I think there may be something wrong with me.
Working in Silicon Valley for these many years seems to have warped me. I just announced that I am leaving my current day job PayNearMe.com to work for myself. My intention was to work on some of my own projects like BloggerBridge.com and support myself as needed as a consultant.
But unexpectedly I received an offer to be a tech co-founder at an interesting unfunded travel startup company. For those outside the Valley’s distortion field let me tell you that one in 10 startups survive. The odds are bit higher for startups that are pre-funding as this startup is.
So why, I ask myself, did the option of going to an unfunded startup seem like the safe option?
I don’t have the same fear of failure I once had. When I started working at my first startup on my first day I helped hire a co-worker who had been laid-off from 10 different startups, but was joining his 11th. I get that. I find that I am now more afraid of mediocrity than failure. I’m more afraid of becoming a 9 to 5 employee with no passion. In fact one of the reasons I am leaving my current company, which I expect to make it big one of these days, is that my passions are pulling me elsewhere.
My first startup was a company called Momenta which was in the pen-based computer space. Lots of press, lots of hype, but a market that wasn’t really there. I remember interviewing somebody at Momenta who wasn’t sure he wanted to come to a startup. He said if “I come to a startup, work here for two years, and the company goes out of business I will of lost two years of my life”. I explained patiently that was not correct. If he came to work for us, worked there for two years, and we went out of business, he would lose three years of his life. He didn’t come to work for us.
I was laid off from Momenta after somewhat less than three years when the company ran out of money and imploded. But this was after putting a product on the cover of most major computer magazines. PC Computer had our product, the Momenta M1, on the cover with the caption “The Perfect Computer?”. We failed spectacularly. We made Byte magazine’s list of 30 biggest all-time failures. But we did not fail because we fail to try. In the two weeks after I was laid off from Momenta I interviewed constantly and received seven job offers.
I’ve been altered because I live in a culture that values effort, that values intelligence, and is willing to accept that trying and failing is forgivable and much better than not trying at all.