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It sounds interesting but...

November 17, 2005

The exact starting point for my company is a little fuzzy, but full time with no encumbrance it has only been about four months. I can't claim to have hated my job, they were really good to me, but I left my big corporate job because I have this burning desire to innovate and do something really great. At one point while still at the company I was described as an "idea hamster" churning and churning throwing out one idea after another. I'd never heard the term before, but even if it wasn't meant as such, I took it as a compliment.

The problem is I had some pretty neat ideas and one particularly promising one was patented by the company. Why was this a problem? The patent was to make sure that the idea would never see the light of day. Their sole intent was to stop innovation, to keep any competitors from fielding it. That was a terrible psychic blow to me, especially when the development cost for this idea would have been nearly free. I couldn't convince anyone to pursue the project, even though a white-paper I wrote generated significant interest. I now know that particular idea will never become a reality. I probably should have realized at the time that this said something about me but I didn't.

I frequently reflect on my own strengths and weaknesses, however this startup process has revealed one I wasn't aware of. I guess I'm just not that convincing. How do the mythic entrepreneurs we hear about get people to join them? I read an essay by an investor that contained the following "if you can't convince your friends it's a good idea, why would I think it's a good idea?" Ouch.

Not only do I have some really neat ideas, a potentially huge market, and a strategy that I really think will succeed but I have a real passion for what I'm doing. All of the "A" type people I approach though seem to be too embroiled in their own affairs to join me. I'm starting to really feel the "moral burden" as Paul Graham calls it of being the sole founder.

Maybe my problem is I understand everyone's hesitation and issues, whereas these mythic entrepreneurs are willing to override this empathy for other people's situations and steamroll them. That's just not my style and I'm guessing a real weakness in my current situation. Knowing a friend has a new baby, I'm not going to put the full court press on them, I understand their hesitation.

I had hoped that by taking the plunge starting this company I would lead by example. "Hell if he's crazy enough to do it, maybe I should consider it", but alas that's not how it's turned out. Too often I heard people in the halls talking about "if only we had our own company!", well I'm never one to pine for something if I have any means to make it a reality. I thought those conversations indicated that others had the same bug but I think it turns out that a lot of that was probably just talk.

Ok I've been dying to use one of these quotes I've found of Teddy Roosevelt's. Not only is he known as a "trust buster" but some of his quotations seem like a perfect fit for being an entrepreneur. I think this one in particular fits my feeling on this particular issue.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorius triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

I'm currently resigned to doing it all myself. I'm not egotistical enough to think that this whole process wouldn't be a lot easier, though, if I could get some people working with me. The best ideas I've ever been a part of have been collaborations. Bouncing ideas back and forth until they take on a life of their own is a great example of when the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

I know a lot of really talented people, identifying "A" type people is one of my strengths. I can't seem to convince any of them, though, that throwing their hat in with me is worth it. Maybe I really am crazy but if I do end up checkered by defeat, so be it. I don't think so though. I won't be one of those that live in gray twilight never having tried. I will dare mighty things and win glorious triumphs, even if it is just me.