Every decision that I’ve made throughout this startup journey has been made with sound mind and a desire to do something that mattered. Some of the decisions, I made without asking for help. Others were made after consulting people who’ve been in my shoes before. Sometimes, I took a contrarian course. Other times, I followed the herd and kept my head down.
Venture capital can create one big principal agent problem, and accelerators can just make this worse
There are some mentors that have inspired me throughout my career and have followed me through this startup. They don’t have a financial interest but instead treat it as a labor of love. They’ve helped me add flair to my pitch, understand my cash flow and even think about crossing the chasm.
At the accelerator, I took mentorship from people who had a financial stake in my company and held it in the same esteem as those who really cared about my success on a personal level. These investors saw me as one element to be controlled in a risk management equation, ensuring that the company would embark on a path most likely to lead to a massive return.
In hindsight, the advice wasn’t really tailored to my company and our dilemmas, but instead was meant to guide us toward swinging for the fences by hitting a fastball, instead of waiting until the bases were loaded to give it our best shot. It was teaching me to be an opportunist rather than a visionary, since this was the most likely the path to a clean-cut, well understood growth trajectory. After all, this is what successful venture-backed companies do, right?
What bothers me most is that I lost my head, ignored my training and didn’t stick to my guns
I had the power to reject these suggestions, at the risk of being labeled as un-coachable, and do as I pleased. Somehow, I thought that I could try to disrupt an industry but couldn’t challenge the thinking of these smart men who had taken our startup under their wing. These men never put a gun to my head, never threatened me into making the decisions I did. I just didn’t challenge them.
I don’t blame my investors for any of this. After all, they’re completely incentivized to give the advice they did and push us into maximizing their return through applying the patterns they’ve seen successful in other verticals. I just didn’t act accordingly. My job was to manage market demand, our products and our investors. I definitely fucked up at least 2 of the 3 in some way.
Perhaps most telling is that to this day, some of our investors don’t follow our twitter accounts. These are people who have paid cash for shares in our startup, dispense the occasional advice, and can’t be bothered to keep up with 140 character updates about our products and what the founders are up to.
If I didn’t respect myself as an entrepreneur, why should they give a shit?