My startup was featured on GeekWire exactly one week ago today (https://www.geekwire.com/2018/mypeople-inc/). The article had over a thousand views on LinkedIn (my highest yet) and no doubt contributed to more than 150 people joining our site. In fact, half of all of our website visitors came from GeekWire in the last week.
And yet, here I sit with a mixed bag of feelings ranging from disenchantment to exhaustion. Warning: this sounds ungrateful and complaining. But what good would it be to write a blog post where I wasn’t being real with my readers? =)
Starting a startup is dizzyingly difficult. It’s like being on a shaky roller coaster ride and every time you say, “stop, I want to get off,” you experience a little bit more thrill and you’re hooked again. This at least has been my experience (can I switch rides with someone who is happy and successful all the time?).
And last night, I got to see that experience in someone else: my 16 year old son, Michael.
Two weeks ago, Michael told me he was going to start a t-shirt business. I said, “okay,” half thinking he wasn’t really going to do anything (shame on me!). But later that same day, he produced a sketch with his friend from high school. It was pretty good.
I encouraged Michael to book a graphic designer from our site; specifically, the graphic designer who works on our site. He does good work, he’s fast, and probably the easiest person to work with in the world.
Michael didn’t have any money to book him and I was reluctant to give him a loan. I told him he needed to figure it out on his own – such is startup life. Michael looked around and noticed our backyard looked like crap. Our landscaper had mysteriously stopped coming and the grass was about two feet tall and toddler toys were strewn about.
He asked me if I’d pay him to clean it up. I said only if you list your service on my site. So he did and I booked him and he earned the money and then he booked the designer. It was a win win win.
The design came back amazing of course (my guy does good work!) and Michael had them printed on t-shirts, set up his online shop, and spammed our whole family with the link and being his oh-so-sweet self, we all bought some.
He came to me yesterday and complained that no one was buying his shirts anymore so I gave him the idea of selling his service of setting up t-shirt shops for other people. He set one up for me so that people can buy shirts with my company’s logo on them and when I bought a bunch of my own apparel, Michael earned over $100.
It’s been clear over these last two weeks that Michael has been less happy than usual and giving him that influx of revenue last night did not help. I don’t pry because I already know what it is. Because I experience it every damn day. “You should be happy!” “You’re succeeding!” “You’re being ungrateful!” “Trust the process!” But instead, when Michael came into my room late last night, he wore the look that I wear every day and said he felt like something was missing. And all I could do was reach out my arms and say, “I understand.”
In our heads, we’ve seen this grand vision of what startup life will be like. It’s supposed to be filled with creative chaos and you’re supposed to have all these bandwaggoners jump on board with you and cheer you to the finish line. It’s supposed to be like the movies or like the story of Facebook where Zuck hit critical mass practically overnight. But mostly it’s a lot of waiting, which just means sustained hard work with spurts of success and a road ahead that’s covered in fog.
One week after GeekWire made me feel like a movie star and here I sit, each and every day, learning what life is really like as a founder. And I rise to the challenge again. Not because I’m a masochist, but because I can still see my face, crystal clear, on the cover of Forbes magazine.