I was speaking with a founder today who was entering the messy middle.
The part of the startup journey where the excitement of those initial honeymoon months start to collide with the realities of life and inertia.
I remember the first time I experienced this feeling. It was after launching my first tech product, and the launch went well. We exceeded the number of initial users and thought it was only a matter of time until VC’s would coming rushing to our door.
Unfortunately, after that initial spurt, we got hit with churn issues, difficulty acquiring new customers, inability to attract the right team members, and every day seemed to bring a new problem.
The only thing that keeps you going at this point is the hope that you need to get over this initial bump, get that next big round of funding or land that enterprise customer and everything will be smooth sailing.
I have good news and bad news. Most people like the bad news first.
Bad News: Once you get over the initial bump, there will be another bigger one that you didn’t anticipate on the other side.
Good News: This reality is not to dissuade you from taking your shot. Instead, making peace with the fact that the struggle is part of the path you have selected. Entrepreneurs are born to solve problems and challenge the status quo. Bumps are part and parcel of this process. The days when the bumps/grind will be gone will be the day you would have lost interest in what you are working on.
Most people never make it through the messy middle. They get stuck along the way and lose the drive and hope to take that next step.
The people who make it through the middle are those that:
- Have a genuine interest in what they are building and care for the customers they are building for. Most people will say they care, but you can quickly tell how they react with the first sign of struggle and problems.
- They have build a team of people around them who give them energy. The startup grind is a long and arduous journey. Having people who care as much as you do around makes a world of difference and gets you through the difficult times.
- Have the humility to face the truth rather than hide their head in the sand hoping that the problems will go away. One can remain in denial for a very long time.
The grind is what gives the entrepreneurship path its allure. It is when you can do things that seem like fun for you but work for others; most of the time, you are onto something good.
Remember, the easy path is the quickest way to get to a crowded place where there is very little to gain.