As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

The worst thing about starting a company


I’m writing this post very late at night from a room at the Comfort Inn in Palo Alto. This trip was hastily arranged, with a jam-packed schedule.  I just heard from a dear friend that he is really hurt that I didn’t let him know I was coming to the Bay Area.  He took it personally.  And I managed to piss off a couple other good friends for the same reason.  It’s nice that they actually want to see me (or at least they USED to want to see me), but…this brings me to the worst thing about founding a company.

Or at least the thing I most dislike.

The very worst thing is not having space to be a good friend–to my friends or siblings.  Unless you’ve done this founding thing yourself,  it’s impossible to understand why that would be so.  I mean, how hard/different/consuming can it be to start a company vs. work in one?  Well, a lot. A whole lot.

Everyone is busy.  Everyone is overloaded.  But this is different.  It takes over your brain. I mean it TAKES IT OVER.  That is a bigger deal than the sheer work demands.  And being a good friend takes time, and meaningful thought.

So, relationships get squeezed.  Making excuses is lame and boring.  But it takes really, really exceptionally loyal, patient, and good friends to put up with you when you might be behaving like a figment of their imagination.  I’m grateful for my pals who try to understand this.  And I hope I can make it up to the ones who can’t. (I don’t blame them.  Not a bit. In their shoes, I might figure I was just bad at time management, or suddenly thoughtless and uncaring.)

But this friendship squeeze is harder for me than taking risks, or raising money, or creating something from nothing.

5 Responses to “The worst thing about starting a company”

  1. Sunny Bower

    What a humble post; I hope it’s okay to comment here?

    I just discovered the “Daily Grommet”. ‘Looking forward to seeing past episodes and signing up for the daily ones.

    I hope that the San Francisco Bay Area weather wasn’t too stormy during your visit…we needed the rain and it’s been a real blessing.

  2. julespieri

    Hi Sunny, Nice to hear from you. Feel free to send me feedback about the Grommet as you swim in our seas a little bit. I am open to all insights you might share! And re the Bay Area weather….it was luscious compared to the winter we’ve had in Boston. A very nice break from the cold and snow.

  3. Elon Boms

    I couldn’t agree more. I am now 13 months into LaunchCapital – its been an exhilarating experience and one I would never trade in. But I can’t remember a day that has gone by when I didn’t worry about the business, or the companies that we have invested in. Glad to hear the west coast went well. I will be in SF on Monday and Tuesday. Let me know if you need anything while I am out there.

  4. Terry Curtis

    It is great to see that someone of your caliber has the character to think “deeply” about relationships and not just the aspect of the relationships that keeps open the doors of opportunity.

    Although I have never started a business as an owner, I have lead several start-ups for my former company and I know and can empathize with you. The process consumes all of your time, thoughts, and emotional capital. It enormously volatile with extremely high peaks and deep troughs from the beginning to end.

    What I have learned from the process is that family and friends usually suffer. It is great that you have recognized this and have taken this to heart. In the end it is family and true friends that will be there at the end. It is great, under the current weight of too many business folks seemingly void of emotion, to see a business leader internalizing the human side of business success.

    Great blog, web-site and story. I wish you great success.

  5. julespieri

    @Terry Curtis Wow. I am humbled by your comments. I think you and I would get along swimmingly–or you could be my therapist! 🙂 The peaks and troughs are indeed rapid-fire and huge. One of my favorite entrepreneur friends, Paddy Hayes, told me that there is nothing like starting a company to see exactly what you are made of…your very inner character. That is a huge thought to incorporate, no?


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