Question: What can go wrong with your startup?
Answer: Things you would never expect.
Here are some I ran into over the past weeks:
- Founder's computer broke in the middle of preparing due diligence materials to close on his round of financing (needed to avoid missing payroll).
- CEO's wife has sudden tragedy with her pregnancy with the first child and has to be operated on.
- First customer fails to get next round of investors' capital and has to start layoffs.
- Excited VC replies he is sorry and surprised but he cannot get his partners to agree with him and the deal is off.
- The CEO candidate decides to remain with her current employer.
- The perfect VP marketing candidate turns out to be badly lacking consumer Web2.0 experience.
Those are just a few of the negative surprises.
The entrepreneurs involved did a fine job of rolling with the punches. I was very proud of them and their courage.
That is how real startups progress, along a trail filled with surprises, many bad (but also many good). That is why doing a startup is an adventure. You never know what is just around the corner.
BOTTOM LINE: Startups are not about creating a good plan and executing it. They are about getting surprised every day, more often bad news than good news happens, and yet the core team responds with courage and wisdom. That is the real world of the entrepreneur. If you are not prepared to take hard body blows, a startup is not for you yet. When you've taken a couple of serious shots to your soul (yes, I said soul) and have responded wisely, you are ready for a real startup. That will be very attractive to world-class investors and experienced employees. It will be a powerful element in your unfair advantage.