Founders Never Say Die
“Sir, we’re going to need you to move your vehicle, or the Secret Service will have to have it impounded.”
This was not, needless to say, how I had envisioned my day turning out.
Three weeks earlier I gave most of my stuff away, packed the rest of it in my 2002 Honda Civic, and headed for Silicon Valley to finish building and start fundraising for Grasswire. I didn’t have much cash, but by living in my car I could squeeze by.
I hadn’t, however, included my car’s complete mechanical breakdown on the 101 just a couple hours before Barack Obama’s caravan was set to roll through town in my financial forecasting.
The bad news is, I was no longer just poor; I was completely broke. I neither had a way to pay the bills that were coming next month nor the option to cut costs to live within my means.
And just like clockwork came those few hours of a weird entrepreneurial depression. When it hit, everything I’d done up to this point felt completely pointless. All of those hours my co-founder and I had spent conceiving and building this thing — all of that was just pixels on a screen. Why would anyone be so foolish as to think that pixels on a screen would ever be worth anything? We may as well have been running in circles.
It’s times like those that make creativity so terrifying. You made a ballsy decision to go against the status quo, convincing yourself that you could create something great out of thin air. But what if you couldn’t? What if the status quo was right all along? It’s the status quo for a reason, after all.
Yet these fears and this depression-like state are completely decoupled from reality.
When I find myself in that state I try to run a sort of a gut check. What if my company were Facebook? What if it were Twitter? Would I still feel the same way if I had millions of daily active users? If I had millions in net profit? How would I feel?
As an entrepreneur you need both the highs and the lows. When you hit a high you start to see your vision of how you could really take over the world. This will work, you tell yourself, and when it does, the world will be different because of this. But you also need those lows. This could fail because x and y and z. Our users don’t like this, our customers don’t like us because of this. And you get to work fixing them.
The highs are when you develop your vision. The lows are time for self-correction.
Yet if I’m honest, I never seriously considered calling it quits. Sure, I was floating on my credit card, which is something i promised myself I would never do, but I would make it work somehow; at least I wasn’t living on cereal like the Airbnb guys. I wasn’t millions of dollars in debt in my own name like Chris Sacca was either. I had no idea how I would make it, but every time I considered going home the words from Sacca’s legendary PandoMonthly kept popping into my head: ‘That’s just not a @#$%ing option.”
And I’m kind of glad I waited a couple weeks to write this, because now I can say that I figured it out and paid everything off by hustling for a while on one crazy Saturday (more on how I did that in the next post… it was kind of sketch but it worked out).
I can’t say with surety that grasswire will be successful, but this I do know: If it goes down, I’m going down with it.
Here’s to living the dream.