After talking to a number of people at start-up events, many of them ask me why I don’t want to be a co-founder, a CEO of my own company, or some other entrepreneurial position. And my answer to them is simple: it’s a lot of work!
I take pride in my work and when I take on an activity, I do it well. However, it’s hard to do a good job when you’re not excited about it. Start-up co-founders have to take on many roles that have nothing to do with building product, and instead have everything to do with running a business and being the face of the company – a prospect I’m not terribly excited about.
To start, co-founders need to worry about solving financial issues, such as fundraising and dealing with VC’s. Furthermore, there’s recruiting, hiring, and (the toughest part) firing. Additionally, co-founders have to worry about the little things like washing the dishes or paying the bills. As if all that weren’t enough, there’s the fact that co-founders never really get a day off. In fact, I question whether they get any time off since many of them think about work after leaving the office. Sometimes, co-founders can’t escape even when sleeping because business issues pop into their dreams! Therefore, while wearing extra hats is expected at a start-up, being a co-founder means wearing all those hats at once, without the chance to take any of them off. In that regard, I just don’t see myself doing a great job. And if I wouldn’t hire myself to be a co-founder, I wouldn’t expect my (theoretical) employees to believe in me either.
All that being said, there is a role I am passionate about, and that is building great product. What I love doing is pushing stuff out to the customer that is on strategy, on time, and offers an exceptional user experience. Because I don’t have to focus on running a business, I can instead turn my attention to really understanding the customer’s unmet needs and digging up insights that lead to features users didn’t even know they wanted. I can spend more time understanding where the industry is shifting and making sure we are always one step ahead of the curve. I can make the effort to properly integrate the work of engineering, marketing, design, and analytics to create one smoothly running machine that generates amazing releases month after month.
I understand that in a successful start-up, the co-founders have the chance to make tens of millions, while even top employees are lucky to get half a million. But I’m OK with that. Great product is what I’m passionate about, and it’s where I know I can excel. I’ll leave the other work for people who are better suited.