Does the Universe Hate Startups?

I’m the CEO of a one year old startup. We have a superbly good product in development, a big and hungry market with lots of hype, and we get tons of support from everyone we speak with. Everyone wants what we’ve got. Everything should be great.

But it’s not. Investors/advisors are slow to respond and act, everything has a 3-5 day processing time that slows us down, good employees are hard to find, shipments are constantly delayed/lost, paying COD’s has to be done in person at a location 20 miles away, prototype parts break faster than we can afford to replace them, a disgruntled co-founder has left and is threatening to sue unless he receives an unreasonably large payment, the biggest crowdfunding site out there has rules that are a problem for us, etc etc. The list just goes on and on.

Have you ever been in a dream where you’re trying to run fast, but it’s as if you’re stuck in slow motion? Well, that’s what it’s like. I’ve kept the team strong, and we’ve continued to find ways around all barriers and obstacles, but new roadblocks just keep popping up, and we’re behind schedule enough as it is.

Is this what it’s really like to be an entrepreneur – getting your ass kicked every day and losing sleep over things outside your immediate control? Or am I a bad CEO? Some companies just make it look so damn easy.

 


  • Hello. My name is [insert here] and I’m a founder… Welcome to the every day sh*tstorm. Those on the “outside” will have no idea what you’re talking about. Those on the “inside”, well, they’ve got the scars showing membership. Year two should bring you…

    -hiring that great person ( and delaying the background check) just to find out she was a prostitute after said background check is complete

    -getting that Series A term sheet only to find that it should have been written on toilet paper since the investor decides to lower your valuation in an attempt to coerce your now running on empty company

    – having your marquis client ( I can’t believe we still won that business) decide to “renegotiate” the contract a year in knowing that you’ll never arbitrate

    -running out of money again, and again, and again even though you’re winning business like crazy. Where’s the money?

    -AWS goes down, again. Really? But I thought…

    -your ability to make sh*t up is at an all time high.

    So while I’m sure you’re company is super unique, the good news is …you’re just like the rest of us.

    Good luck.

    • “-hiring that great person ( and delaying the background check) just to find out she was a prostitute after said background check is complete”

      SHE? why SHE?

        • Nothing wrong with that…she could have more business experience and down to Earth approach than many.

          On the other hand, startups can’t pay much so somebody with MBA would hardly join you.

    • If you have the traction you claim, you are not communicating properly to stakeholders and investors. There is a large world out there of people who want to be part of the creation process that is entrepreneurism. But they want to ‘participate’. Most entrepreneurs don’t include others properly, then complain that the resources necessary to ‘get to the next level’ are difficult to come by.

      Review The Startup Genome Report on the benefits that accrue to those startups that have more ‘engaged’ investors; easier financing, higher valuations and more M&A.

      At its core, it is Investor Relations. Communicate, ask for help (besides more $), listen to them, let them be part of your journey.

      Success has 1,000 stepfathers, and failure is an orphan.

      Accumulate stepfathers.

  • Listen to the words of Jethro Tull “Nothing is easy”.

    If someone cares to look up the lyrics and post them here

    that would cool.

  • Hmm…. if half of your team think you suck as CEO, what would you do?

    fire them
    resign
    employ ppl who think you are the best and ready to follow you like a sheep.

  • Waiting for a reality show that goes through the actual struggles of the everyday startup. Not Silicon Vally-though a good show…

    You are not alone Mr. CEO. which is in fact the hardest freekn job in the world! Hate hearing about all the success in L.A. and the U.S. in general. Most fail and/or struggle to the point of “what the f*#%, is this shit even worth it”. A friend of mine quit the startup world and was so happy to work for corporate America because the stress wasn’t worth it anymore and now he has a steady income and peace of mind.

    If anyone on your team is not on board with you and your company/vision then let them go asap. Give them equity, get a lawyer to draft something up and move forward. If you are not the best person to be CEO then leave the ego aside and get someone who can do a better job. For instance Craig is the founder of Craigslist but not the CEO. I’m a founder/CEO but if I ever get to seed and beyond I would not have no problem stepping down to a different role. I have no experience in IPO so why not let someone steer the ship whom has this experience. Ego, in my opinion can be the death of many great teams and ideas.

    I’m struggling my ass off trying to get launched with no money, great Dev. team, pitch deck, proforma, captable, alpha MVP and still investors are of the mindset of “I don’t give a dam” launch your MVP, get market validation and/or profits and then we can talk. Investors suck until they don’t and I’m just learning this myself.

    Friends and family will not and cannot understand this world so don’t bother, unless you just need a shoulder. Remember, most people don’t have the balls to put it all on the line and risk everything-because that is what it really takes and we’re doing. I’m in debt, have no money to my name and my lady is close to leaving me. Yet I have 5 Developers, UI/UX and we keep pushing forward. Why? because we are the dreamers and workers that actually improve this crazy/wonderful world.

    Somedays you just have to fake it to make it through. Someday this might not actually be worth it and that’s just life. I say, keep your wits about you, start jogging and get rid of any dark matter that is apart of your business. Reach out to others that are smarter than you and leave your ego at the freekn door. You made it this far so keep going!

    I wish you all the success in the world!

    Thanks for letting me vent as well….

  • OP here,

    Thanks guys, it helps to know I’m not alone. My team’s faith in both myself and the business is unshakable, and the harder life pushes the harder we push back. Sometime’s it’s just overwhelming how aggressive Murphy’s Law can be.

    Everyone talks about how starting a business requires a lot of work, but what they don’t tell you is how difficult it is. Those two are not the same thing. Climbing a mountain takes work, crossing a swamp full of alligators alive is difficult.

    I suppose what I’m wondering, though, is “Is it possible to be so well prepared that big problems become few and far between?” or is it all chaos, all the time?

    • You can benefit from experience and preparation to better deal with small or big problems. That’s true. But despite any preparation level you can have, you will never know in advance if your startup idea is good or bad. You know it only when you make it.

        • Make it done. Done meaning either success or failure. At this point, you know if initial idea was good or not.

          Maybe there is a personal bias in this appreciation. I think execution matters, but if we exclude extraordinarily exceptional which could make a bad idea work (more or less) and so terrible execution which could kill a cash-machine, the main factor for success or failure is the initial idea (which contains in itself the needed refinements which came along the way).

            • Do you really need a definition of success or failure ? You don’t know if you are successful or not ? Success or failure is what you define for yourself. You can measure it with money, followers, hype, KPIs, happiness or anything which matters for you. It’s personal. I could give you my personal definition, but I’m afraid it will not match your own goals. Of course, I suppose nobody will consider bankruptcy or death a success factor, but except those ones, the choice for criteria is really large.

              • The trouble is my definition of success does not match CEOs, so therefore I am not sure I should stay with startup in which success I just don’t believe in.

                Working on peanuts and hanging around in hope that one day all will be fine and some nice money will come is really really super hard.

                Because yes, the founders might get rich, but the rest of us who are just slaving for them…hmmmm.

                All I am trying to say, the risk is massive and founders got to take responsibility of people working for them and treat them with massive respect.

                If half company disagree with CEO’s management skills, I honestly don’t know how much more time and hope one should have for this one.

                πŸ™

                • If you don’t believe in a startup, its CEO, its product or the team, you should run. If you don’t run, it will be emotionally really hard. Been there, done that… I stayed too long in a zombie startup. I didn’t identify it as a zombie, because there were huge setbacks with external causes (krach after IPO, this kind of things…), and obvious recoveries, then big setback again, then recovery again… Later on, I know I should have run many years before I actually did. But I still liked my job, had enough money, so I had many bad reasons to stay.

                  Becoming rich by being an employee in a startup is not a reasonable hope. What you can hope is a career as a VP or C-something with big wages if the startup succeeds. This is nice, of course, but it is different than what a founder can make. And it is normal. Just avoid the mistake. If you want the biggest reward, you must take the biggest risks. It’s reserved to founders.

                  You must be clear about what is success for you. If you want to become rich like a successful founder, be a founder. If you expect that but only accept to be a startup employee, you will always be disappointed and unhappy.

                  I learned this lesson the hard way. I worked about 20 years in startups as employee and always felt disappointed, despite a career path many people would have loved. Now I’m founder and CEO. Life is “a little bit” harder, but I’m much more happy now. You must decide for yourself what is a good life for you.

  • You say you’re getting tons of support, but you also say investors are slow to respond and/or act.

    I’d say either your expectations are unrealistic or else your perception of support doesn’t match reality.

  • Yes, the universe resists change. Lao Tsu wrote about this. Startups change the world, and there are a thousand ways to fail, all of which you have to avoid to succeed.

  • +1 I am in a similar situation and my family is forcing me to get a job rather than staying awake all night long for my startup.

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