Friday, September 25, 2015

Entrepreneurs who slack off after raising money aren't entrepreneurs

Paul Smith recently wrote about the phenomenon of entrepreneurs who slack off after raising their seed round:

"Here’s what I see three quarters of startups doing immediately after they raise a seed round: 
  • After months of working 60 hour weeks (and the rest, usually) to launch and demonstrate early growth to convince investors they’re worth it, the founders start working 9am til 5pm, five days a week — they’re taking it easy before the hard work starts;
  • Because raising money offers a financial opportunity to address their work/life balance, their Facebook feed slowly fills up over the following weeks and months with snaps from weekends away on city breaks, at parties and gigs;
  • They almost certainly find the time for a holiday, or a trip home to see the family, because they deserve it;
  • A new apartment or house is high on their priorities since they can now pay themselves proper wages;
  • There’s finally time to make amends to a long-suffering partner — perhaps they can finally plan that dream wedding they’ve talked about for months.
If this is still occurring in the weeks after the raise has happened, these startups will likely be dead before they raise Series A.
I agree with Paul that these are terrible signals.  What is mind-blowing to me is that this even needs to be said.

Personally, I always find that I work *harder* after raising money than when I bootstrap or self-finance.  My mentality is that once I raise money, a bunch of people have put their trust in me, and I am going to work like a maniac to avoid letting them down.

Yes, the investors are typically professionals who can afford to lose their investment, but that's not the point.  If it's not okay to discriminate against people for not having money, it's not okay to discriminate against people for having money.

As a founder, you've agreed to become a good steward of your investors' money.  If you don't treat it more carefully than you treat your own, you've abdicated your founder's responsibilities and become an employee.

I can still vividly remember the moment I realized this distinction.  Back at my very first startup, during the height of the Dot Com boom, I asked my employees to do some work to avoid wasting money.  One of my product managers said, "Why are we going through all of this hassle just to save $25K per month?"

It was all I could do to keep from launching myself at him.

Founders have a higher duty than employees.  In the book, "The Horse and his Boy" from the Chronicles of Narnia, King Lune of Archenland describes the duties of the king to his long-lost son, the crown prince:
"For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land."
You could hardly come up with a better definition of what it means to be a true entrepreneur and leader.


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