Greg's Ramblings

random thoughts along my never-ending entrepreneurial education

diving into 1st base, entrepreneurial style

Am I going to lose all my hair or just grow it to the length of an 80’s hair band?

For those of you that don’t remember, back in January some idiot (me) said there would be zero trips to the barber until Canvita 1) could pay me a sustainable salary 2) flops completely 3) I lose all my hair because of the stress of the startup life.

Startup life while in an accelerator like StartFast can easily lead to all three.

I’m not quite rocking the Def Leppard look... yet. But my mop is way passed my collar, well, except for when the east coast humidity makes me look like Screech.

MUST BE WORKING ON SOMETHING YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT

One of the major reasons that the accelerator model works is that it is structured to really test your beliefs in what you are building and why you are doing it. It can break up teams, it can cause you to completely shift to a new idea. It can cause you join another team or give up completely.

It can confirm that you are actually on to something and all the tough days and sleepless nights could really lead to a great business.

First off, Canvita is one of the teams that isn’t going to make it through the program with our original team intact.

If you are one of my long time readers, you know that I have talked about how amazing it was to serendipitously connect with my Co-Founder, Justin Travis. And there is no doubt I am still so grateful that we connected.

But you have probably also noticed that I am constantly talking about how we all should be doing work that we are absolutely passionate about, and if we are not doing that right now, we should start seeking it.

It wasn't on purpose but I've actually been talking my awesome co-founder out being the long-term technical lead for Canvita.

I am so proud that Justin stayed on as long as he did. So proud of him for coming to this conclusion and I know he will find work he is truly passionate about.

His belief in the future of Canvita is stronger than ever and that has been proven as we transition into finding the longer term solution to the very important role he played. It isn't one of those nasty founder breakups, Justin will be a friend for a life and I will always vouch for his talent and character. Quite frankly Canvita would already be dead without the many hours Justin put into it.

TOUGH START TO SYRACUSE ADVENTURE

This actually had nothing to do with Justin leaving his full time role with Canvita. Nope, this was all me. 

I was failing left and right in my role. Dreaming was easy, executing was tough. Anxiety - something pretty damn foreign to me - was hitting me hard. 

But there were many positives during that time. I just listened to and learned from over 40 world class entrepreneurs and investors that made the trip to Syracuse to chat with us. I was and am still floored by their level of engagement and willingness to take time away from their hectic schedules to help us out. 

The difficult part of that process is what they call "Mentor Whiplash", the feedback and opinions were coming from so many angles from so many new mentors. You want to act on all the advice, besides, these are extremely successful people giving you tips.

It is done this way for a reason.

I finally realized that they were all actually providing invaluable input. Sure they all had different product/target market/biz model ideas but they were all giving me unbelievable advice on how to build a great company. And there were certain aspects and common themes of their advice that started to really stand out. Those are the potential game-changing points that the listener and entrepreneur has to recognize and then act upon. 

It was an educational experience that could never be duplicated by getting an MBA.

DIVING HEAD FIRST INTO 1st BASE

Why the hell do baseball players still slide head first into first base on a force play?

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We do it because we believe it is the best thing for the team. You get up all dirty, all the players in the dugout smack you on the ass (okay, I still don't get that tradition) and you get all kinds of kudos for the “great hustle”.

But that extra effort doesn’t always get you there faster, in fact, diving into first base has been proven to be a slower method than simply running through the bag. Add on the much higher injury risk and you’ll wonder why anybody still does this.

Well, I’ve done a lot of diving into 1st base on this entrepreneurial journey. 

Last week, Chuck Stormon, one of the amazing leaders of StartFast, asked me what I was doing different. He correctly pointed out that I was always shaking during the first couple months and was starting to see a much calmer and much more confident guy. Body language tells a pretty clear story.

So what changed for Chuck to ask that? 

I’m not saying I’ve mastered the entrepreneurial game over the past couple weeks after a tough couple months (hell, it has been a tough few years on this journey). Nope, I've got a long way to go. But...Suddenly, all the lessons I have been learning seem to be hitting me all at once. 

The first book I read in 2012 on my book journey was Jim Collin’s Great By Choice. A couple weeks ago I started to wonder why I wasn't using his “20 mile March” philosophy, something I strongly believed in at the time but got away from during the craziness of StartFast.

It is simple: “Commit to a 20-mile march that you will bring you to your big hairy audacious goal. Collins makes the analogy to someone who is trying to walk across the county. The best approach, says Collins, is to attempt to travel the same distance every day. If you’re on a 2000 mile march, says Collins, you don’t bolt 30 miles ahead when the weather is good. You go 20 miles. When the weather is bad, you can’t sit inside and complain – you still have make 20 miles.” This excerpt from this Inc article about Jim’s advice. and this is a better blog post about how this is applied to startup life. 

It is long race to build a great company. When I put in the all-nighter then my production and focus absolutely sucked for the next few days. Maybe it's because I’m in my mid thirties but I just don’t bounce back like I used to. A different affect hits when I took the day or two off after the all-nighter - I got complacent. Suddenly things can wait. It is a viscous cycle. 

My new sense of calm and return of the confidence is completely tied to implementing the 20 mile march, every day. Check out my Runkeeper udpates and look at my activities during July compared with May and June. This documents my mood change pretty clear, doesn’t it. Funny how good health plays such a role, something I keep learning, over and over again.

Speaking of health - this has also led to me crashing much earlier and rising earlier than I ever have before. The shaking that Chuck mentioned? Yeah, seven cups of coffee a day after 3 hours of sleep don't really help the body language. 

Oh yeah, Canvita is also starting to make some tremendous strides. Thanks to the amazing help of our StartFast mentors, the StartFast staff and the other teams in the program, we have learned a ton and decided to shift focus on exactly who are target market is and where revenues will come from early on. 

More on this later and the all new look for Canvita will be coming soon!

So while many of the other teams were kicking ass - gaining users, traction and turning ideas into great companies. Canvita was still in private beta, and not in beta, and then back in development. But I don't regret those first couple months, like everything on this journey, it was a period of lessons that we needed to move forward.

STRETCH RUN

No doubt there is a ton we need to accomplish before August 16th, but I am not panicking about Demo Day anymore (this is where we present our company and vision to a theatre filled with 300 entrepeneurs, venture capitalists and angel investors). I am damn confident in the product and vision that I'll be chatting about that day and definitely couldn't say that 2 weeks ago.

Only time will tell if we can in fact build this into a truly great company. I'm betting that the first sign will be when my personal Canvita is updated with a pic of me sporting a much shorter mop.