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.

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