Monday, March 4, 2013

Hustle

Rambling Preamble
How you see the world just might inform whether you make it or not.

I don't know what it is about me, but I tend to react to news based on my sense of justice--personal justice, social justice, economic justice--whatever the category, I have this bias toward what I perceive to be just. Or rather, I tend to see the injustices.

At least I did in the past. When I feel that reaction now, I make an adjustment to a more objective point of view, and ask questions and reserve judgment for later.

When I wake up and forget to appreciate the fact of waking up, my day is not quite as clear or positive.

When I'm grateful for the day ahead and look forward to what I get to do because of the privileges I have--earned and unearned--I tend to have more of an edge. Sometimes an unhelpful arrogance (a little arrogance can be helpful, but I'm not known to be sparing with my embrace).

Give Me a Fix
This little rambling is to preface some thoughts following last week's disappointing news for a lot of startups hoping to receive both money and validation from a respected outside source.

That respected outside source could be anyone or anything; we aspiring founders thrive on repeated dopamine hits of external validation. Some of us get addicted to it, and it skews our judgment and decision-making to get more of it.

Some of us mistake our need for external validation with our need to have others see our own external validation, so we sell them extra hard every time something new comes in, turning minor events into Epic Dramatic Wins, leaving a gap between reality and the story so gaping the emptiness sucks the breath out of everyone around us:
Spin: Did you see us on the cover of the paper?
Reality: Got mentioned in an article 
Spin: We just had an amazing meeting with [insert credible person here] and they really liked what we're doing.
Reality: They were being polite and didn't invest, open their network to you, have you over for dinner, or even try your product 
Spin: We just raised 25k from a prominent angel.
Reality: The angel is well known at the country club, but knows nothing about your sector, product, etc, i.e. it's dumb money
Spin: Over 100 people bought something this yearReality: There were 102 purchases over the past year, 80% of which were by people we know, and only 3 were in the past month. 
Bad News | Good News 
Last week, Ben Franklin Technology Partners chose to invest in a number of companies. And they chose to not invest in many more.

I know some of the companies that received investment and some that didn't. The founders' reactions were intriguing to me, ranging from cheerful (from several who didn't get the investment) to dismayed (someone who didn't get what they expected).

While I don't know the whole list yet,  it's highly likely that someone didn't get funded who perhaps should have, and some did who perhaps shouldn't have.

That's the nature of investment--you pick winners and losers, and then they determine whether or not you were correct.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Dopamine
I want to focus on one reaction that characterizes a founding team that I'd personally invest in if I were investing again: hustle.

Fran from DeliveryCrowd let me know he didn't get the investment. His reaction? Hustle. His mode of operation? Hustle. His weekly routine? Hustle. His partner Ryan? Hustle.

Were they disappointed? I'd guess so. I didn't ask. They very easily distracted me with their plans to dig in and make it happen anyway.

That's the right reaction. BFTP is fine--great program, helpful in a state without a lot of organized startup investment capital outside of Philly and Pittsburgh.

What You Really Need
You don't need that external validation. You definitely don't need the reporting requirements. You need results.

You get results by hustling--not meeting with a lot of people who aren't going to help you,  buy your stuff, write checks, or open their networks, but by focusing on the basics of what you need:
  • great, committed, motivated team members
  • a working business model
  • customers, testers, prospects--an interactive group of people willing to lend you a hand as you figure things out
  • sales, then more, then more. The hipsters call this traction. (Ok not just the hipsters). 
  • hustle--before, during, and after you've developed the rest of this. 
  • a framework of guiding principles. Add hustle to that list. (I'll write about that framework sometime). 
DeliveryCrowd's hustle is impressive. This is a tenacious team, relentless in their pursuit of a working model that really serves a need. And their response to getting turned down? 

More hustle. 

Maybe they were disappointed. Likely. But it seems from their feeds (FB and Twitter) and email updates that they're pressing on. 

I've seen a lot of hustle from some other founders around here, of course--hitting the streets, going door to door, cold calling, hunting down food trucks. 

But the one thing that stands out with DeliveryCrowd? They responded to bad news with more hustle. And that kicks my ass in just the way I need on a Monday morning. 

Make a list. Four columns. 
  • bad news. 
  • your reaction
  • your result
  • what your result would have been if your reaction had been to hustle. 
Then go hustle. 

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