I write about this, as I reflect on the challenge of personal time vs. startup time as Viddler turns into a 5 year+ activity.
Going from a sprint and then switching into marathon mode mid race has had it’s challenges and changes in mindset.. Here’s some of it..
2006. Fresh out of Lehigh, 22 years old, pushing on Viddler as a startup in the first year, it was 100% Viddler and everything else is including family and friends went on hold. I even stopped drinking a sip of alcohol for a year straight during this period. We raise minimal funds. With less than a $100k budget we launch Viddler.
2007. Second year, still 100%, yet I might have returned phone calls to parents back home in California and went out every month or so. Investors like growth but only commit to 3 months of runway at a time. Very stressful, but push hard and more committed then ever. I remember going to sleep at 2am and waking up at 8am during this time.
2008. Third year, like shingles falling from a space shuttle, it starts to wear down. Still very committed to Viddler in Bethlehem, PA but it’s hard to maintain a nice balance with family in California and no significant salary to take many trips back home to see them. The 6 hour sleep schedule begins to take it’s tole as I drink 3 coffee’s and 2 Monster drinks per day… I have heart flutters. I see a doctor who tells me to sleep more and take less caffeine. Also during this period, I am starting to realize I have aged faster then any other point in my life.
2009. Fourth year, the hardest. It seems like a second ago I was in college and had many friends in arms reach. That all seems distant. Viddler needs the more focus then ever to get cashflow positive, yet family life needs attention too. True tension at it’s highest. I think many times to when I tore my ACL/MCL/PCL and came back for fourth year against doctors recommendation to play football. I can do this. Still not profitable. Investors are pushing for profitability and it’s been 3 years, of building 3 months at a time. It’s starting to take it’s tole.
2010. Fifth year, break profitability. It’s a relief. No longer beholden to the next round of investors. Still no expendable income for personal activities and employees around me deserve salary bumps more then I do due to shared sacrifice over last 4 years. I tell myself “if this becomes a big exit I can spend much more time with family/friends then ever before later in life”. Sleep schedule is nice though. I start to wake up when I want to and leave work when I feel I need to. I start running 5 miles a day, and get in control of my health.
I don’t write this to vent at all. I feel very fortunate in so many ways to be where I am at today…..
To be honest, have been inspired by Zappos audiobook lately and the amount of self awareness and transparency Tony Hsieh provides. I write this to provide insight into what life has been like last 5 years so others may get a glimpse into the shifts in mindset as a startup scrappishly matures.