- Startups - Eric Ries of Lean Startup - TWiST #199
Assess yourself: Should you launch a startup?
I fired Melissa.
We were bickering all the time. And she was saying I’m impossible to work for and I was saying she’s impossible to manage. The problem is I’m a mad raving lunatic about making sure that people who work for me like working for me.
When Ian, the guy who I was going to do a company with but then ended up not doing a company with, asked Ryan Healy and Ryan Paugh for references for me, they said I was loyal and caring and they both gave me so much credit for helping their careers and it just made me really really happy. I want to know I am making peoples’ lives better.
So when I told Melissa I was going to launch a company, she asked what her job would be, and I said, “Nothing. You are not in my company.”
If you’re wondering if you’re going to be a good startup founder, ask yourself if you are able to fire friends.
Right now most of you are thinking, “Oh. Then I couldn’t do it.” But some of you are big enough jerks to be startup founders, so here are more things you need to have up your sleeve:
1. Ability to make difficult decisions quickly.
I couldn’t totally fire her because she does an amazing job with the photos on this blog. So I fired her from everything besides that.
I am largely heartless about firing people, which is why I’m a good startup founder, so I just moved on, right away.
I didn’t know Melissa was crying.
2. Ability to put together scrappy solutions to big problems.
So when I asked her for the login information for the Start Your Own Company webinar, she ignored me. That was a problem because tons of people have been buying the on-demand version and for a few days there, I couldn’t find it. But eventually I got most of the information I needed.
Then I went to New York to lock down funding for my startup, and Melissa moved to New York because her laid-back Austin boyfriend suddenly became her high-flying financial industry New York boyfriend.
I brought her flowers. Hydrangea.
She said, “What is this?”
“It’s a housewarming present. And a let’s-be-friends present.”
“That is so awkward.”
“Why? Don’t you like the flowers?”
“No. I don’t want to be your friend. You don’t have any friends. You just have people you work with, so I want to work with you because I love being part of your life.”
I said no. I held firm. I am not having people who don’t like working for me working for me.
Melissa pushed until I apologized for being rude and inconsiderate and then before I knew it, we were shopping for an outfit for me to wear to meet the investors.
Which is good, because who knows how I would have picked one by myself?
3. Ability to sell an crazy idea to a cynical audience.
I got funding. I am a rock star, okay? I funded my company with two phone calls and two meetings.
Okay. Well, you could say it that way, or, you could say that I have actually launched three companies in the past three years that sucked and were unfundable and died the day I showed someone the deck.
The moral here is that if you have a good startup idea, it gets funded.
4. Ability to handle financial insecurity.
The farm bank account has been funding the company, but Matthew has to buy cattle and we are approaching a disaster because I did things like buy a domain name instead of pay my phone bill. (And like ten other bills too because domain names are not cheap.)
So the day after my meetings where I am dressed very well I tell Melissa I can’t hang out with her because I need to open a bank account so the investors can wire the money so that I do not fall into financial ruin.
But it was too late for that.
5. Ability to recognize a good hire and a bad hire.
Melissa decided to tag along on the trip to the bank.
We get to the bank and I can’t open an account because I don’t have a New York address. So she gives me hers. Then I can’t open an account because I don’t have a 0 check to deposit into the account. So Melissa writes a check. And then, it turns out I cannot open a bank account because my other account at Wells Fargo is overdrawn.
So Melissa is not fired anymore. Instead she is opening my company’s new bank account. And I am documenting it.
6. Ability to be transparent in order to instill trust.
The bank guy, who told us 400 times please do not use his name on my blog, said that it looks like I work for Melissa now.
Melissa said, “Yeah. It’s my company. And you’re fired.”
I tell the bank guy we are in a rush and he needs to open another teller window or something.
Melissa tells me to shut up.
I tell him I meant it in a nice way.
I take his picture but he ducks.
I say, “Don’t you want to be on my blog?”
He says, “I think the Internet today is often demeaning of our privacy.”
Melissa says, “Penelope doesn’t do privacy. Well, she does. She sells her own. And mine.”
That pretty much ruined any chance of me getting his picture. But you’ll have to just trust me that he was very excited to be helping us launch my company.
7. Ability to experience wild mood swings.
I decide I will do work while Melissa opens my account. And then I drop all my stuff on the floor. And then I am losing my phone and I am yelling to her from under the desk that I can’t find my phone and she is taking pictures of me using my phone.
I love Melissa for caring so much about me that she’s taking pictures and opening a bank account. I want to hug her, but she’s the size of a seven-year-old girl, so it’s better to just do intellectual banter with her. And to her, that’s like a hug.
While we wait in the bank guy’s office Melissa tells me it’s frustrating that I either love her or I’m screaming at her. I tell her it’s how I’m supposed to be. I search my phone for this link about entrepreneurship.
“Look, read this. It’s a present for you,” I tell her. She reads. The money quote is “People who are on the energetic, motivated, and creative side are both more likely to be entrepreneurial and more likely to have strong emotional states. Those states may include depression, despair, hopelessness, worthlessness, loss of motivation, and suicidal thinking.”
She says, “This is a present for you, not me. You think this justifies your erratic behavior.”
“Hm. You’re right. And I think it lets you know why you are so lucky to be a part of it.”
I show the article to the bank guy. He is our friend now. “Would you ever do a startup?” I ask him.
Melissa says, “Of course he wouldn’t do that. He’s too nice. He is pleasant. He has social skills.”
He does not know if this is a compliment or an insult, but in any case, he says the account is done. The wire transfer will be available in an hour.
We go out to lunch to celebrate the new company.
I still have no money, so Melissa pays, and I take a picture.
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