Survivor Entrepreneurs

Eric Wiesen Jan 15, 2011 Back to blog

If you live in or around the startup world (and if you read this blog I suspect that you do), you have almost certainly been exposed to what I’ll call the “all-in ethos” that is considered appropriate and even mandatory to be successful as an entrepreneur. What I mean by this ethos is the stories told and retold about a given founder’s willingness to max out credit cards, call in every favor, and basically lay themselves entirely on the line because their belief in their product, company or idea is just so overwhelmingly strong that they cannot even consider giving up.

People in our world tell and retell these stories because they reinforce such a critical belief – that no matter how dark things look for a startup, there can always be light at the end of the tunnel, that even if a founder is the only person on the planet that believes something to be true, that is the true essence of “entrepreneurial spirit”, and that it can prevail.

As investors, we love this attitude. Entrepreneurs who don’t quit are the engine that make possible the very difficult work of creating successful businesses out of ideas and passion. Starting from a blank page and competing successfully with established businesses or building a product that people don’t even know they need – these are daunting endeavors, and without an extraordinary sense of self and belief in the future of the company, entrepreneurs couldn’t do what they do.

And all of that is prologue to the question of – what happens when an entrepreneur believes and believes and goes all in the way s/he is supposed to … and the company still fails? I recently had the opportunity to consider what it is like for an entrepreneur who left it all out on the field, regrouped, and then came back to give it another try. 

And while it might seem self-evident, it was an opportunity to reconsider the reality that VCs aren’t bankers, and that the people who come to us for financing are going to have scars and bruises from some of what came before. And while there are lots of VCs who talk about how they prefer for an entrepreneur to come to them with a failure under his belt, it’s another thing to really look an entrepreneur in the face, acknowledge what he has gone through, and back him anyway. Because you just know that he’s going to go after this new thing even harder. And that’s what this is all about.