Founding a startup is gut wrenching and euphoric in a way that outside observers are unable to comprehend.
That’s what makes Ecquire CEO Paul DeJoe’s recent Quora answer to the question, “What does it feel like to be the CEO of a start-up?” one of the most moving and inspiring things I’ve seen put to (digital) paper:
Very tough to sleep most nights of the week. Weekends don’t mean anything to you anymore… Your job is to create a vision, a culture, to get the right people on the bus and to inspire. When you look around at a team that believes in the vision as much as you do and trusts you will do the right thing all the time, it’s a feeling that can’t be explained… You have to be willing to sleep in your car and laugh about it.
DeJoe wrote 1,235 words without, I think, wasting a single one. He shared exactly how he felt when deep in the entrepreneurial trenches.
The answer received 455 votes. The 36 comments were, without exception, some variant of “This is AMAZING and completely spot on. Best answer ever! You get me, I thought I was the only one. Thank you!”
A few more of DeJoe’s most powerful thoughts:
“You start to respect the Duck. Paddle like hell under the water and be smooth and calm on top where everyone can see you. You learn the hard way that if you lose your cool you lose.”
“Closing a round of financing is not a relief. It means more people are depending on you to turn their investment into 20 times what they gave you.”
“You always ask yourself if I am changing the World in a good way? Are people’s lives better for having known me?”
“[Those close to you] can’t understand if they haven’t done it themselves. It’s why you will gravitate towards other entrepreneurs. You will find reward in helping other entrepreneurs. This is my email… Let me know if I can help you with anything.”
“Your currencies are freedom, autonomy, responsibility and recognition. Those happen to be the same currencies of the people you want around you.“
“You feel like a parent to your customers in that they will never realize how much you love them and it is they who validate you are not crazy. You want to hug every one of them. They mean the World to you.”
“You learn what you do when you get punched in the face many many times. You learn what you do when no one is looking and when no one would find out. You learn that you are bad at many things, lucky if you’re good at a handful of things and the only thing you can ever be great at is being yourself which is why you can never compromise it.”
“You begin to realize that in life, the luckiest people in the World only get one shot at being apart of something great. Knowing this helps you make sense of your commitment.”
“Even when it’s bad it’s exciting. Knowing that your decisions will not only affect you but many others is a weight that I would rather have any day than the weight of not controlling my future. That’s why I could not do anything else.”
Calling the challenge of being a startup founder a roller coaster is like calling Hurricane Katrina a rain shower. It does a disservice to those in the eye of the storm. Starting a company is certainly not right for everyone, even with the recent publicity around billion-dollar exits for 20-somethings drawing hordes of bright-eyed founders hoping to build the next Instagram.
And of course, passion and conviction like DeJoe’s don’t equal automatic success. That requires engineering, design, and some marketing magic. But sheer will goes a long way. I would feel lucky to go into battle with with someone of this character.
In addition to his role as CEO at Ecquire, DeJoe is also an entrepreneur in residence at Fairbridge Venture Partners.
Check out DeJoe’s full answer here.
[Image via Eyebeam, The Creators Project's hackathon]