Failure to sync: Time is different for Entrepreneurs
I have bookcases full of things my wife and I have read but mostly don’t remember. I also have a 9 month old baby girl named Etta. When these two things come together, I have a mess… or the best algorithm ever for re-discovering books to read over the weekend.
This weekend while I made coffee she cleared a shelf that included Einstein’s Dreams. The book is full of metaphors for time. One of these metaphors describes time as a wheel. As the wheel spins, every point on the wheel takes the same amount of time to complete one revolution. But, physics requires that a point near the hub/center of the wheel not travel as far to complete a full turn as the point way out on the edge of the wheel.
She went down for her morning nap, I re-read the book and thought about how different time is for founders and how important it is that investors respect it.
When I decided to start-up, my total focus was on my company. I was obsessed with the idea of bringing gaming technology and fitness together for the first time and nothing could move fast enough for me. All I wanted to do was go faster, build faster, test sooner, sell more, ship earlier. Delays caused by partners, retailers and vendors taught me patience and perseverance. Slow service from investors was the most frustrating thing in the world. They were “moving quickly,” but I was racing the clock and anything other than real-time felt like not in time.
We were lucky to call some big companies and major retailers partners. But big as these guys were, with what felt like never ending armies of decision makers and infinite layers of red tape, I had more visibility into their process, where we were in that process and how they would make their decision than almost all the VC’s I pitched.
VCs are busy, and while we like to talk about how busy we are, we do not sit on the outside of the wheel. We get to work with people who are hanging on to the rim with a single finger, creating their own way, zooming by, screaming into the space beyond for more. Investors are service providers to the outside riders, and need to deliver service at a level that feeds the founder’s need for speed.
When you diligence your investors, ask other CEOs they have worked with about the service level. If your investors don’t share your sense of urgency, if they don’t understand what it is like to be way out on the edge of that wheel of time, it might be hard to have a shared vision about anything else.