Someone commented over at Fred’s that I sound bitter a lot. I’m not at all. I’m a pretty happy guy these days, and really love building businesses.
But the most interesting stories–or rather then ones I remember easily–are the nasty ones with some sort of injustice (perceived or real). For me it’s the “optimism of dissent”; the negative implies the desire for a better way, but the framing doesn’t point to that vision.
I forget to celebrate the wins sometimes.
When I ended my music career (but not the music), I started a tech career. That was 1994. The first year as building PCs; I’d spend 18 hours a day working on things, learning as much as I could, fixing stuff, breaking stuff and then fixing it, serving customers, and gaming a bit. Wins all around. Not muh money, but a lot to celebrate.
When I ended the PC business it became a services business. Learned about larger companies, seeing solutions for problems, learning the value of the relationship. Again, wins all around, despite the difficulty of the tech economy in Central PA at the time.
When I ended the service business and turned it into software products, well everything changed. Learned something every day, worked with some great people, entered the VC-funded startup world, and rode the ride. Learned a important life lessons from that, though many of them after the fact. I wasn’t really mature enough to see the world with an objective enough eye to fully appreciate everything.
I’m very pleased to have started Mission Research and have gone through those experiences. The company has over 8,000 customers and continues to grow, and after we made a very obvious and necessary change, it’s highly profitable, focused, and serving the nonprofit world well. It’s telling that many of the early employees are still there.
Every one of the companies I’ve started has been a series of rich experiences; some very tough, some regrettable, but with many wins, many positive moments, and many life lessons.
And I have to say, I’ve been getting that itch again. To build a team and work with motivated, intelligent people, to build something concrete that really serves people, to create a profitable company where people are compensated well and have literal ownership of part of the company they’re creating with me.
We forget the painful stuff, we forget the struggles, the gut-wrenching stuff when we go to start the next company. And that clears the way for starting it, but even if I did focus on that for a bit, I’d hope that I’d reflect on it and design a way to avoid the avoidable.
Lately I’ve been very committed to community development in the physical world. But I’ve also felt compelled to start or lead one more tech company, which likely means a multi-year commitment. The question is this: what will it be this time?