I am currently on my third start up. I was 25 when I joined my first, Yahoo!. At 33 I set up my own company, a film production business – EntertainingTV. Aged 40 here I am again at that early stage of a business, launching a new digital consumer brand, Veeip.
Veeip is at that really exciting stage where all of the initial set up is done, a small and very dedicated team are in place, some capital has been raised, and now we can get on with the job of building our product and bringing our vision to life.
This stage is like a drug and I can’t seem to kick the habit. The hours are long, you don’t have any support (forget being able to dial 41 for IT support when your computer crashes), and there are no luxury perks such as car services; in fact there’s not even any fancy stationery to nick. There’s nothing glamorous about it and you are being paid a fraction of what you would be earning in a corporate. So why do it?
Most of my closest friends are people I worked with at the early stages of companies. There’s no politics at this stage, it’s all about pulling together to make something happen. You learn A LOT. Your role inevitably extends beyond your existing experience. After all, in a small team there are jobs beyond your job title that need doing and you don’t have the option of hiring someone to do it, so you learn how to do it yourself. What you do every day really makes a difference. You see the results of your work in the end product, and in real time. In larger organisations it is sometimes hard to see where your efforts have gone.
As I enter this phase for the third time I notice that I am not bouncing back quite as quickly from a gruelling week as before. In my more youthful Yahoo! days we’d just go out drinking for a bit and then carry on. But on the flip side, with a bit more life experience, I know better who I am and have nothing to prove (to myself or others). At 25 I had a lot to prove. I am more accepting of the fact that nothing ever quite works out as planned but somehow, if you have a vision and follow it, the result can be good and, quite often, surprising.
I feel braver about trying new things and pushing boundaries whereas in a lot of jobs you don’t get that opportunity. In a start up, you do. In fact, if you don’t take risks, if you don’t try new things, if you don’t put yourself out of your comfort zone you won’t win. Yes the risks are high but the rewards can be higher. And I’m not just talking about the potential financial rewards, I’m talking about the intellectual aspects, the personal growth, the satisfaction, the experience and the friendships.
I’m not sure it’s very good for your physical health though and you need an understanding family. My partner who had got used to decent home cooking for a while ended up with toast and hummus for supper last night … again.