Learning from the Fire Hose

I am a first time founder & CEO, but I am not new to the world of tech companies. However, even with my…ahem…decades of experience, I am amazed at the volume of learning I am managing on a weekly basis. Being a startup founder is for you if you love to learn, perhaps more than you can handle.

When I first got into venture capital, I often heard young VCs and the Kauffman Fellows Program staff refer to the program as “drinking from the fire hose.” I think there were elements of truth to that with regard to the VC world, but I think it pales in comparison to the volume that comes with being a first time founder and CEO.

I read somewhere that in a startup, the term “CEO” actually stands for Chief Everything Officer. It is true that you wear so many hats in the course of a day, week or month. You are working on product, marketing, finance, hiring, board management, team management, legal, vendor management–all of it.

But man, what learning. In each of these areas, you may bring some skills, perhaps even advanced skills. But even if you do, your skills are in a different context, under different time pressures, with (generally) more help. For me, I am learning hands-on specifics about PPC, email marketing, A/B testing, project management, site design, and so much more.

Beyond the business and skill learning, I am also learning a ton about myself. About better personal time management discipline, about needing to continually keep my motivation high, about powering through moments of procrastination, about brutal focus. I often ask, “What is the single most important thing to do to advance the business?” But then, how do I allocate time for networking, which I know I need for perspective, emotional support, and to broaden my view, but which may not qualify to advance the business today?

I struggle with enjoying the journey, and not just the destination. I need to keep reminding myself how much I am learning.


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