Yesterday, Mark Suster (if you are in a startup, thinking about startups, even just kinda like startups, you should be reading religiously) wrote a post about the importance of competitiveness in a successful entrepreneur.
I met Mark at last year’s Twiistup in LA, and we had some interesting discussions about startup ecosystems, and when it was time to raise money for Graphic.ly, Mark and GRP Partners, was high on my list.
I did a couple of pitches before meeting with Mark in LA to make sure that I had it down. I went in and sat down, excited to show Mark what we had built, and the vision we had crafted.
“Too early. Get traction. Gunna have to pass.”
Im pretty sure that Mark said other things that were extremely helpful, but those three short sentences sat in my brain as I left.
Now, I get it. We are early, we had no traction. We werent in a position to make it easy for Mark to champion us to his partners.
But, as I always do, I left the office thinking “Moron, you will be disappointed you passed.” Its not that I actually thought Mark, or the dozens of other folks that passed are ACTUALLY morons, I just think that their decision to pass was moronic.
Luckily we didnt need Mark or any of the other potential investors that passed to raise a round, but its something that constantly eats at the back of my brain.
Back to Mark’s post.
One attribute that I believe most VCs look for in entrepreneurs is competitiveness. I know I do. I like to work with people who hate to lose. Anyone who has ever been around me when I’ve lost at anything I care about will tell you I’m not pleasant. I’m not a poor loser at all. It’s just that I stew on it. I don’t recover easily. I lose sleep. If I have any angle of changing the outcome I will. I replay things in my mind about why I lost and I try to correct my mistakes.
I dont lose. Losing is for losers. I hate everything about losing. Even the word. At the same time, I understand the difference between losing (“an ending”) and failure (“a process”), and embrace the process. But, I dont ever assume anything less than success. No competitor scares me. No market shift. No new startup. No new technology.
They dont scare me, because I know, given the opportunity, I will win. I believe in myself completely. Is that narcissist? Maybe. Arrogant? Probably. Confident? Absolutely.
But beating everyone else is not my driving factor. I sent this tweet out:
I think often that the best startup CEO’s mirror Michael Jordan. He was not satisfied with being the best basketball player of all time, but he wanted to change the game.
I dont look at Graphic.ly as being the best online digital comic store, but as a segment changer. As a company that is focused on creating a way for creators and publishers to directly connect with their fans that could redefine an industry. To help creators understand that digital is not just another distribution channel or form factor, but a way to completely re-imagine the art and story of comic books.
A couple of days ago, at lunch, I was asked if someone offered Graphic.ly an exit that allowed me personally to go home with a check for $5 million would I do it. I said no.
Now its easy to say “well, thats easy to say, but harder to do.” Im not independently wealthy. $5 million would change my life in many positive ways. But I wouldnt do it.
Mark responded to my tweet this morning with:
Why did I say I wouldnt take $5million today for Graphic.ly? Because I know that we will win. The exit is secondary. It will be there when it needs to be, but before we get there, I want to leave a mark (haha! just realized the pun…). I want to see creators doing amazing things with digital; I want to see everyone enjoying the art and storytelling of comics and sharing and engaging with that content; I want to see an industry that is uncertain of the benefit of digital embrace it in ways that are yet to be defined.
I guess thats the type of entrepreneur I am.