This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the life skills a startup CEO must learn to rise to the top?
Wanted: A Start-up CEO
Here's what we're looking for:
You can't be willing to work for anybody else.
Working for someone else is 10x easier than running your own company. If there's any chance you can do this and be happy, you will do it. It's way less risky and almost always more lucrative. You'll certainly sleep better and have more time for watching football and watching people fall down on YouTube. There are certain people who just can't work for other people. Some of these people become homeless, some become criminals, some politicians, and the masochists become start-up CEOs.
You have to be able to talk people into making questionable choices.
When Steve Jobs started Apple, he didn't just quit his job, he had to convince Steve Wozniak to quit his too. And like Wozniak, all the people you're going to need to help you start your company already have jobs. They have jobs because they're very good, and very good people aren't looking for jobs, they're just always in demand. So you have to go convince them to quit their excellent, lucrative, high powered jobs and take a chance on whatever nutty scheme you've concocted.
You have to say, look, I know your significant other is going to be pissed, and you were really close to getting that new 5 series, and you've only got something like 1000 TPS reports to go before you get 2 gratuitous headcount to do the crap work you always hated, but I need you to give all that up for the chance to join me in my basement/office with hand me down chairs so you can work twice the hours for half the pay and the chance to tell people you work at a super small company they've never heard of for a person whose last job wasn't as good as the one you'd be leaving." But you know, spruce it up a bit, obviously.
You have to be delusional.
At one point in his second company, Red Swoosh, Uber Founder and CEO Travis Kalanick took over the company from a cofounder, lost his only engineer to Google, ran out of money, had to move the company to Thailand so he could afford to get the product finished, and then after bringing it back from life support after getting new investors, customers, and all new employees, he sold it to Akamai for enough money to leave and go start Uber.
All we can figure is that everybody who left that company was thinking straight, because the stuff he had to do to save it was inhuman. You'd have to be nuts not to just quit every single day and go get a cushy corporate type business development job rather than risk all that time and energy for a long shot acquisition years down the road. But that's what it takes. In spite of waves of biblical catastrophe he stuck with it and pulled $19m of value out of the market.
Every day of a start-up seems like it might be a good day to quit. And most of the time it is. But you can't see any of that, you can only see the absolute best case scenario. If startup CEO's were rational about their chances at changing the world they'd all quit and go back to doing TPS reports.
So to summarize:
We're looking for an unemployable, highly persuasive workaholic with a chemical imbalance that could shield you from making rational risk/reward decisions. If this sounds like you and you're not already breaking the law or running for office, this could be a great opportunity for you to go completely bankrupt or make millions. Good luck!
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