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Celebrate! (and then get back to work)

A couple of weeks ago, there was a tweet that caught fire in the startup twittersphere that said “Congratulating an entrepreneur for raising money is like congratulating a chef for buying the ingredients.”

Look, I get the sentiment – the work is just beginning – but I think the message is misguided. Anyone can go to the store and buy ingredients. Getting jaded and skeptical investors to invest in your startup is hard and I think it’s worth celebrating.

Startups (as is life) are a journey and you better stop and enjoy the ride. Your job as a parent is to produce an 18-year-old with the proper tools to go become a contributing member of society, right? Does that mean you shouldn’t celebrate your child’s birth, or all those wonderful accomplishments along the way? If your only measure of success as an entrepreneur is the end game, you’re going to wake up one day rich, empty and lonely.

The better message is to not read your own press clippings and start believing all the nonsense people are saying about you when you raise a round of financing. That’s a fatal mistake.

However, I believe it’s absolutely appropriate to celebrate closing a round of financing – especially with your team. Shout it from the rooftops – what you’re really saying is “Hey, we’ve got a strong balance sheet!” It gets everyone on the team fired up and helps immensely with things like recruiting. It also gives your small company more credibility with potential customers. Take the whole team bowling and get hammered. Better yet, take ‘em all skydiving, or rally-car driving, or river rafting – something exhilarating. Raising capital is really taxing and it puts a terrific strain on the whole team, not just the founder or CEO. Blow off some steam and go celebrate the hell out of a great accomplishment in the life of your startup.

Then, forget about it and get back to work, you have a company to build. Raising capital is an achievement to be commemorated, just like a first release or landing your first enterprise customer, but it’s not a measure of success. Don’t fall into the trap of buying into all the praise that family, friends and the press will inevitably throw your way for raising money – and make sure your people don’t either.

Watch for team members who don’t understand the difference between celebrating a milestone and buying into all that crap (it’ll happen – trust me) and gently enlighten them.

I’ll say it again – startup life is tough. Heartily celebrate the wins, including raising capital – they’re few and far between!

Mark Solon is managing partner of Highway 12 Ventures, a Boise venture capital firm. 

About Mark Solon

2 comments

  1. According to this WSJ article published two days ago (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443720204578004980476429190.html) raising venture capital produces only a 25% success rate.

    Reason to celebrate? 25%. Reason to congratulate? 75%.

    A capital raise, besides beefing up the balance sheet, spreads the high risk of losing money on investor’s shoulders.

  2. Mark:

    Great read and thanks for sharing.

    I had a mentor once tell me that “progress is not measured by the end result but rather the accomplishments along the way.” All to often we build the “Big Picture” in our minds and or on paper and forget to produce the road map that leads us to the objective. It’s this road map that allows celebration of the small and consistent wins. This progressive momentum creates an enthused environment resulting in amazing productivity. We have all seen individuals and teams get overly excited about the grand vision and soon stray and become disengaged because no “Progress” is being recognized. In any business model today, the adage Plan your work and work your plan is more important than ever…….

    I solute your idea of celebrating wins and remain focused on constant progression.

    Doug Pill