Many entrepreneurs say the only important catalyst for starting a company is: The Idea. The creationist theory—very biblical. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I didn’t come up with the idea for my company that I have what I believe is a somewhat broader perspective. After five long years starting a company I contend there are catalysts as important—some even more so—than ideation. Responsibility for one. In my review of the past five years, the clear turning points are those where we committed to irrevocable responsibility, like:
Like many entrepreneurs, I had jobs on the side; I couldn’t afford not to. The day I finished my last consulting gig and decided not to respond to further inquiries was a definite turning point in my commitment to Pie. In my mind this was one event, but in reality there was a sequence of decisions that went something like: A) depositing my last paycheck to B) stopping proactive outreach to C) ignoring incoming queries to D) changing my website services page to: “Drew Banks Partners is not accepting new clients.” (it’s still there) to E) taking the first equity line on my home (a slippery slope referenced in my future blog: Perseverance or Blinders).
Our first investment was $10K, though it felt like $1M. I remember reviewing this stranger’s investment contract with a mixture of emotions that ranged from elation to angst: there was no turning back.
The first thing we did with that $10K was rent office space (nothing says concreteness like real concrete). For two years we had worked diligently out of my home and random hotel lobbies (honest), but the first day we walked into our new office shared with four other entrepreneurs starting other companies, our diligence became determination.
Friends & Family (F&F) $
Taking $ from PLYs is one thing; taking $ from PLUs is quite another. I’ll talk more about this in my good $/bad $ blog, but I want to underscore one notable catalyzing moment that forced the transition from reactively accepting F&F $ to proactively raising F&F $. This was a huge turning point for me because, before Pie, the concept of asking for help—especially $ help—was anathema to me. But then, after investing his first of two seed investments in Pie, my friend Steve said, “If you don’t give all of your family and friends the opportunity to invest and you’re your successful and they discover you allowed other friends and family to invest … then you’ll have a lot of ‘splainin to do.” This previously unconsidered boolean logic caused a restless weekend of massive outreach that resulted in the tripling our investment to date.
We had raised a grand total of $35K when we decided to A) build a demo and B) publicly launch showcase this demo at a show aptly named: DEMO. In retrospect we were painfully naïve and unabashedly self-confident, and so frackin lucky. The day after the show’s opening, we were one of three companies covered in the local press (OC Register) and one of five companies profiled by CNET. As I watched the surrealism of the CNET camera crew pushing through the crowded floor to our booth, I thought, “We’re actually going to pull this off.
Today I’m more certain than ever of our success, but every entrepreneur will tell you that starting a company is an emotional rollercoaster. We ride the highs and in the lows, we look for any catalyst we can find to help lift us back up again.
Below is a full list of Entrepreneurial Reluctance/e-Publishing lessons from me blog post: Top 10s.
1. The Catalyst(s)
2. Good $ vs. Bad $
3. Risk Reduction
4. The Network Effect
5. Been There, Done That (serial entrepreneurialism)
6. The New New Thing
7. Emergence & Maslow
8. The Analogy of the Watch (moving parts)
9. A Clean Cap Table
10. Perseverance or Blinders
1. False Deadlines
2. Readers & Editors
3. Genre Opportunities
4. Target Marketing
6. Creating you Brand
7. The First Review
8. The Network Effect
9. Amazon Ranking
10. The Book Tour