“I don’t know if I can do this anymore,” “Serge”, the CEO of a struggling startup, said to me. “I think I’m going to give up.”
“What?” I responded. Serge’s capitulation said didn’t register on me. It was foreign to my way of thinking. Worse yet, Serge’s company wasn’t doomed to fail. There was a path if Serge choose to take it.
I dug in. “Why would you quit now? You can win!”
“Brett, I’m tired,” Serge said. “I’m tired of fighting. I don’t want to fight anymore.”
I sighed. There was a tone in Serge’s voice. I’d heard this tone before. And I hated that tone.
If you’re not prepared to fight, then you’ll never make it as a startup CEO.
Maybe I’m being harsh, but Serge’s tone was the tone of a quitter. And I hate quitters! As I said, that quitting thought process is just so foreign to my way of thinking that I just couldn’t relate.
You fight until you can’t fight any more. You find a way. Every successful startup CEO I’ve ever worked with is a fighter. And every startup CEO has many moments of truth where their mettle is tested.
Serge had two months of funding left. He was raising money and he had potential investors that were interested in his company.
Investors are expecting you to fight.
“You can’t share your fear with your investors,” my friend and mentor, Dave, said to me one morning over coffee. “They’ll freak out if you show them your fear.”
I nodded my head in agreement with what Dave was saying. And, Dave knew what he was talking about because he had been a VC and he’d been a startup CEO too.
I motioned for Dave to continue because he looked like he had more to say.“Your investors can deal with a lot,” he said. “They know you’re going to make mistakes. They know things aren’t going to go to plan.
“All of that they can deal with. However, when you tell them you can’t do it, or you’re afraid, that’s when (investors) get worried. They’re putting this trust in you. If they feel like you’re going to quit, then there goes the investment.”