October 7, 2012


I was reckless and irresponsible by any measure at the time. We had software that didn't work, minor interest, and I was stacking up personal debt at an amazing level, largely on the good credit of my family.

But I had hope. I was optimistic. And that optimism combined with obligation to my family created a tenacity in me that made me a relentless, passionate evangelist for our software. 

And man, it was hard. Like driven to tears hard. Sleeping on the floor of a friend's when I traveled because I had no money for a room hard. Rejected-60-times-by-investors hard. 

But I believed in the vision of both products, which were both the first of their kind. That was 1996 and 1997. It took a full year of going all in to raise the first round of capital. 

Every month, tech product startup founders meet as part of Startup Lancaster. And each of these founders bring an optimism with them that's inspiring. They see a problem and want to fix it. Or an opportunity and want to develop it. 

They have few resources, little experience, and all kinds of personal challenges because most are older and have developed obligations younger entrepreneurs don't have. 

But they persist. They seek out help. They research. They push through. 

Only a few have found any level of funding, so the rest are working nights and weekends, running up some personal debt, and would choose to work full time on their visions if they could raise the money. 

And that's the last component in our little ecosystem of 43 Startup Lancaster founders--capital. 

Add seed capital to optimism, obligation, tenacity, and passion, and you've got a rocket ship. It doesn't answer all questions. It doesn't solve all problems. But it creates the context for creating success at a basic, low level of sustainability. 

Tomorrow night we'll talk about sources of capital, aside from customers, because we very frequently talk about business models and revenue as the best source of capital. 

This time it's about venture capital, angel investing, credit cards, friends and family, accelerators, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and others. 

I love the optimism of this group, and it reminds me of the power of my own optimism, which often moves me to do unreasonable, hard things that make life very fulfilling, and without which make life quite dull and empty outside of the relationships I value. 

One more time: Optimism, obligation, tenacity, passion, and capital can make great things happen.