Clearly today I’m either on a high or mid-way between the two – if I was on a low the last thing I would feel capable of doing would be a blog post, because the lows certainly sap your energy, conversely more so than the highs, when you are trying to juggle 10 things at a time, and should be exhausted, but aren’t.
But let’s talk about the highs – they are sooo good. You strike a deal, you implement a system, and you can see that you have the potential to change the lives of millions – that’s powerful, and more than compensates for the lows.
Then there’s the question of funding – does one go for VC, or, because one is doing ethical work, hoping to improve the lives of millions of people at the BoP, does one spend time and energy applying for one of the many grants which are on offer? Both of these require time and energy – a lot of it, so would it just be better to plough all of that time and energy into winning new business, or trying to move existing deals along?
Boot-strapping – that’s all well and good, but it ain’t easy either. It means doing everything on a shoe-string, and having to make do with a lot of favours and part-time help.
On the other hand – there’s a definite flip side to it all. Being a boot-strapped start-up usually means working from home. In my case, a lovely log cabin with a superb view of garden and fields, doves cooing, the occasional visit from a muntjac deer, and a dog lying snoozing at my feet can’t be at all bad. Being in charge of your own destiny means that you don't have to put up with office politics or superiors / peers changing their minds from one day to the next. Customers don’t count – they are all guilty as charged for change of mind, scope and project viability, but as they are customers, they are always right, and you just have to deal with it. Working with a small, but dynamic and talented team, and exceptional business partners in developing markets is a great privilege as well.
What do I miss the most? Office banter and a regular pay-cheque coming in I guess....What is the biggest challenge? Having do to everything yourself - from the lowliest of tasks (testing / writing the technical manual) to the other extreme (commercial negotiations / marketing / establishing new business relationships). I'm used to being pretty self-sufficient, which is just as well, but this certainly stretches me most days.
Starting a start-up is all consuming. It requires very understanding partners and family, friends and neighbours. It means putting your social life on hold, forgetting all thoughts of a holiday (breaks in which the laptop and mobile feature 98% of the time really don’t count as a holiday). It means giving up on reading novels, gardening and cleaning the house (albeit the latter not that much of a sacrifice!). It probably means that you’ve become boring, not great company and those bags under the eyes aren’t that good for your appearance either! Giving up on sport – there I draw the line. There has to be some outlet, and besides, having only just recovered from a crippling back injury I need to ensure that I don’t regress on progress made to date…
And then there is the chance that it has all been for nothing. But at least you will have tried! And as long as you know that potential failure won’t eat at you for the rest of your life, give it a go. You’ll only regret it if you don’t……