Everyone likes amusement parks right? I sort of think of startup life as living in a theme park. Sometimes (but very rarely) you’re coasting on one of the little rides (for kids 12 and under, and only when nobody is looking). But if you’re at any amusement park worth its salt, you spend most of your time on the larger than life roller coasters. It starts out slow, and then you never know when you’re going up, going down, twisting right, upside down (because the roller coasters in StartupLand are all Space Mountain esque, where they keep you in the dark- you have no idea what’s coming next).
At times, you take a break to eat lunch at one of the overpriced restaurants (i.e. “vacation”), but really, even when you’re not riding the roller coasters, you’re still planning your next move, the next roller coaster you need to get on. You’re never really taking a break. It’s always on your mind. Strategy, fundraising, hiring, firing, business models, advisory boards, customer acquisition, marketing, PR, tech development, financial modeling, you name it, you need to not only think about it, but you need to hack your way to being pseudo proficient and fake it until you make it (or more realistically fake it until you hire someone who is way more proficient at said specialty than you are- which usually takes 6-8 months after you figure out this is necessary).
I’ve had to learn to program in Python, read up on how to run a PR campaign, scope out the venture scene (in both India and the US) and figure out how raise money/close a round, how to hire (and fire) a team/HR laws in India and the US, optimizing customer acquisition/sales in India, figure out the basics of accounting/financial modeling, logistics of setting up an Indian business, the inner workings of water distribution in India, business strategy/Drucker- esque current business & future business planning, and countless things I probably don’t even remember.
It’s my first weekend at home in literally 5 months (started my road trip with an investor pitch on Valentine’s Day), and I realize I’m probably going to have to move to Bangalore in 2 weeks. Literally, give up my house I’ve been living in for the past year, and just…move. Because we have unofficially sold two contracts there, and (fingers crossed) get the official paperwork in the next week or two. Which means we need to throw people at it to make sure it doesn’t fail. And the only person who isn’t mission critical in Hubli is, well, me.
In the past week, I can literally say I’ve gone from tears of rage/sadness/frustration to so much joy that I couldn’t even focus on work, I had to go home early to settle down I was so happy/excited at the prospects for our future. And I have no idea what tomorrow has in store, since every day gives you more data points which inform your reality.
But at the end of the day, the adrenaline rush of those roller coasters always trump the uneasiness/queasiness/unpleasantness you may have experienced along the way. You always leave the amusement park feeling pretty good, and really happy you went.
I suppose that’s the way I feel about running a startup.