What’s The Best Mindset When You’re Getting Started?

Illustration Of Two Male Boxers Competing In Event

It was the summer of 2009, and we were closing in on our Series A funding. I wanted to update my fellow co-founders on our progress, so I scheduled a meeting at the local Starbucks.

Three of my four fellow co-founders were on time for our 11AM meeting. We were waiting on our Chief Technology Officer, “Raphael.”

11:10AM. Out of the corner of my eye I say Raphael walking through the parking lot. He looked like a geeky gunslinger dressed all in black.

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We had been raising money since January 2008. We had survived the nuclear winter of the Great Recession. The fund raising had been exhausting. Everyone’s patience, and belief in the company, was tested.

Raphael opened the doors to Starbucks abruptly and sat down at our table.

Before I could update the team, Raphael started talking.

“So”, Raphael said in his thick accent, “DO WE HAVE A TERM SHEET OR NOT!”

Raphael was pissed.

You could feel his anger push everyone back from the table.

“We are getting close,” I responded.


“This is how it works,” I said. “We are making really good progress. We…”


With that, Raphael walked out of Starbucks.

I went on with the meeting and updated the rest of the team. One of the other co-founders asked me, “What are we going to do about Raphael?”

“Let me think about it,” I answered.

We concluded the meeting, and I thought about what we were going to do about Raphael.


Building a startup isn’t a marathon, it’s a prizefight.


You’re going to get punched in the mouth plenty of times as you build your company. And, each time you get punched in the mouth, you’re going to have to find a way to get up.

I’d known Raphael for years, and it was now clear to me that Raphael didn’t have the demeanor we needed to build our company. I knew he would have to go.

So, later that day, I talked with my fellow co-founder and VP Engineering, Jeroen about Raphael.

“I want to make sure you’re okay with this,” I said, “but I think Raphael has to go.”

“He’s a good engineer,” Jeroen said.

“I know he is,” I said. “And really good engineers don’t grow on trees. However, I think he’s a cancer to the company. Ask yourself this question, ‘Do you trust him to be a positive force during a crisis?’”

Jeroen is a really thoughtful person, so I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t answer my question immediately. Then he said, “I think you’re right. We can’t count on him.”


You’re in the wrong business if you’re thinking that startup success is instant.


During the comms bubble of the late 1990’s, there were startups that formed, funded, and acquired for a huge markup all within one to two years of being funded.

The days of a quick exit are long gone.

According to TechCrunch, the typical successful exit takes between 7 to 8 years. And, with investors injecting more late stage capital into companies, I’ll bet the length of time to an exit is only going to up.

If you’re not on a mission, you’re not going to make it.

Back to my story. Shortly after my conversation with Jeroen, we met with Raphael. This time we met at Peets.

Raphael was again about 10 minutes late.

Raphael walked through the door of Peets again wearing all black.

Raphael sat down at our table, and I began speaking.

“I’ve decided we are going to go forward without you.

“I am giving you a check, buying back your shares for $100.” I had checked with our attorney, Marcia, and she felt giving him a check was the cleanest way for us to go forward.

Raphael looked relieved.

“Okay,” he responded.

I handed him his check, the three of us shook hands, and he walked out of Peets.

The reality is that if you’re not 1000% committed to the cause, you will not make it. You’re a fanatic.


Your mindset isn’t get rich quick. No, your mindset is whatever it takes:


  • If your co-founders quit, leave you for dead, and start an identical business, you don’t give up, and…
  • If your investor pulls its funding at the worst possible time, you don’t give up, and…
  • If you don’t have enough money on Wednesday to make Friday’s payroll, you don’t give up. Ever.

Whatever the issue is, whatever the obstacle is, it doesn’t matter because your mindset is you will find a way to make it through. That’s what real entrepreneurs do.


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