On the outside, I am an extroverted, sometimes over-the-top cheerleader for my portfolio companies. The Startup Factory (TSF), the accelerator I run, has 31 investments. But I have a secret. I worry. I worry a lot.
At its core, my worry is all about fear. What do I fear?
I am afraid that my investments are bad and I won't return capital back to my investors. I am afraid that my reputation (whatever that is) will be crap and I won't be taken seriously. I am afraid that I will have wasted three, four, five years for no gain. Ultimately, I am afraid that I will be a failure. Again.
Why me, you might ask? I have had success. I co-founded MapQuest, served as the president of Rand McNally, and worked as a corporate venture capitalist. Now I operate one of the best seed investment funds in the Southeast.
But I have had real failures as well. In the late 1990s, I spent a year raising investment capital to roll up and combine a handful of map publishing companies that never materialized. I was brought in as an executive (along with a CEO I had worked with before) of a multimillion-dollar software company that was losing millions a year. We got close to rescuing the company before the recession hit us hard. It is a shell of its former self today.
The Startup Factory is on its third iteration.
You want full transparency? I feel like the successes were lucky and that the failures were entirely my fault. I think about it every day. And I worry.
I'm not the only one, of course. Everyone worries. The difference is I now know how to cope with my own insecurities.
Take credit for the good, along with bad. Ultimately, with age, I have come to realize that I had something to do with both the successes and the failures. There it is. I said it out loud. I am responsible for the successes. I earned that. My brain, my experiences, my personality, and my drive can make positive things happen. This is a positive building block for my own daily psychology.
Develop a support system. A few years ago, a very close friend and I were talking about this issue and how our brains naturally took us to the dark place (we have a code for it--ask me sometime). We were lamenting how peers we knew had seemed to naturally transcend our demons, and we committed to helping each other. We developed a trick for me. I was raising capital for the first iteration of TSF and I would call him before each meeting. He would ask me one question: "Who's the king?" My answer: "I am the king!" Corny, but I like to think it helped put me in a different frame of mind.
Let it go. When I look back on what factors are integral to my successes, I can clearly see a distinct pattern emerge. When I had no fear or worry, I was free to be in the business-moment. I operate best when I have released the baggage of fear. I love this quote from Jack Canfield, "Everything you want is on the other side of fear."
My goal, every day, is to find my way to the other side.