Yesterday a friend sent me a disturbing post from a California investor. His post talked about the kinds of people he likes to invest in. His example was a CTO of one of his companies, a guy who “works 20 hours a day as CTO, and rides motorcycles, mountain bikes, and numerous other high speed vehicles on weekends.” The investor sees his actions — including after a horrific accident making calls from the ICU and working non-stop from his bed even though he couldn’t move one arm — as signs of “a great leader” who “puts his heart and soul” into his company and “would do anything not to let his team down.”
I have no doubt he is right. I only doubt the misplaced priorities.
Let’s juxtapose this post with two others: one from Fred Wilson, also a venture capitalist, and another from Jeff Atwood, an entrepreneur. Fred today talks about how important it is to build an ecosystem not just in the product but also in the community:
We want to build a world where entrepreneurship is available everywhere. But we also want to do everything we can to grow and nurture the entrepreneurial community in New York City. And we believe that the things we support in NYC can and will be copied throughout the world so that our local ecosystem efforts support our global ecosystem efforts.
And then there is Jeff Atwood who quit Stack Exchange, hugely influential in the development community, to spend more time with his growing family. “We just welcomed two new family members into our family, and running as fast as you can isn’t sustainable for parents of multiple small children.” Jeff, it isn’t sustainable for anyone.
And here’s what’s frustrating to me. The first guy is, in my mind, advocating short-term gains and to hell with any long-term success. He is, for all intents and purposes, celebrating a guy who leads a wholly unsustainable and unhealthy lifestyle, insomuch as it practically killed him. (How, by the way, is that good for the start-up?)
And then there are Fred and Jeff, both of whom point out indirectly that this is about long-term success, this is about sustainability, this is about success-begetting-success. This isn’t just about this generation but about the next one and the one after that.
We can all kill ourselves, literally and figuratively, for our businesses. But winning is an act of attrition as much as it is an act of dominance. The first VC equated starting a company to waging a war. I don’t disagree. But the battle is won in a year. The war is won in a lifetime.