Monday, September 16, 2013

Big Yellow Taxi

As of today, the fun part is over. My Founders Institute semester graduates tonight. No more Monday evening get togethers in SOMA. No more trials by fire. No more arduous but prescient assignments. No more epic presentations from people who have truly lived the dream and who have come back to share how not dreamlike it all is but who still content that it is worth it. 

And no more terrible pitches. :)

I will miss the fear. I will miss the uncertainty. I will miss the raw knowledge. But mostly I will miss the people.

There is something very special about regularly getting together with a bunch of like-minded individuals all with similar goals and hurdles. There is camaraderie and an empowerment that comes with such a collection.

I experienced it in college - working at the student newspaper - and I have experienced it since in some early-stage startups in the Bay Area. It is an electricity of ideas and endless possibilities but it is fleeting and it is rare.

Over the past three months I have been involved with such a group. The Founders Institute was the premise – a three month entrepreneurial bootcamp that encompasses everything from pitching practice to cap structures.

The program itself was a tremendous wealth of advice and action all geared to help the budding CEO realize what they are in for and how to deal with it.  And it truly is a remarkable program when you consider both its breadth (FI runs programs in 40 cities across 5 continents) and depth (idea to fully-formed company in just a few months.)

But the people are what make the cost and effort an easy sacrifice.

I will miss the mentors. These weekly “speakers” deliver every bit an interesting canned presentation of insight and information but give you so much more in their feedback to your own pitch. And it doesn’t stop there. I expected the former but more than often the mentors were the last to leave the after-class bar sessions, happily wasting their time discussing in greater depth and detail the ins and outs of a particular idea. I cannot say enough good things about the mentors feedback and true willingness to help.

I will miss Adeo.  His presence, though initially daunting, always makes whatever it is you are doing more interesting and more intense and more worthwhile. His legendarily blunt feedback equally valuable and entertaining.

I will miss Russ. He is the embodiment of the perfect mentor and we got him all to ourselves each week. His leadership of the semester was understated and incredibly effective. I want to be Russ someday.  

I will miss my classmates. Extremely smart people doing extremely cool things.

But most, I will miss my original working group. Group Brown. The early part of the semester was heavily steeped in workload, fear and uncertainty and I would not have made it through without them. I think the rest of the group would agree as we were the only group not to have anyone drop before the first mentor review.

And that is probably the most important lesson from all this. Your team is what will decide whether you succeed or fail. Your team is the reason you keep going when you want to stop. Your team is what makes the whole thing enjoyable and worth doing in the first place.

Thank you FI. We will meet again.

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