Warning: This Is Harder Than It Looks
Adversity makes for a great story as long as it concludes with success. This truth has become an albatross for all of us. We have flooded the market with success stories when those have always been the anomaly. In turn, our teams get frustrated with themselves and each other over a statistical fact outside of anyone’s control: almost every company that starts fails. Why? We run out of money before turning a profit.
Holding market conditions at bay, the number everyone building a company should stay focused on is how much money it will take to start making some instead. Our monthly transaction volume, API latency, and deals signed have always been jazz hands numbers. They are fun to talk about, but they’re not how success happens in the game of Capitalism. Over the long run, the purpose of business is to return (and maximize) capital to shareholders.
Venture investors should be commended for taking on the job of bridge maker. We have firms betting, believing, and rooting for us. It’s prudent to spend time catering to them. They are, after all, giving us money even after knowing this same statistical truth – most of the time, their investment in a startup will be wiped out. Being transparent, taking their views under advisement, and allowing them to help are simpler to do when times are great; it’s more important when times are not.
Knowing all of this and then taking a job at a young, private, adventurous company is to select out of the life you could have otherwise had to create something you otherwise could not. There are easier jobs with more security and better monthly pay. Still, I have the privilege of working with the most fearless, driven, and creative people I’ve ever met. Understanding the odds are not in our favor; they must be after the same thing as me. A success story.
Building a business from nothing is more complex than it looks. It’s just that the top performers make it look too simple. In 2023 let’s take off those rose-colored glasses. This game of capitalism has always been challenging, brutal, and unforgiving. Let’s be honest with our teams about the road ahead, help guide them on a roadmap to success, be upfront with one another about the likelihood of obtaining it, and most importantly, be supportive. I have found that this strategy increases my odds of being the statistical anomaly.