I've been thinking about this quote for a while lately. Despite all what is written about startups, the word risky and hard hold the most truth.
Risky: to most people, risky means simply walking away from a bad relationship hoping that something better comes along. Or quitting a job in the hopes that they might land somewhere else. Or traveling to a different country.
Hard: to most people, hard means extra effort. Or extra time.
But when you're running a company, it means so much more. Without getting into the romanticism of of startup life, here is a tale of 3 summers in reverse chronological order.
As I'm writing this, it is Tuesday. One day before this article gets published. I’m sitting solo at a bar in midtown Manhattan dealing with emails, text messages and catching up from everything. I was at my first meeting at 8:15am and by the time I fall asleep, I've had some very tough conversations to the point of being paralyzed emotionally. But — also moving on from them.
You can never let fear paralyze you. I've seen people give up because of fear. And yes, it feels great to have that one sigh of relief after giving up. But that comes with regret.
I've always had a policy that once you start something — you don’t look back. You never quit. You never give up.
I could walk away from ALL of this. But, as a friend has always reminded me — don’t walk away when you've paid off the interest on the car and don't own the car.
At 5pm today — I backed away from a bachelor party that I had already paid for and said yes to. The person is a good friend of mine and circumstances over the past 120 hours have made it nearly impossible for me to do anything of that scale. It sucks. Hell, it hurts. But — some days, it’s about making excruciatingly hard choices.
And I know that most people don’t think that startup entrepreneurs make those choices. The fact is — they do. They make them every single day about their family, about their friends and about themselves. You think it's easy getting texts like this from highly respected individuals who all tell you that you're going to fail?
And then when you have to tell your investors you’re drawing all of your 401k because you believe in it that much?
And yet, knowing that all of this could go away and you still have the potential of ending up with nothing is such a surreal feeling — it’ almost surreal.
Why? Because success is in our drive. You haven't seen drive until you've met an entrepreneur who has nothing to lose.
I'm sitting outside the Hyatt in Union Square listening to one of my partners and our financier. Turns out, the deal we had struck with this company is no longer on the table because of a change of heart.
And that’s how that meeting ended — the news was delivered, we got up and went our separate ways.
To put it in perspective, our product was about to launch and we had been negotiating with our lead investor for the entire summer. Everything was moving along, papers were being signed and then — nothing.
I remember texting my trainer and letting him know that I would no longer be able to train with him. Why? Because I had to drastically reprioritize my finances in order to keep the company alive.
If you haven't been in the unfortunate place of fundraising for a company, I will say this now — it is challenging. You bet so many things on this one act and most of the times, it falls apart.
For our previous company, hundreds of people told us that we couldn't do it. And we did it. We did it right. We spent extra time on it. We were compliant. And we launched our product — the way we wanted and with great success.
There are things in life that will set you back a few months, a few years and maybe even longer than that. But, as long as you never give up and keep chugging forward — I promise you this — your perseverance and desire to succeed will make it nearly impossible for anyone to come in your way.
I'm sitting in a conference room in Amsterdam pitching PaLaCart. The team across the table seems really interested. We review business models, financial operations and investment needs. After a very long day of meetings, things seem to be on the right path. We go to a private penthouse to celebrate success with our partners.
Later that night, we grab dinner with the investors, go to the best clubs that Amsterdam has to offer and gradually see the sunrise the next day.
Life couldn't be better. The product is working. The investors are treating us to a night we couldn't imagine.
Fast forward a few weeks, the same investors are in New York and we start looking into the final details of the deal. Everything seems to be going well until we hit upon a snag — a legal and financial compliance issue. They can help us resolve it fairly quickly, but they don’t believe that the team is strong enough to be able to pull it off.
And just like that — everything crumbles down. It’s over.
Or so we thought. Not only did we end up raising a large round after that rejection, we also managed to get the license, making us one of the very few startups in the entire world to be able to negotiate a deal of that size.
You can measure the ups when you are an entrepreneur. However, there is no way you can predict the lows. Know that the lows are part of the journey. And know that the only way to recover from whatever is holding you back is to push forward in ways that even you never thought were possible.
Being an entrepreneur takes indescribable strength. And the only way you win — is by being strong enough to take whatever is thrown at you.
Be strong. Trust yourself. There are a lot of people that will tell you no. Use that as force to get a bigger yes.