Startup issues: Money? Get real.
“Startup issues” are about my journey to starting a business, and the detours I’m taking on the way.
I wonder, is it because I’m a woman or because I’m 23 that everyone expected me to burst into tears as soon as I didn’t get my way? I may have been confused as to how someone could pull apart an entire business model without even hearing it first, but I certainly was not devastated. In fact I was fine, a sentiment which I had to repeat to several times.
I don’t even care that they’ve all probably gone back to their little room, in their little company, to discuss how pitiful I looked when the little Chinese investor laughed at my revenue model. They’re a 100% for-profit firm, so I didn’t expect them to see the value or realness I was trying to create. Am trying to create.
I was angry, for a moment, at how dismissive they were, but then I got a grip.
I should probably explain what happened.
After attending an event called “The Midas touch” at the Business Show in London, a group of investors (whose names I shall leave unwritten for searchability reasons) expressed an interest in my idea. Considering that I had originally gone there with the intention of receiving some well-meaning advice and nothing more, a call-back for a potential investment pitch was more than I could have hoped for. I prepared and practised; I was feeling confident when the day finally arrived. Imagine my surprise, then, when I was shot down within but 5 minutes of explaining my concept.
They didn’t even listen, but then, as I said, why should they? These people don’t know me at all – they couldn’t even pronounce my name properly – and I haven’t done anything to earn their respect except turning up with a good idea. Which, by the way, are two a penny.
Things have worked out in my favour, however, for two reasons. Despite my cynicism, this really was a valuable life lesson for me, because for the first time (in forever) I’ve actually had to sit down and think about my strengths and weaknesses, what value I have, who I really am, and how I can use that to get what I want. Unending patience and determination being key features of my personality, how could I use these features to my advantage? Being hard-working to the point of zealot – how would this affect my ability to both hold a job and develop a business from scratch at the same time?
So, no pennies for the startup, but something “much better”. They offered me a job instead, in a company similar to the one I pitched, but that was owned and controlled by the investors. Ah, I see. Eliminate the competition by bringing them on to the team. They see my “potential” – as a corporate lackey, no less – and they feel that this will be invaluable career experience for me. After all, in this Chinese startup, I can practice my Chinese, and become a “big shot” after 5 or so years, if I work hard enough.
I think I’ve already pointed out that they weren’t listening to a thing I said, regarding my actual goals or dreams. But I refuse to be down and out about it.
I now have gainful employment, and can save money to pursue my business in my own time. Plus I’m getting that valuable experience they talked about – mainly in “how not to run a company”, but also in forming contacts in such a way that, when I do break ties with this place, I will still know valuable people.
When I was deliberating whether or not to take the job, a friend of mine told me “You have to have your non-negotiables – maybe two or three values that you can’t compromise. All other morals have to be cast aside. If you really want to get what you want, you have to be ruthless, and even willing to hate yourself a little bit.”
He’d be happy to know that I’ve taken his advice to heart.