s only a trusted few and in the end it’s still going to be our.

You won’t find a more passionate person. This is what we do. There is nothing else…it’s all we know and want. It could be writing code, coming up with the next great product, or changing an entire industry, we love it. It inspires us to go big or go home. It’s ultimately where we feel most comfortable. We feel at home and if you were to ask any of us, we would tell you that there is nothing else we’d rather be doing.

We are quick on our feet. We can process things, come to grips with a situation, and understand complexities very quickly. Stuff that might take you two hours to understand we can take care of in minutes.

Problems are our lifeblood. We enjoy nothing more than seeking out and solving problems. We see every problem as an opportunity worth solving. It’s like it’s a never-ending game or something. We actually get off on it. And once we fully understand the problem, we will bring everything we have to the table to come up with the right solution, business model, decision, whatever it takes.

We have something to prove. It’s not entirely clear as to who, but we have something to prove. Maybe it’s to ourselves, that we really can solve a certain problem and build something out of nothing. Who knows. Regardless, we are all on a pursuit to achieve greatness and we will let nothing stand in our way.

Hardass workers. You will find no one that works harder than us. Yeah, you may work with your hands, but you eventually come home and sit with your families. We lay awake at night thinking about our companies. We wake up in the middle of the night to start working on a thought or an idea. It never stops. It never ends. Our work is our life. It’s obvious really when you consider how passionate we are about what we do and how driven we are for accomplishment.

And just for the sake of knowing, If you ever end up working with one of us, the worst thing you can do is sit on your ass. We hate people who say yes all the time and we are impatient with folks who don’t add value. We surround ourselves with people who can make things happen. If this is you, great. If not, move along. We think this way. Come on board and get to work or get out of our way. Easy as that.

 

Build Cool Shit with Cool People

Make it your personal mission to build cool shit with cool people.

If you’re thinking about  starting a company don’t make it about it be about money, power, success, or the cool factor? These are the wrong reasons to start a company…and if this is all you got, you better be ready to fail.

Yes, you do need drivers as you do in anything, but don’t let these be the reasons why you start a company.

Starting a company is one of the hardest things you will ever do. It’s tougher than any Iron man, fight, school paper, exam, breakup, or fight you’ve ever been in. Starting a company is like getting in the ring with an MMA fighter just to get your ass beat over and over again – the key, getting right back up because anything worth doing is worth fighting for.

Don’t waste another day doing anything other than this. I’ve started several companies for the right reasons and I’ve started companies for the wrongs reasons. What I’ve learned is this simple statement: build cool shit with cool people.

Don’t make the mistakes I’ve made, get out there, find cool people, and get started building cool shit.

If you do this, it will change your life.

Get Started Startup Journaling

Are you a journaler? What do you journal about? Life, challenges, family, relationships, thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc? These are the things most people journal about.

Journaling is one of the better decisions you will ever make in your life. It allows you to reflect on your day, process things, and take a hard look at ways you can better yourself.

How about startup journaling? Have you considered it?

If you are an entrepreneur looking to start your first venture or maybe your second, third, fourth, fifth…. you should start startup journaling. This too will be one of the better decisions you will make.

Here is what you do. Each night before bed, take some time to list the gaps and anomalies you noticed that day. What did you see that can be better, changed, or evolved? Why has something remained the same for so many years? What problems can you potentially solve? Was there something that day that really just pissed you off to the point you were like, why has this not happened? These are the things you need to jot down. And the key here is not to write about big startup ideas (Google, Facebook, Twitter), but rather just the things you see and want to better understand.

Don’t be like so many people and sit around trying to come up with the next big startup idea when right in front of you could be a brilliant disruptive idea that you can get started on today.

Now grab a journal and start tonight.

 

To be great at anything you need a set of rules to live by

What do you want to be great at? For me it’s a husband, father, and then entrepreneur.

After my family, I want to be great at starting companies, providing jobs, and changing the world. To do that, I felt that I needed a set of rules to live by.

I use this list for myself and for the startups that I decide to get involved with.

This is a short list of things I work hard to hold myself accountable for…and those that I decide to partner with.

1. Be disruptive and visionary.
2. Go big or go home
3. Build your network through relationships
4. Plan for the next 5 minutes and for the next five years
5. Be flexible
6. Persistence pays off
7. Get your product to market fast and early
8. Seek honesty in everything
9. Stay hungry and humble
10. Be everywhere all the time everyday
11. Culture is the lifeblood of everything you do
12. Break these rules

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What does your list look like? 

 

Startup Quotes

Some really good startup quotes.

“The challenge with most startups is just dealing with the emotional ups and downs, which can be huge.”

500 Startups’s Dave McClure

“You worry all of the time.”

Zendesk founder Mikkel Svane

“I hit this wall of fear when we were about 30 people.”

Julia Hartz of EventBrite

“I’ve had my share of failures. That’s kinda what makes a person ready for success.”

Scott Kveton of Urban Airship, who pitched VCs unsuccessfully 30 times before hitting pay dirt

“You’re gonna screw up.”

Dan Levin, COO of Box

“Not all of us can lead. But this is a special type of sport.”

Ben Huh, CEO of Cheezburger Network

“If we don’t allow ourselves to make mistakes, we will never invest in things that are radical.”

Jeff Clavier, VC, Soft Tech

“Be brazen, but don’t be arrogant.”

Kate Rutter, cofounder of LUXr

——-

Out of these quotes, which ones connect with you?

 

A Startup Leaders Greatest Challenge

Lets be real honest here for a second. Startups are fucking tough and the emotions that they cause often times seem unbearable. They make you want to give up. They drive you to the point of wanting to rip your hair out.

The truth is, you are not alone (I’m there with you).

These emotions are completely natural and part of the process of developing you into the leader that you need to be for yourself, your family, and your startup.

Question: Think back at the last time you were being screamed at by your customers, employees, or your wife, you worked until you dropped, you ran out of capital, made a stupid decision, or you just pushed yourself to that point of breaking? How did you respond? Are you proud of how you responded? Or do you feel like an idiot?

Emotions are normal…especially for a startup.

The key to being a great startup leader is knowing when to display emotions, when to delay them, and when to put your head down and fight them.

Emotions will do two things to you: 1. Make you better 2. Wreck you. It’s up to you to choose how to deal with your emotions.

Make a decision that the next time you have to deal with emotions (You will) that you will put others first and you will handle them, process them, and allow them to shape you into the leader that you need to be.

 

 

Startups are not a job

Are you making startups a job? They’re not a job (At least they shouldn’t be) they are a lifestyle.

Everything comes down to what’s important to you. What do you really want to achieve? If it’s just money, then you fucked up somewhere. Startups shouldn’t be about making money, they should be about living out a love and passion to change the world. To execute on a vision.  To make a difference. If these are your priorities and reasons for starting companies then money, life, happiness, and all the gifts and joys of life will follow.

Lets be honest, startups are hard work, they take up much of your time and you have to sacrifice things. However, if you’re doing things for the right reasons, it wont feel like much of a sacrifice – it will feel like a gift.

Take a hard look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it – money, ego, fame, friends, and be honest with yourself. Figure it out. Ask hard questions. And even if the answer becomes a very hard reality…deal with it. Drop everything, shift your priorities, and live the life you were meant to live.

 

No one gives a shit: How to get heard in a noisy market

Are you struggling to get your message out into the market? Do you feel like no one gives a shit? What’s the problem? This is the easy part, right? F*** no, this is the toughest part and I will promise you that.

Illustration Courtesy of: Cruzine

Just about anyone can come up with an idea, put together a team, and launch a product, but then comes the hardest part…getting heard.

I mean, how do you compete with the millions of other startups out there working for the same attention? You don’t, you take a step back, gather your team, and agree that you’re going to put together a fluid plan, stick to it, and never, ever, give up.

When your success is dependent on you being heard, you better be tough enough to stick it out – most people will give up.

If you want to win in this game, you have to look at the long-term and have some balls. When you get punched in the face, you have to jump right back up and get in the ring. Pussies don’t win here – people with stamina and a can do attitude win this game.

Now, be disciple and stick to it. If you want to get heard in a noisy marketplace, you need to eat, sleep, and live out your message. Be obsessed. And never give up.

Go.

Don’t try to be silicon valley. Instead, take risks and trust one another

Do you ever wonder why Silicon Valley is so awesome? I always wondered. Then, I moved here and found out why.

It’s not because of Stanford or all the VC’s like everyone thinks. Silicon valley once started out as nothing – It didn’t just one day pop up and be this incredible place for a startup. It started in the same place you are. Yeah, they have nice weather, you can surf and board in the same day, and it’s absolutely beautiful, but again, this is not what made the Valley the place to be for startups.

The reason Silicon Valley is successful is because the people here are more open to trying things and doing shit. They’re not afraid to take risks and lose their shirt. And they understand that high risk breeds high reward.

Everyone is on board with the vision and moving in the same direction. It’s not a top down ecosystem – It’s all-encompassing. Everyone is included and everyone has the same opportunity.

There is a sense of connectedness like I’ve never seen – I actually saw this in Boulder as well.

The other thing is that for the most part everyone trusts one another. You can meet with someone for coffee and within 30 days that person has written you a check to invest in your startup.

Think about this for a second. In other parts of the country, people want to strip you down naked, pull every record and file you and your company have, meet your kids, and then, they still come back asking for more – this shit kills an early stage startup.

Any community can build what Silicon Valley has built. The key though, is taking risks and trusting one another. People can say what they want, but Silicon Valley is built on the foundation of risk and trust.