Your Startup Shit Itself…Again

May 17th, 2011
[ General ]

I had a great chat last week with a close friend who is literally burnt out. He lamented the fact that he did it to himself and it was for a venture he didn’t own himself. He does have an equity role but it’s minor.

If there’s one thing I do have experience with, it’s being involved in way too many projects, companies, events, and ventures. I’ve learned the hard lessons over time of knowing where to draw lines. If you’re good at what you do, people will often drag you into making decisions about their business. If you allow it, they will gladly abdicate core business decisions to you.

When I was greener, you could pull me across these lines all day. I was eager to experience those business decisions and learn from them. I wanted to treat your business like it was my own so that I could one day have my own.

Today, I answer a lot of questions like this…

“You hired me to write software for you and be your technical team. What you’re asking is a core business decision, not a technical one. I can offer my opinion but I’m not sure it’s worth much as this isn’t my business.”

It doesn’t matter how strong my opinion is or how correct I feel I may be, the reality is I may do more harm than good by answering certain questions. Yes, we all want to be diligent and great at what we do. We all want to help. We all want the communities around us to succeed.

Ultimately I described it to my friend like this. On every project you need to decide, and remember, whether you’re the parent or the grandparent. If you’re the grandparent then yes you need to treat that project like it’s your own baby when you’re working on it. Yes, you want to see it grow up strong and independent but when it shits it’s pants and starts balling it’s eyes out, you get to drop it off at the parents house and head out for dinner, a pint and ultimately a nice restful sleep. Yes, parents don’t stress about their kids safety when they drop them off at the grandparents but they also know there are lines.

If you’re the parent then you need to be prepared for the drop off when the shit hits the cloth. Assuming you’re working with experienced folks who recognize they’re grandparents then you will get the call…

“Hey, sorry but your startup shit itself again. I’m the grandparent and until that changes, this mess is yours my friend.”

PS…On the funding side, be careful how much equity you ask for. You may find yourself parenting where you intended to be a golfing, fun loving gran-pappy.