Friday, April 4, 2008

Downhill

I do not remember the first time I rode a bike, nor my first coast on a skateboard. My memory of my first downhill ski experience – outside the wedge of my dad -- is vivid. Squaw Valley on a Saturday, tips pointed (snow-plowed) downhill, the exhilaration of mass*velocity, tears streaming and wind howling. It was cool.

Though I have not been skiing for a few years, I rekindled my first two-board experience yesterday during a meeting with an over-excited entrepreneur. The meeting/entrepreneur was not great, but not too bad. The not-too-bad: Zealous research, hyperactive intensity, ferociously competitive spirit. The not great: Unrealistic expectations, defensive attitude, incredible lack of focus (Emerson: Concentration is the secret of strength), loathe of VCs, his ferocious (to a fault) spirit, and a failure to commit. The analysis was superb, the paralysis paralyzing.

Today I met with a retired biotech exec who flipped the coin. He was so committed to his last company – in biotech, the more time you spend in the office, the less you get done – that he quit. Quality of life trumped weeks of biz dev on the road. He got out there, into the field, and made it happen, taking his company public and enriching its market cap.

The reddest of cardinal entrepreneur flags is commitment. Not in an emotional sense – most all entrepreneurs are passionate, curiously crazy and on-the-surface committed – but in a get out there and do it manner. Ilka Chase: The only people who fail are those who never try.

To be an entrepreneur, you must take risks; writing a plan, theorizing a model, raising money, and moonlighting a venture are stall tactics to doing it. You don’t know what you don’t know, and you’ll only find out once you get in the game. Your model will change, your strategy will shift, and your assumptions will waver.

Whether riding a bike, skating a skateboard, skiing downhill, or running a business, it’s much easier to change directions when you’re moving. Until you move, you’re practicing mental masturbation to the benefit of no others.

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