The Accelerated Entrepreneur – What a Company Founder Can Lose

As I reflect on my first year as a VT KnowledgeWorks member company, I see that, as a company founder, I have gained and lost.  Having been both a student and practitioner of entrepreneurship, I know I am sharing an almost universal experience.  Nonetheless, here is my version.

What I have lost or am losing:

Salary. 

I had no idea how much safety, security, freedom, and intellectual power a salary gave me.  Hunters and gatherers created writing only after learning to farm gave them time to contemplate the possibility that a symbol could stand for a thing, even an idea.  Scrabbling to collect revenue, I have so little of that essential seed for creativity:  time for quiescence.

The company founder's mirror Myself. 

Revenue has an imperative urgency that supersedes all other considerations.  No revenue?  No company.  No company?  No fulfillment of the vision. 

Completion. 

While I have tended my whole life to love work, to work hard, and to work often, when I worked for someone else, I was able to finish the task I was assigned, then stop if I were tired or sick.  I could count on the enterprise continuing without me under the leadership of the owner.

Running a start-up is an ever-unfulfilled task.  No matter what I do, no matter what I have done, more to do awaits. 

And when I am tired or sick and in need of the leader of the enterprise?  I can only look in the mirror.

Softness. 

I remember pulling my car into the parking lot one year ago and almost skipping into the VT KnowledgeWorks building to deliver my membership check.  I was going to start a real company that was going to do real good in the world. 

When I think of the bounced check, the bad handshake, the dark angel investor experience, the sick feeling of choosing business over personal values, the fear, the humiliation, the uncertainty…

When the novice came to the monk and said, “I want to begin the path to enlightenment.  What is your advice to me?” The monk said, “Don’t start.”

I am tougher and harder than I was one year ago.  I cried while I wrote this, but I cry less, and let others know less when I do.  I almost didn’t include that sentence in this post.  In five years, I hope I’m still nice.

Jim Flowers, director of VT KnowledgeWorks, asks member company founders often, "Are you creating the life you want?"

No, sir.

Not yet.

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