I wonder if founders appreciate that the origin of the word “passion” . It’s the Latin word for “suffer.”
I didn’t know that until recently, on a Founder touch base call, where a very passionate argument was made and didn’t land. [It makes perfect sense; passion requires a commitment so pure that mere suffering would not deter i]t. I hear about- and see- Founders everyday that are bursting with passion about their product, the problem it solves, and the business they are building around it. Problem is, many forget the suffering that comes with it. So here are a few of the pain points each founder must learn to stomach;
- Suffer the humility of defeat; by this, I mean the realization that it is time to quit pressing the idea as no one will continue to write checks to keep the dream alive (this could go on a long time before it is realized). This could come at the realization that the product could not be developed as planned; the product shipped but it did not sell; the product sold but it did not delight people (it sold once but never resold), or perhaps it sold well, but not at a margin that could support a business.
- Suffer the wages of the un funded; Many Founder work for sweat equity, and that’s fine. And sometimes the early team will do the same, or a mix. But, when weeks become months, and then quarters… and then years without enough salary and benefits to pay rent, buy food, or get an annual checkup, it gets really old.
- Suffer the proximity torture (perceived); living in Founder dorms, working in shared co-working space, hanging out at disrupt conferences venture capital lobbies, one sees an awful lot of blessed (funded) Founders. They don’t look that different. They are at all the same places, doing what appears to be all the same things. So it must be just a matter of luck and timing, and presto you could be blessed next. Truth is, while they are hanging out in the same places, they likely identified a little bigger a problem, developed a little more elegant solution, and had great timing with someone who was a catalyst with resources.
- Suffer the brutality of the marketplace; start ups start in a vacuum. The founders talk to each other, and their friends and family that wish them all the best- and give them money to go off and try. The devs talk to the founders and deliver a product based on the spec- which everyone above just created. It’s all good, until it ships and the world renders its opinion. In short, the expectations far outpace the realities and it can be painful. Apps launched but not downloaded. Downloaded but never used. Used but never at scale, or never used for a purchase. In short, it is brutally hard to break through. Painful.
So, when you’re wearing that badge of Passion around your business, remember passion actually is painful.