An interesting question has popped up on Quora: 'What does it feel like to be a CEO of a startup?' And it's created a bit of a dustup between two startup founders, whose differing opinions aren't so different after all.
Here's what the fight is all about. In one corner, Paul DeJoe, founder of Ecquire, describes the sleepless nights, lost weekends and the eternal struggle between work and having an outside life. He says it's hard to turn it all off. Or as he puts it:
Very tough to sleep most nights of the week. Weekends don't mean anything to you anymore. Closing a round of financing is not a relief. It means more people are depending on you to turn their investment into 20 times what they gave you.
But Deena Varshavskaya, founder of Wanelo, doesn't think that's a good enough answer, that it's a dismal view of being an entrepreneur. She passionately fired back that entrepreneurs need to stop acting like victims. They need to start enjoying what they do, not lament it. But don't take it from us, here it is in her own words:
Let's stop perpetuating the notion and the glorification of startup founders as victims. yes, we deal with challenges. Yes, we fail. And, yes, it can be really hard. But what's the point? We are building startups because they offer us incredible opportunity to live amazing lives.
Reading through both their answers, it seems Deena is missing the point of Paul's response, saying that the only road to happiness is success. And, frankly, what Paul is preaching isn't all too different than what Deena is saying. What Paul is really taking about is a thirst to win and being passionate about what you're doing.
Passion For The Win
Passion is what gets you through the sleepless nights and constant worrying. It's what carries you through the daily grind. When Paul talks about that it's hard to turn it all off, that he feels guilty when doing something not related to work and that it's hard to talk to friends who haven't put it on the line, he's talking about passion for his craft. He's invested himself completely in changing the world and solving problems.
In the end, that's Paul's entire point. It's not that he's whining about losing weekends or sleep. He's passionate about what he's doing. He's been able to take his desire to win, his desire to change the world and truly transform it into a passion that gets him through the day when things don't go right and fall completely apart. And have fun doing it. As Paul puts it, when you and your team are having fun, "you will learn to love the journey and look forward to what you do everyday even at the lowest times." Not everyone can do that.
What Deena is missing is that Paul doesn't see himself as a victim. And he isn't. Paul isn't lamenting being a founder. He's celebrating it. In a way, it's not all that different than what she's saying.
If there's one thing to really take away from both their arguments is this: entrepreneurs stop your whining, invest yourself in your craft and work. In the end, you'll find that you'll have the passion to weather the sleepless nights, the worry about funding and the occasional lost weekend. What say you?