Saying No v. Hearing No

A few weeks ago I made the decision to leave my full-time role investing at betaworks to go build and run a new product called Alphaworks, which I’m co-founding with betaworks. I’m deeply appreciative of the opportunity I’ve had as an investor these past few years and grateful for the people I’ve been fortunate enough to invest in and work with. I can’t imagine learning more about startups, venture capital, building successful products, organizations and brands anywhere else, and playing some small part in their success. I hope to one day play that role again.

But I want to build again. I did before betaworks, and the urge got so great I couldn’t sleep at night. So I’m taking another plunge into the exciting and terrifying abyss that is creating something new out of what once did not exist.

One thing that has struck me, just several weeks into this new chapter, is how much I’ve heard “no.” As an investor, I said no a lot. Almost every day, in fact. At first, I remember it felt weird and uncomfortable. But somewhere along the way, I got used to it. I think it has something to do with how investors justify what they do…somehow I convinced myself that my job was just as hard and stressful as running a startup, and saying no was a byproduct. But the truth is, and I realize it now, that running, working at, or even starting a venture capital firm is nothing like building a company.

I’m only a few weeks in, and already I hear no every day. From potential partners, customers, employees, among many others. No is now everywhere. And let me tell you something, hearing it is a lot more painful than saying it. An important part of being an entrepreneur, I think, is being able to recognize, internalize, but ultimately shrug off (when necessary) the no’s, and not have them affect the business and one’s personal life outside of work. But I’m forcefully re-learning just how hard that is to do in practice.

I know that hearing no will ultimately become as comfortable as saying it for the past couple of years. But until I get there, it’s damn hard. To all the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with the past several years, thank you for the opportunity. To all the entrepreneurs I’ve said no to, I feel your pain, and I’m psyched to be fighting the good fight with you once again.

 
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