Founders & importance of friends

Yesterday, True Ventures (a firm that has backed my company and where I spend time as a venture partner) hosted its fourth annual founder’s camp. It was a gathering of those who can simply be described as “the crazy ones.” There were over 125 founders in attendance – talking to each other, teaching each other, and learning from each other.

For a fraction of a second I was a little jealous – there was no such support group when I set out on my entrepreneurial journey. There were so few of us that you could count us on one hand, and still have a finger left to pick your nose with. The first year of being a founder was like climbing a glass wall with nothing but nails for hands.

That was over six years ago. Today’s challenges are a lot a different. I can’t recall a single night when I have not woken up wondering what more I could have done and what was left to do. Today, sleep eludes me for one reason. Tomorrow, a different reason will keep me awake. Of course, no one tells you that when you are getting started.

No blog post talks about the battle against despondency and loneliness on this journey. No investor tells you about the time when the well of wits runs dry. No one, and I mean no one, ever tells you that if you are a founder, you need a few friends.

These are not advisors. These are not people who are your mentors. They are just friends. Friends, who are pretty much like you. They too have started companies. Friends who are smarter than you. Friends who have failed before. Friends who have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. And friends who have been successful, but have not let success change them.

Friends who make you appreciate that it is the journey that matters. Friends who tell you in complete honesty when you screw up. Friends who offer you not sympathy but instead show up with a bottle of tequila-for-the-soul and empathy.

You need them for reasons that are not entirely rational. You need them because in the end, being a founder is a lonesome affair. It is like riding alone on a roller coaster of hopes, dreams, delirium and the nagging fear that things might not work out. No one told me that I needed these friends when I started. It’s not like you need dozens of them. One or two will do. I hope many of those True founders went home, having found a friend or two.

Responses

  1. Pedro says:

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:38 pm Reply

    Like I always say to my co-founder: t
    We might sink and crash in flames, but is has been a hell of a ride. And i’m glad we had friends to share it with!
    Great post, Om!

  2. Mike Goncalves (@Piccess_com) says:

    October 4th, 2012 at 9:09 am Reply

    Such a great post, refreshing to hear. Could not agree more. I’ve leaned on family and friends although have yet to find the types of friends mentioned here. Hopefully at some point, sure could use them.

  3. The British Asian Blog says:

    October 3rd, 2012 at 7:40 am Reply

    Om, this is a great post – honest and accurate and all the same refreshing. Must of what you wrote is true to the dot – but what stands out for me – and for those on a journey similar to mine and yours is ‘friends’.

    I’m glad you highlighted the importance of friends and who they are in reality.

  4. Rahul Tongia (@RahulTongia) says:

    October 2nd, 2012 at 1:35 am Reply

    Om, great post! Finding friends who can truly empathise and share experiences with you on a start-up journey has been difficult. Even in Berlin startup eco-system, people who are building things on their own is a rare breed. One bad thing of a lot of start-up incubators and events around town is that there are so many people who are show-offs making it even more difficult to discover. But as an entrepreneur one just gotta keep walking! Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. Suzanne Xie (@suzannexie) says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 3:10 pm Reply

    This is great. Thanks for posting Om. :)

  6. Simon Minitzer (@minitzer) says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 11:56 am Reply

    Om, one only appreciates that ‘light’ when you have walked this lonely road. The linked experience of startup and life are mirrors staring straight at each other – almost an endless feeling. You sharing your story, helps others, like myself, who walk that very journey but still need to find that light that shines bright…and at this point, I know those very friends you talk about, will still be there with the bottle of tequila. They walked with you, like giants.

  7. Alicia Nieva-Woodgate says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 10:31 am Reply

    Setting out on your own, being your own boss for the first time is truly the scariest and loneliest place in the world – don’t know what I would do without friends for support! Great story/reflection as always, Om.

  8. moe (@moe_naqvi) says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 8:05 am Reply

    I actually started up my company with my best friends. Sometimes it gets awkward because you argue with someone who you are going to go to go play soccer with later. However, you are never afraid to say what’s on your mind, and you are always willing to work a little harder because you know your best friends are counting on you to get it done. Someone needs to frame this line or, at the least, instagram/tweet it. “It is like riding alone on a roller coaster of hopes, dreams, delirium and the nagging fear that things might not work out.”

  9. Andrew Saada says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 7:19 am Reply

    Om, as has been said, great post and thank you for sharing your experience. As a nascent founder—and someone perusing his contact list (which reminds me I haven’t used the Pipe app in some time…)—I was thinking about this just the other day. Cherish & nourish those friendships.

    1. Om Malik says:

      October 1st, 2012 at 7:55 am Reply

      Thanks Andrew Saada :-)

  10. Gaurav Bhatnagar says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 5:31 am Reply

    Great post, Om! In many ways, your co-founders serve a very similar purpose. You develop a very different kind of a friendship with your co-founders over the years – like that of two soldiers who covered for each other in the battlefield!

    1. Om Malik says:

      October 1st, 2012 at 7:55 am Reply

      Thanks Gaurav. I think co-founders are precisely that, though sometimes even that can be a contentious relationship.

  11. Dan York (@danyork) says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 5:19 am Reply

    Well said, Om. It is indeed key to find friends who accept you as you are and are there for you regardless of whatever adventure your life is undergoing at the current moment… and who are honest with you. Thank you for reminding us all of that – and for hosting events like the one you mention that can connect more people together. And thank you for writing about the loneliness of the journey.

  12. patphelan says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 5:02 am Reply

    Excellent post OM
    It can be a very lonely post as you suggest but guys like you and many others inspire me along the road

  13. Sangeet Paul (@sanguit) says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 4:53 am Reply

    Beautifully put, Om. I cannot agree enough on the importance of these friends having set upon this journey myself recently. The key factor though is that they are friends who respect you for what you are trying to do and believe in you. Finding such people is easy when you’re working on something that a lot of other people are or that intuitively makes sense but it may get a bit lonely when you’re trying to do something that others don’t necessarily see automatic potential in or wouldn’t do themselves.

  14. Cyrus Zei says:

    October 1st, 2012 at 4:06 am Reply

    Hi Om, Love the post!

    Since you are a venture partner I Wounder if I could talk to you for like 30 min? This will mean so much for me since I need to talk to a venture partner about the new OS I have for all the devices.

  15. Justin Thiele (@justinthiele) says:

    September 29th, 2012 at 3:14 pm Reply

    Great post, Om. I really appreciate that you (and the rest of True) have this vision and nurture the founder community.

    1. Om Malik says:

      October 1st, 2012 at 2:58 am Reply

      Thanks Justin. Glad you liked the post.

  16. metaartabstract says:

    September 29th, 2012 at 7:01 am Reply

    Om, Indeed, being a founder can be a very, very lonely existence. You can look around and wonder sometimes in high resistence times if everyone on the team really has the fire in the belly, the vision, and if you conclude they don’t, then it’s “How can I inspire them better?” Friends don’t need to be inspired…

    1. Om Malik says:

      October 1st, 2012 at 3:00 am Reply

      I think inspiring employees/team is very hard and only very special people can do that. I have learned that over the years and perhaps it might be a good post for me to write about.

  17. uxrobinson says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 11:51 pm Reply

    A bottle of tequila-for-the-soul, or a from-the-heart-as-it-is-blogpost that drives you forward. Thanks for sharing Om.

  18. micheleserro says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 7:15 pm Reply

    This post made me feel so at peace and seen. Thank you Om for this wonderful truth-telling.

    1. Om Malik says:

      September 28th, 2012 at 9:34 pm Reply

      Thanks Michele – glad you enjoyed it.

  19. Chris McCoy (@chrisamccoy) says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 6:20 pm Reply

    This is beautiful Om. So. Very. True.

    1. Om Malik says:

      October 1st, 2012 at 3:01 am Reply

      Thanks Chris.

  20. Pranay Srinivasan (@pranaysrinivasn) says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 6:14 pm Reply

    Such a true post no matter which part of the world we come from. Doubly tough in India where failure is roundy ridiculed, theft is celebrated and honesty is shirked to achieve remporary needs. Such friends are truly few and far between. I can tell you that 3 years of running my own startup has lost me almost all my old and once-valued friends and made me newer more startup type friends…

  21. Phil says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 4:04 pm Reply

    Reblogged this on Musings and Tweets.

  22. Veronica Henry (@veronicawrites) says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 3:22 pm Reply

    This is an aspect of the entrepreneurial journey that I have to say I haven’t properly addressed anywhere else. Well done. Now, to find those friends…

    1. Om Malik says:

      September 28th, 2012 at 3:39 pm Reply

      Veronica

      They are out there. Keep looking :)

  23. Mark Birch (@marksbirch) says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 3:17 pm Reply

    Hell Yeah! I felt like the loneliest person in the world when I was launching my startup several years ago. NYC was a tech ghetto at the time. Glad things are changing for the better.

    1. Om Malik says:

      September 28th, 2012 at 3:40 pm Reply

      Mark

      Amen to that… Well hope you are finding things a lot easier now. Tech in NY is rocking.

  24. John Burke says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 3:04 pm Reply

    Really well said Om. Thanks for posting.

    1. Om Malik says:

      September 28th, 2012 at 3:16 pm Reply

      Thanks John for your kind words

  25. joemellin says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 2:47 pm Reply

    It is amazing to experience the nuances of this type of friendship. Very rare. Great post.

    1. Om Malik says:

      September 28th, 2012 at 3:00 pm Reply

      Thanks Joe

  26. Tristan Louis says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 2:23 pm Reply

    Om, This is such a great post. Thanks for this.

    1. Om Malik says:

      September 28th, 2012 at 2:59 pm Reply

      Thanks Tristan. Glad you enjoyed it.

  27. Richard L Burton III (@rburton) says:

    September 28th, 2012 at 2:18 pm Reply

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s not just a job, it’s a life changing journey. You find yourself over time being more distanced from those you normally would find comfort in. To me, it’s sort of like an addiction. Not many people understand why you are so addicted to this way of life, but the personal reward, the surge of excitement you get from making a change is reward in it’s own right.

    Money is simply a measurement of success. It’s not a reward.

    Richard L. Burton III

    1. Om Malik says:

      September 28th, 2012 at 3:00 pm Reply

      Richard

      Good luck with your journey. It will be exciting to say the least and welcome to SF :)

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