Well, I've been the pig since my first band--personally invested far beyond investors, my work life defined by one startup after another, dependent on their outcomes, rather than the outcomes of a portfolio of startups like a venture fund has.
This is one reason I still advocate for venture funds to create a small pool for their founders to participate in, contributing a certain amount of their personal stock in exchange for a piece of the overall fund, just to spread the risk. Not a ton--I'd cap it at some low percentage. The point is, when we're all in, we're really all in for quite some time, and it damn well better work out.
What draws us over the line from interested to passionately committed?
- Intellectual interest in the project--it really has to motivate us intellectually in some way. It's not the only thing, but if that component isn't there it's really not terribly fun. The thing I'm working on now has broad applications, the details are challenging and interesting, I'm learning a lot, and it's been fun so far. It doesn't pay the bills yet but it will.
- Working toward the great good--this is motivating for me but it's not for everyone, and it's not necessarily a requirement for me. My current project will likely serve the greater good through the broad applications, but that's not what's pushed me forward; the near-term win is a major factor as well as the lack of weightiness to the pursuit. It's fun!
- Financial outcome--founders want to hit the home run for their own benefit, too, and I fall in that category. I've done well when that's been a primary motivator, and less well when it hasn't.
- Team--the ability to work with smart people on challenging projects and have your own ideas come to life because of your creative work and practical implementation with talented, smart people, and to create something of significant value where everyone benefits.