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The flip side...

August 2, 2007

I've had a post rolling around in my head for a few weeks regarding our recent experiences as a company at Grazr. I love being the co-founder of a startup and the work we're doing (even if it's an emotional roller-coaster at times). It seemed, however, like our experience was fundamentally different from the image projected by many web 2.0 startups.

Then I came across a guest post on Guy Kawasaki's blog, On the Other Hand: The Flip Side of Entrepreneurship by Glenn Kelman, which not only did a fantastic job of spelling out all of the contradictory experiences I was going to blog about, but also echoed my general feeling about it.

Lately I've been thinking how hard, not how easy, it is to build a new company. Hard has gone out of fashion. Like college students bragging about how they barely studied, start-ups today take care to project a sense of ease. Wherever I’ve worked, we’ve secretly felt just the opposite. We’re assailed by doubts, mortified by our own shortcomings, surrounded by freaks, testy over silly details. Trying to be like James or Markus has only been counterproductive.

Glenn Kelman is the CEO of Redfin, an online real estate company, who seems to have gone through this process several times and it's refreshing (and a little reassuring) to hear this perspective.

We, as a company, obsess over every detail: our scaling architecture, data integrity, our feed platform, performance, extensibility, error messages, features, uptime, monitoring, how "solid" the code feels, our code management, testing, support, user feedback, ease of use, whether that icon *right there* should be 1 pixel to the left or right, basically the entire experience of our software (and more fundamentally our product).

This has seemed to stand in stark contrast to the cavalier attitude written about, projected, and generally championed for startups as of late. We've been chiding ourselves for being way too obsessed. While we could benefit from being a little more laid back (we're trying), we will never get to the totally-chilled-out-just-build-it-and-they-will-come-dude point of view, we just care too much.

Building a startup is hard but that just might be ok, dude.