Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Startups and adrenaline are a potent mix

Fred Wilson's post a few days ago "Starting is Easy, Finishing is Hard" speaks to the grind going on for many tech startups today. He says the easy exit days feel as if they have gone and for many it is taking raw tenacity to finish.

And he's right. When you are the CEO or in the founding team of a startup the years are long. It feels as if it will take forever to get to the next stage of product, or growth, or market development.

But the days are short, and it's what makes the days short that draws in many founders. It's the adrenaline. Yes they should have a vision, and passion to change the world (a passion to get rich typically backfires) but without a love of the adrenaline rush they would not last a year.

You feel the adrenaline every single day. When you close a deal, when you talk with your team about your dreams, when you pitch a VC (whether or not they bite), when you have a vision match with a huge customer, when you can feel the forward progress. Your heart beats faster, your hands may shake. It's hard to come down (many startup CEOs I have known, me included, self medicate with a stiff drink at the end of the day), it's hard to sleep, but it makes 5am exciting because you know the rush is going to start again the next day.

In many ways you need the drug (it's a hormone) in your body. It makes your mind sharp, it increases your intensity, it helps you focus on exactly what you need to do second to second to win in each situation. And succeeding is all about having the tenacity to win against a million people/circumstances/barriers that want to stop you every day.

Getting a new company up and running and successful is SO hard that I don't advise people to do it unless they simply cannot stand not to, and only then if they have the stomach for the stress and can manage themselves through it. I am working with a brilliant founder today who is swinging from the heights of heaven to the depths of hell as her company leaps forward and who has designed a swimming and yoga weekly schedule simply to help her manage the stress.

And what's interesting about the adrenaline phenomenon is one day it all stops. I ran into a girlfriend at the airport this week who ran a hugely successful company, and is now retired, and as we compared notes she told me she just stopped enjoying the rush, and then she knew it was time. When you dread the 5am calls, and you dread taking another redeye, and while you can still get the rush in front of a customer, but not every day, then it's time to hand the baton to the next woman who wants to change the world.

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