Why Do People LOVE & HATE Startups?
We are grateful to +Chris Heivly
& +Dave Neal
for the Startup Factory's support of +Phil Buckley
, +Jarrod Swart
and my #startup +Curagami
, but its been a long strange trip. Remember I'm a #cancersurvivor
so long strange trips is something I know well.
This is my first " #startups
in the round" experience. Startups in the round is creating a company in a +Y Combinator
. I've created 4 companies with the largest the specialty gift distribution company created with Janet McKean named FoundOjbects.com (now gone sadly).
Leaving a high paying job as Director of Sales at NutraSweet I thought, "We've always operated like entrepreneurs inside our companies so creating a company will be easy". LOL, yeah not so much.
When I was a Director of Sales managing $22M in business with $100K in travel budget and a team of 3 customers RETURNED OUR CALLS. When we reached out to dairies and asked them to attend a regional event THEY CAME.
Flash forward to creating FoundObject.com and NO ONE cared, returned our calls or came (at first). The "Intrapraneur" is a myth.
NOTHING where someone pays the bills resembles writing checks on your 401k...NOTHING.
So, the long strange trip of our first startup experience was finding a way to create enough legitimacy someone would CASH OUR FOUNDOBJECTS CHECKS.
When you are unknown and asking for something more valuable than money - someone's time - you have to SELL them on why to take your money instead of other people's money. If the partnership isn't mutually beneficial and promising most won't "bet on the come".Startup Haters
If our FoundObjects.com challenges in 1999 revolved around legitimacy to create partnerships our TSF experience in 2014 is about the legitimacy to be a startup. And BOY does this issue bring out the HATERS.
Know who the WORST haters are? Other startups have been the most helpful and the most abusive. Strange right. You would think we are all singing Kumbaya around the fire. We are in a brotherhood or sisterhood called STARTUPS.
Not so much as it turns out at least not for some.
My personal favorite is the 20 minute lecture about #ecommerce
Phil and I received. Ecommerce, like most #nternetmarketing
, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Phil worked for me on a team that generated over $30M in profitable online sales.
And I'm the first person to admit the William Goldman rule - Nobody Knows Nothing about ecommerce:
"In the 1980s, Goldman wrote a series of memoirs about his professional life on Broadway and in Hollywood. In the first of these, Adventures in the Screen Trade, he famously summed up the entertainment industry in the opening sentence of the book, "Nobody knows anything."
NO MATTER how much we achieve online the relentless NOW means there is always more to learn. "This is a stupid idea," one of the evaluating entrepreneurs said leaning forward. My "lizard brain" said to hit the guy NOW, but I asked a question instead. I thought we could learn from this all knowing GOD instead of going to jail.
Not so much as that turned out (lol).
The all knowing one proceeded to do what I've done many times - he was presumptive and dominant. Insisting this and that with such ferocity I was sure he MUST have made $100M or more with his #ecom
"How do you come by such strongly held beliefs," I asked. "I shop online," came the surreal answer. I'm the "greater fool". I tied to persuade, cajole and convince the lesser fool (the angry dog) that our ideas are grounded in REAL "inside baseball" experience and our vision for how #contentmarketing
and the new #seo
will change the nature of online commerce.
Each parry was met with a vehement and violent thrust.
Phil was the only one enjoying watching a bear (me) try to dance on the head of a pin as an angry dog barks at his every move. I'm smiling as I write this thinking of Phil's barely hidden mirth.
Not long after my bear dance we met +Adzerk Inc
's founder +James Avery
. James helped us make sense of it.
"I realized I was doing the wrong thing," James explained. He shared why he is OUT of the judgement business. James, a brilliant and successful entrepreneur, told Chris' and Dave's fledgling companies why he doesn't presume anymore. He shares his experience and collaborates on how and if his examples are helpful.
James Avery is a MENSCH.
The other "angry dog" entrepreneur seemed to believe HIS share of a shrinking pie was in danger by us. Our tool was NOT competitive with his, but a dog that willing to bark has been abused by someone OTHER than us (I now realize).
Hearing entrepreneurs discuss raising money and the inevitable rejections and "angry dog" abuse probably locates where and why so much vehemence came from our barking #entrepreneur
Riddle me this Batman. Why so abusive?
We leave corporate America to be REBELS with CAUSES only to be told, "Walk This Way" to receive social acceptance and money. WHAT? Doesn't that sound as crazy as it feels?
Our ability to exploit whatever unseen need we are working on depends, in no small part, on our being UNREASONABLE. If we weren't unreasonable we wouldn't put everything at risk against BELIEFS and PASSIONS.
The key seems to be find a magic divider between being unreasonable enough to START something but not so unreasonable we end up being jerks.
I get it and admit staying on that balance beam, jerk on one side and "just unreasonable enough to build something people love and need" on the other, is not a new problem in my life (lol). Lucky to have many friends who "jerk a knot in my head" when needed :).
James Avery taught a valuable lesson - share experience don't presume or judge. Am I all the way there? Nope, but I'm getting better at being less presumptive and more sharing.
I may never understand why fellow startups can be ANGRY, snarky and condescending. I have #cancer
(leukemia). Lessons from that journey would take a long time to share. LAUGH, LOVE and CHERISH are three that come to mind whether your are entrepreneur, VC or customer.
and work backwards. This post COULD have been about the angry dog's company instead of his behavior. Is anyone so large they can afford to be an angry dog?
You never know who you are being an angry dog AT these days. I have about 50,000 followers on social media (3.5K here, 34K on Scoop.it and 11K sprinkled around other social nets).
Friends such as +Mark Traphagen
have many more followers. Could a couple of hundred thousand people help build the angry dog's company? YES, but we will NEVER know since collaboration was turned down in favor of presumption and judgement.
When I ran a multimillion dollar ecommerce team they had a name for what the angry dog did - he wrote a check his ass couldn't cash. I think what they meant by that was never get "too big" for your britches. In ecommerce there is ALWAYS someone faster, bigger and better.
My team was amazing at finding collaboration where none existed before. Creation of our Buzz Team one very good example of increasing our site's trust and legitimacy via collaboration and giving the keys to our car (our website) to the kids.
Am I all the way there on Laughter, LOVE and CHERISH? Nope, but I'm getting better and working on it :). M
PS. Why do YOU think people HATE startups so much? Do you think +Kickstarter
represent what +David Amerland
called a "new value system"? If we can create a wisdom of crowd alternative is the "abusive VC model" dead man walking? Has your startup ever been "hated"? If I'm the only one experiencing this I owe Phil lunch, so please share your startup journey stories.
PSS. In answer to a question the image is artist Robert Longo's Men In the Cities paintings where he shot tennis balls at friends to record their movements in a favorite series of paintings.
Great note from +Joseph K. Levene Fine Art, Ltd.
works mentioned by +Martin W. Smith are NOT Paintings, but are Charcoal Drawings on Paper from the Artist's famous Series titled "Men In The Cities". You can see more of these #RobertLongo
Men In The Cities Charcoal drawings on the #RobertLongo
:) appreciate the knowledgeable correction. M