Starting a Company: It’s All About Commitment
I am starting a company. This is week one.
From now on, in my new weekly column on Technori called “Mission Control,” I will be sharing my thoughts, fears, desires, problems, solutions, and lessons from the front line of this illustrious, notorious, and quintessentially American entrepreneurial frontier. My hope is that those of you who are attempting the same feat—whether you’re on week one or week one hundred—will get some value out of following along with me, learning from my mistakes, and offering advice where you see something I’ve overlooked.
Like I said, this is week one, and I don’t think this week is about the structure of my business, the problem I want to solve, the product I want to make, or anything external. I’ve started with these things before, but that meant skipping the most essential step. So before getting into what my business will be about, I’m going to start by deciding what I, as the business builder, will be about. This is week one, and this week, I’m all about commitment.
It started when I was going through my notes from Paul Lee’s talk. A successful Chicago VC, Paul said that he prefers to fund entrepreneurs who’ve already demonstrated their commitment to building their business. Whether it’s quitting your job, raising money from your friends and family, or maxing out your credit card to build something only you can see, Paul Lee looks for this kind of commitment.
This reminded me of something a fellow entrepreneur and long time friend of mine once said. As he was completing his first successful exit, he told me that being an entrepreneur meant committing yourself to solving problems. Whenever I would come to him with a new idea, he would identify the potential problems and ask me, “Are you willing to commit the next several months or even years of your life to solving each of these?”
Until now, I couldn’t honestly say yes. But this week is different. I’m a little wiser, a little older, and a little more … committed. I sometimes ask myself: Why now? Is this the right time? Should I really go “all out,” or should I maintain a safety net of some kind? A part time job perhaps? Or maybe I should save up for another year. But, I realize now that you’re never ready, there’s never a right time, and if you can do anything else and still be satisfied, then you should do that. Entrepreneurship is complex, and if you don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs, you’re going to have to disrupt all your instincts before you can disrupt an industry.
This kind of self-disruption requires a commitment—a demonstration that proves to your customers, your partners, your potential investors, and most importantly to yourself that you’re beyond generating ideas, and that you’re ready to build solutions. Or at least that is what this week is about for me. After all, this is week one. I need this demonstration. So I said no to a very nice job offer, I emptied my retirement account, and I called up my friends and asked them to invest $100 each.
Now, having made this commitment, having disrupted my own life, there’s a hunger in me I’ve never felt before. It drives me out of bed on a cold Chicago morning with a burning desire to get started. I’m committed to making my friends and family proud. I’m committed to doing right by my co-founder and our vision for the future of education. And, curiously, I’m committed to solving problems I don’t yet know how to solve. This is not what I learned in school, so I must learn it in startup mode. This is week one, and I am committed.
Adam Lupu is a Learning Architect designing and building new structures in education and technology. He works with Mobile Makers, The Starter League, and Global Playground. A ten year vet of teaching and learning, Adam has a Masters in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University and can be found blogging at www.adamlupu.com, tweeting @HowWeLearn, or proudly shouting “Maybe next year!” outside Wrigley Field.