Archive | September 2009

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Kennedy fried chicken mmm mmm good.

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Note to future self (and others): I will make lots of mistakes

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Image via Wikipedia

I had one of my favorite mixergy interviews with Zaadz founder, Brian Johnson on in the background today while doing some work.  Brian is my kind of entrepreneur, a guy who has seemed to have found the amazing intersection of personal meaning and business.   There’s a ton of great stuff in this interview, things I will most likely write about down the road, but there was one thing in particular that struck me.  Brian says he’s learning to embrace the fact that he is an entrepreneur, a creator and with the lifestyle comes mistakes. Lots of them. There is no avoiding them or denying them, they will come sooner or later.  So as he’s embraced who he is, he’s also learning to embrace the falling down and the more comfortable he gets in the falling down, the less he fears it.  I want to embrace it too.

So I guess this blog post is a first step there.  As I’ve discussed before, I struggle as much if not more with the fear of what others will think of me after a mistake as the consequences of the mistake itself.  So let’s just get this out of the way now: For anyone working with me or anyone who may work with me in the near or distant future, I’m going to make mistakes.  In fact I  may make a lot mistakes, but I will get up and move on from each one a little bit smarter. I’m telling you now, so it will be even easier to tell you later. I will do my best to deal with whatever the consequences of the mistakes may be. I’ll do all I can to learn from them and move forward.

There, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get on with the doing…

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no regrets about going with my gut.

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Image by Mick Opportunity via Flickr

So I was watching the Techcrunch 50 tonight live on ustream while waiting for Julie to get off the phone before watching Mad Men, and just as I was about to switch it off, I saw a name I recognized.  The upcoming presenter was a company called Yext, a company I knew.  My jaw hit the floor.

You see when I first moved to NYC 3 years ago this week, I was all open and up for anything.  I told myself I just wanted to do something interesting with people I could have fun with and learn from.  I wanted to continue pursuing my path as an entrepreneur either by starting my own company or coming on board VERY early with another startup.  So I went to all sorts of meetups, NextNY events, and made lots of random linkedin meetings.  It was actually fun, and quite honestly I don’t remember a lot of the people I met with during that time, but I do have to say, I remember Howard.

I actually met Howard on Craigslist.  One of the things I did at that time to increase my chances of meeting interesting people was to post something on Craigslist saying basically I was an entrepreneur, I had just moved here, and I was looking for another entrepreneur to to partner up with.  I got a LOT of responses to that posting, and about 99% of them were junk (no offense to the responders).  But Howard’s for some reason intrigued me.  I think it simply said “I’m interested, tell me more,” but I did a little digging on his email address and I found an old article about him being a hot shot college entrepreneur.  I gave him a call, we connected over the phone so we decided to meet.  We met for drinks a few nights later.

I actually liked Howard right away.  He’s clearly very smart, he’s very direct, and he’s vision driven.  He had a lot more experience as an entrepreneur than I did, and really knew his way around NYC.  He told me he was working on an idea around generating leads for local businesses, using his previous company experience “driving millions of qualified leads (he said this a lot).”  He said he had another co-founder, the tech guy, and they were looking for someone else to bring on.  I was very intrigued.  Actually I was really excited.  We agreed to meet a few more times, and to meet when his partner came into town.

After a few more meetings, and a quick trip to Chicago for a conference where I was able to see reactions of potential customers, they offered me a deal.  They wanted me to join them as a founder and to buy into the company at somewhat higher valuations than they had.  I also had to agree to stay on for at least 3 years to get all of my equity (I forget exactly all of the details).  I was a little nervous about the money, but was really nervous about being locked in for 3 years.  This is something I’ve grown quite a bit on since, but back then I was terried of being locked down for anything.  I had only spent a couple of days with these guys, and they were asking me to invest money and committ 3 years of my life. What if I didn’t like it?  What if I wasn’t as good as they or I thought I was?  What if I found something better?  Deeper down than the fear of time committment, I knew 2 things:

1.) Howard would make it work.  He would make a big, successful company, and he would do it quickly

2.) I really didn’t want to be part of it.

So I did what I had always done up to that point…I  found a way to ease out the back door.  I talked to one friend, a VC in Columbus, who told me exactly what I wanted to hear at that time (that the deal was not great for me), and I made my decision: I was walking away. I told Howard via email I was not doing the deal.  I do regret that now (not telling him to his face), but that was how I did things back then. But I felt like a freed prisoner and it felt amazing.  I remember walking down broadway thinking to myself, “wow I really do know what I want.”  I guess I was impressed that I was able to look through an opportunity to probably make a lot of money, and do a lot of the things I want to do, and still hear my gut say “it’s not this one.”

Which leads me to tonight..There on the tv before me, with my jaw on the floor, was Howard and Brent (the two co-founders) presenting their newest product offering at the Techcrunch 50 conference. On top of that they were presenting to some people I really admire and would like to meet someday, and quite frankly their demo was VERY impressive.  During the demo Howard let it slip that their current business, the one I was asked to co-found and invest in, will do $20M in revenues this year. I laughed out loud.  I turned to Julie and laughed again, saying “now THAT would have been a good investment.”  I laughed some more and finally said to her “well I was good enough to find an opportunity like that once, and was good enough to know it wasn’t for me, so I’m certainly capable of finding another one that good again.”

And as hard as that may be to believe, I feel that way.  I’m very happy and proud of what Howard and his team have been able to do, and I knew they would do it.  And yes sometimes I wish that I had made better decisions financially in my life.  But as good as that one would have been for my bank account, it would have been worse to ignore my gut. I have no regrets about my decision. And my gut says now if I was good enough to find an opportunity that big once, I can do it again.  But this time it will be right for me.

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Tinker don’t perfect

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I’ve spoken to several entrepreneurs this week as well as spent some time thinking about my past endeavors, and one thought keeps popping in my head: “tinker, don’t perfect.”   When I look back on some things that I’ve worked on, some of them things I REALLY was  passionate about (have some thoughts about passion, but that’s another post), I realize that a common theme was I was trying to finish them before I started them.  A good example was All is Well.

My basic plan and goal with All is Well was to take an this image that my sister had found after my mom had passed away (to the right) and put it on t-shirts using cafepress, create a simple website to tell the story and sell the shirts, then split the proceeds between the company and several causes my mom cared about.  It quite frankly was a simple

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process, one that could have been wrapped up in a week or two.  And I was very close to doing just that…until I had a problem.  The programmer I was working with had basically agreed to put the site together for a very low rate because of the nature of the project.  Unfortunately they got stuck on one issue with cafepress and integrating it within wordpress. Now at this time you could actually buy the t-shirts on cafepress (in fact you still can) but I became obsessed with the site being perfect before I told anyone about it.  So I waited, and waited, and waited, and slowly I realized the programmer had moved on to something else.  The 2 week project became a month long project, which became a 3 month long project, and now a 2 year project.  With each passing day,  I beat myself up more for it not being completed, perfect, and live.  And the more I beat myself up about it, the less time I wanted to spend on it.

Now I will say that there is certainly a whole other layer of issues related to this particular project, and a lot of emotions attached to it, but the point I’m trying to make here is that I was afraid to do anything until I thought it was perfect.  If I had just been willing to accept that perfection, if ever possible, comes with time and tinkering, I most likely would have just gone with what I had, or actually gone with the simplest path to what matters: spreading the message through selling shirts.  So I guess there are 2 lessons I’m seeing here: 1.) tinker, don’t perfect 2.) remember what’s important. What’s the goal?  Don’t get bogged down on all sorts little things that in the end don’t mean all that much to what you’re trying to do.

So whatever you’re working on, give yourself a break.  It is not going to be perfect right away if ever.  But you’re better off playing and sharing and testing, than hiding and perfecting.  Get out there and see what happens.

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Albert Einstein quote -via Kareem Mayan’s Weblog

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

— Albert Einstein (via reluctantbuddha) (via rahmin)

I enjoyed this.

Albert Einstein quote -via Kareem Mayan’s Weblog

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

— Albert Einstein (via reluctantbuddha) (via rahmin)

I enjoyed this.

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