by • May 4, 2012 • FoundersComments (2)36

Maybe you don’t want what they think you want

Every investor we worked with at Habit treated us unbelievably well.

That being said, accepting (and striving for) the funding led us toward building a company we hated and were bad at.

Turns out, we just wanted to make a living working on creative projects with our friends. The billion dollar dream was someone else’s[1]. But throughout nearly four years, we never admitted that to ourselves. When one of the co-founders finally voiced his dissent, we crucified him as being disloyal and brought him back into line[2]. But what was he being disloyal to?

These are not moral questions. There’s not a “good” and a “bad” answer  for the type of the company you start, the way you fund it, and what you hope to achieve.  Brave founders do not necessarily want to go “big”. Instead, they admit to themselves–and their team–want they truly want. That might be big! Or it might not. And then they build a company (or a career, or a product, or a movement) which takes them there.

The market has its own view on success (returns), as does the tech press (drama). Founders may have a different one. And it’s not just financial. How do you want to spend your days[3]? If I’m going to work that hard, for that long, and quite possibly fail anyway, then I’m going to at least spend my time doing something I love[4].


[1] That didn’t stop us from spouting the party lines. When investors asked us who might acquire our little company, we would smirk and brush away the question with a smug, “There’s no acquisition in our future… we’re going for the IPO.”

[2] I’m pretty sure that was the moment he emotionally clocked out switched into playing the role of an employee instead of a founder. Not a good situation to put ourselves in!

[3] Having spent several years stumbling my way through enterprise sales, I do now enjoy knowing a bit about it. It’s just not how I’d like to spend 8 hours a day–especially when it’s possible to build a business which avoids that channel.

[4] Funding is a bad fit for the way I want to live right now and what I want to do next. Bootstrapping fits it better. But that doesn’t mean I think funding is “bad”. It opens a world that’s tough to glimpse in any other way. Just be honest about your goals and use the appropriate tool to get you there. Good luck!

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2 Responses to Maybe you don’t want what they think you want

  1. George says:

    Great post Rob!

    Very appropriate also for startups that are participating to accelerators where you try to navigate between your own passion, users feedback and mentors advices.

  2. […] roots are just as silly as the ones who insist that every company should aspire to raise funding. Maybe you don’t want what they think you want. Jacques Mattheij wrote a retrospective noting that he gets the itch to move every 5 years. […]

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