It was February 28th, 2020. After weeks of discussions with my wife and my founding team, I decided it was time. It was time to quit my day job and to take on this startup full-time. The coronavirus was a global topic, but I wasn’t very concerned at the time. Nervously, I told my boss that I was leaving. He was shocked, but for someone who has also started his own company before, he understood and was excited for me. I agreed to stay on for the next month until the end of March to make sure it would be a smooth transition. After all, I’m leaving to start a company, not because I hate where I work today (it’s actually a great place to work). But, since then, each day has become more unpredictable as the coronavirus has developed into a worldwide pandemic…
Every day since giving my notice has been a whirlwind. In the morning, I wake up, go for a run, and am pumped for my last day in my current full-time job so I can spend 100% of my energy on my startup. Then, a new ‘breaking news’ notification every hour makes me question my decision. Standing in the grocery store line, I get a notification that Tom Hanks has coronavirus, the NBA is canceled, and the US is enforcing a travel ban. The next day, the Dow has its biggest drop in 10 years in a single day. My thought is, ‘OK, maybe this is a bad idea. Maybe I should rescind my resignation and see how this virus plays out’. After talking everything through with my wife and a night’s rest, I wake up feeling excited again. I work on our messaging, talk to our team about the roadmap, test new features, and feel so alive. On the inside, I’m worried, anxious, concerned, pumped, and optimistic. It’s a vicious cycle...
Then, I read Twitter, and that becomes a black hole. Everyone all of a sudden thinks they’re an expert on the virus. Some VCs are saying ‘no investments for awhile. If you’re a startup, brace yourself for the worst’. Other VCs are saying ‘Our doors are open! Let’s chat over Zoom. I just signed two term sheets last week!’.
I don’t know what to think.
No one knows what’s going to happen within the next hour, the next day, or the next month. If we did, we’d be in a much different situation right now. If someone told you ‘Quit your job and in 5 years, you’ll have $10M’, a lot of people would probably do that! In reality, it’s ‘Quit your job! Your chances of failing are much higher than succeeding. Maybe you’ll make it, but who knows’. Because of the uncertainty, only a small percentage of people take the chance. And with the current pandemic, uncertainty is growing.
Despite the increased uncertainty, I’m still taking the chance. There is never a good time to leave a job to start your own company. You’re giving up a predictable salary, working with good people at a good company (hopefully), and the comfort knowing that you’ll be OK even if things get tough (e.g., you get sick, family members get sick, etc.). But, there is so much potential upside to being able to own something and build something from scratch. I’m excited to learn more than I ever have, build and lead a team, meet new people, and ultimately build a company that enables others to provide for their families. It wasn’t a now or never situation for me, but I felt like the timing is right given the founding team, the stage we’re at, and my overwhelming desire to now dedicate my time to this startup full-time.
At the end of the day when I take a step back (particularly a step back away from those news alerts), even with everything going on, I’m still excited. My founding team is exceptional and I genuinely believe in the problem we’re solving. We had been playing around with this problem/idea since October of 2019. One of my co-founders decided to put his notice in a little over a month later, and we wrote the first line of code in late December of 2019. We released our private-beta at the end of January, and we have a small user base providing useful feedback, and we continue to improve the product offering. I feel confident in our teams’ ability to execute and to build a product people want. But, I can’t do that unless I am thinking about it 100% of the time. 7-10 PM on weekdays and a few hours on the weekends just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Fortunately, we’re joining an accelerator. So, we have some initial cash and will be surrounded (for now, virtually) by founders, ex-founders, advisers, investors, etc., all of which will help accelerate our product and business. We were given notice that the first month of the accelerator (when you typically have the opportunity to meet all these folks in-person), will be remote. This is the right call given everything going on right now, but I have to be honest and admit that I’m bummed. I take pride in the relationships I’ve built in-person over the years, not over Zoom or some other video platform, but it’s no one’s fault and everyone is in the same boat. We simply don’t know what tomorrow or next week will bring, but having this community, regardless of in-person or virtual to lean on, is a big plus in our minds.
Ultimately, I won’t know whether or not this decision to go build a company during this time is going to be the right decision for quite some time. Successful companies were founded after the dotcom crash and in 2008. However, many that were started during this time failed too. I hope my team and I land on the ‘success’ side of the coin, but regardless, what l do truly believe is that I’ll look back at some point in my life and say ‘Hey, that was a hard decision, it sucked at that time, but I learned a lot, and I became a better person/husband/CEO/… than I would have become otherwise‘’.
You miss 100% of the shots you don't take
This company is a shot I want to take. Some hours and days, I want to keep the ball in my hand because it feels the most comfortable there, other times, I want to shoot it 100 times a minute.
If you’re also going through a similar situation, I wrote this to let you know that you’re not the only one. Feel free to comment or reach out. I’d love to share thoughts, experiences, and help others get through this. I’m excited to continue writing about my journey as I start a company. Arguably, it’s more interesting at this point than it would have been nine months ago.
Lastly, shout out to my wife, Helana. She has been the most supportive person throughout all of this. She is my rock, my inspiration, and my motivation. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her!