Being a founder is hard. I’m on my third startup and it might be easier to fundraise and I have a little better idea of how I am going to build and scale. But the stress, isolation, and pressure are still there. It’s a unique position that a very small percentage of people put themselves in yet we do surprisingly little to help support founders outside of business advice and capital.
I work with a couple of other founders and most people would call it an advisor. I just think of it as being their founder buddy and here is why I think every founder should have one.
As a founder pretty much everyone involved in your business is depending on you, your employees, your family, your fellow co-founders, and even your investors. That is a lot of pressure and it creates a unique dynamic. Who can you turn to to get fresh eyes on something and give you feedback and insight without having a stake on the line? Too often we boil startups down to one thing, money, and that “stake” creates lots of pressure and biased interest from stakeholders who are looking for future paydays and increased valuations.
Having someone that a founder can turn to, who understands the feeling of being a founder and believes in the mission and vision of the company yet has no stake. That is the most critical part, not having a stake, plenty of people (employees, investors, etc.) believe in the company and want to see it succeed, but they have a financial interest on the line which can sometimes impact how a person will provide feedback or guidance.
A founder friend who is outside of your company will look at things more objectively and provide feedback that doesn’t impact their own personal outcome. Look, I figure that most employees and investors will do their best to provide constructive feedback given their stake in the company, but sometimes that can be hard for a founder knowing that even the best intentions can get impacted by what can be large sums of money. I have been acting in this role for a few founders that I have been friendly eye and ear for over the last 6 months and it just provides an outlet that you otherwise don’t have. It makes conversations more casual and less stressful, letting the founders really hear a breadth of inputs to hopefully find the best outcome for their company.
To be honest, this probably happens (at least we hope it does) more than we realize, I have my own founder friends who I rely on for advice and friendly ear when I need to bounce something off of them. Let’s not get carried away with this but every founder should have a founder buddy or two.