What was it like to take your company from a garage to being traded on the stock exchange? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
A company's growth can be a bittersweet experience. In many ways, I miss those early exciting days. When the company was small, you knew everybody. Social cohesion was very tight, and you had many shared trials and tribulations--exactly those experiences that form the closest interpersonal relationships.
With success comes growth. That's the goal, right? But as the team grows, the bonds between people can grow more distant. Oddly, success reduces some of the factors that create the closest internal bonds, and those bonds are often a central factor in the success of the company. When you get bigger, infighting is more likely to occur. As the organization grows, you spend a lot more time dealing with various struggling relationships either between individuals or between groups of people. So, you spend less of your time solving tangible problems and inventing things.
It was a tough transition for me. There were many days I simply felt lost, when I went home and I couldn't point to any specific thing I had accomplished that day. I answered a lot of emails, attended a lot of meetings, but I didn't have the clear tangible sense of progress that you get in those early days when we were knocking down big problems on a daily basis. In the end, I value those early days, and I have a real nostalgia about them because those challenges--those sleepless nights, all the toil and pain, the endless risks--has led to great success and growth.
Let me also add: people treat you differently after you attain a certain level of success. In the early days, nobody took us seriously. My closest friends from college teased me mercilessly about this crazy idea I had to go build electrical, sci-fi weapons. Then, we were a public company with millions in sales. And once your company is successful, people treat you like you're some kind of genius--that even though you're the same exact person, you have some special gift because of what you have achieved. It's easy for this to lead to hubris, and that can be very dangerous both for the individual and for the organization. At the end of the day, you just have to remember that you worked hard, and you got lucky.
That said, I also advise start-up founders to enjoy success--and to celebrate the successes with the people who helped you along the way. Many of our earliest investors were friends and family. In fact, I had taken my parents to the edge of financial ruin. There were days when it seemed hopeless ... that the company would not even survive. So, when we finally turned the corner, and the company began to grow, it was simply amazing to feel success after seven years of endless struggle and failure after failure.
Within a few months, we met an investment bank--Paulson Investments out of Portland, Oregon--and they offered to take us public. It's hard to describe the sense of relief when we raised over $10 million, allowing us to pay back loans to friends and family, ensuring my parents wouldn't get wiped out financially, and raising enough money that we could focus on building the business rather than on how we were going to pay the utility bill.
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