A Big Step for Start-up Founders

Aaron Radez and I after the event.
(Aaron Radez and I after the event)

I gave a talk tonight at Workbar. Aaron Radez coordinated and moderated the event.

Now, I’ve given many talks, but this one felt special. Aaron was deft, and the audience seemed really engaged.

For me, I stumbled on a new realization as I answered one question about entrepreneurs. I started to think that people who start companies from scratch face a unique challenge: they must wean themselves from validation/affirmation. They have to get used to rejection.

Not just once, and not for just one day. But, many, many times each day for many weeks, months or years. I know I was unaccustomed to that when I started Kepha.

You see, leaving a job to pursue a new business idea forces you to leave a steady paycheck, a set title, and your previous identity. You literally walk away and create a new “you.”

And, when fundraising/recruiting/traction becomes hard, and the accolades are slow in coming, there’s not much validation/affirmation from others. I won’t ever forget one university endowment manager saying this to me when I was fundraising alone: “There might be room for a new VC firm, but I don’t think it will be you.” Ouch.

That comment hurt for many reasons, mostly because I was unaccustomed to such blunt feedback. You see, we want positive feedback, and we’re trained to yearn for it. We go through life being graded in school. Then, we join the working world and go through performance reviews. So, we’re taught from an early age to seek and get validation/affirmation from teachers, employers, and if we’re not careful, significant others.

Then, if you become an entrepreneur, you have to change your mindset quickly. Blazing a new trail means that you’re taking the road less taken. No one is going to hand success to you. You have to make it happen. You have no place to hide. You have to get used to ambiguity (a previous post on that here). It can be a very uncomfortable feeling.

Frankly, I’ve seen some entrepreneurs get really crushed with this new way of life. Fortunately, I see many instead rewire their brains, persist, and eventually, become different.

The upside from taking this big step is that you become less reliant on other people’s perceptions of you. You become more self-sufficient. You become a stronger version of you.

And, that becomes incredibly empowering.

Thank you, Aaron, for a fun event!

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2 thoughts on “A Big Step for Start-up Founders

  1. Well, the facts show that the university endowment manager was dead wrong, probably not for the first time.

    And I think you are being too gracious in calling that feedback. Feedback would be: I don’t think it will work with you doing X so try Y, or if you could do Z we would be interested. What that manager did really was just a personal attack and obviously reflects more his character and low self-esteem than anything else.

    1. michael, thank you. you are very kind. yes, that fundraising meeting was one of my first ones. it was quite an intro to being an entrepreneur!

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