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A crowdfunder in the household

Kate grabbing a quick moment to work on her campaign

Kate grabbing a quick moment to work on her campaign

My wife Kate has been running a crowdfunding campaign on StartSomeGood over the last three weeks, to launch the first offering from her yoga-focused social enterprise, Yoga for Change.

It’s been inspiring to watch her prepare, launch and run her campaign, and I couldn’t be prouder of her for her success in reaching her full goal of $2,000. This will allow her to set up her social enterprise, purchasing insurance, getting her first aid certificate and investing in mats to take to her classes, then running 5 morning classes at Hub Sydney from November 4-8, as part of The Changemakers Festival. (As of this writing the campaign has 16 hours to run so you can still contribute and get some great rewards!).

Watching the way she’s made this happen has given me a new appreciation for the work we’re doing at StartSomeGood to support emerging changemakers like Kate. As most of you know we have a 13 month-old who Kate has been taking care of full-time. So she only has limited snatches of time to work on her campaign when Bodhi is sleeping or with relatives. This is not so different from many of those using our site to pursue their dreams I think. While most wouldn’t have toddlers underfoot necessarily they often have full-time jobs they’re holding down while working on their social initiative on the side.

Watching Kate juggle her various responsibilities has made me see the importance of the way we approach things, and has been a good example of some of the techniques that help crowdfunding campaigns succeed. Here are a few things I’ve thought about:

You have to be brave

I remember when Kate’s campaign went live. She’d be preparing for this moment for weeks. She had good rewards and a solid plan. She’d lined up her first donors. But when the campaign was suddenly live on the internet she looked at me and said “I suddenly feel scared.” Crowdfunding is scary. You have to put yourself and your ideas out there. You have to do something people are often bad at, which is ask for help. You have to be personal and therefore vulnerable.

Only those who have the courage to try have the possibility of success.

It has to be easy (enough)

With Kate only having limited bits of time to make this happen it was abundantly clear to me how important ease of use and communicate is. A crowdfunding platform like StartSomeGood allows people to set themselves up and offer something to their community much more quickly and easily than setting up your own website and then driving everyone to it. That allows entrepreneurs to get on with telling their story and inspiring support without worrying about the technical stuff. Crowdfunding isn’t easy, it definitely takes hard work as Kate would attest, but where we can make it easier that’s what we’ll strive to do!

Support and advice matters

One of our values is being a partner to all those looking to use our site. This means we’re not just a self-serve platform, we’re a collaborator. We offer advice, suggestions and encouragement to all the projects using our site to help increase their chance of success. For Kate I think our advice around rewards and storytelling has made a difference.

Offer real rewards

Kate’s campaign offers rewards of real value. Obviously passes to the actual yoga classes but also tank-tops with “Yoga: Be the Change” on them and lovely sustainable yoga matts. With a business Kate is able to access wholesale rates, allowing her to offer these mats at approximately what they cost at retail, making it really easy for anyone thinking they’d like a new mat to purchase one via her campaign. She didn’t try to ramp the price up to maximise her return, she priced it according to what the market was used to paying.

When setting her campaign up she was undecided about whether to offer metal drink bottles or tank tops. She put the question out to her community on facebook and got 20 responses running heavily in favour of the tank tops, so that is what she offered. That’s 20 people who had input into her campaign and probably felt a greater sense of involvement than they would have otherwise, making them more likely to then contribute (to get the tank top they said they wanted).

Be generous

As part of her promotion Kate has written guest blogs for a couple of yoga studies, to better reach the Sydney yoga tribe. She’s done a lunchtime talk on personal sustainability at the Hub, the better connect with the people who work there. She’s also been running free yoga classes for friends in our home studio for the past couple of months, encouraging their generosity in return when her campaign launched.

Give of yourself and others will give back to you. Support your tribe and they will support you back.

Thank you to everyone who supported Kate’s campaign, I can’t wait to do yoga with many of you in November!

Living in a Bubble

Bubble - zzub nik on flickr
I’ll never forgot the republic referendum held in Australia in 1999.

The polls had looked bad in the weeks leading up to the vote, with the combination of those genuinely in favour of us continuing to be a constitutional monarchy and those unwilling to vote in favour of the specific republican model on offer holding a modest but firm majority but I never lost my optimism. It just seemed too ridiculous that we’d turn down the chance to take the final step of legal independence from Britain. Yes, it’s symbolic, but that’s precisely why it was an important step. And as the day arrived the polls were tightening right on cue.

The day of the vote was sunny in Sydney and I had a great time handing out how to vote cards for the Yes campaign. At the time I lived in an electorate that generally voted conservative, being older and wealthier than the average, but it felt clear that the majority were voting the way I wanted that day. The energy from those taking out how to vote cards was very positive and they clearly outnumbered those taking the cards from the No campaigners. We’ve got this! I thought.

I was at a party when the results came in. It was relatively early in the evening when the outcome became clear. It wasn’t even that close. We’d lost, 55 to 45, and didn’t carry a single state.

I was stunned. Mortified. Outraged. I couldn’t understand how this could have happened. Almost everyone I knew was voting Yes. My family, my friends. Even in the moderately conservative seat of North Sydney the vote had clearly favoured us. How had we lost? How could the rest of Australia have made this appalling error? The emotional hit was worse than anything I’ve experienced after an election. I was confused, angry and sad.

And I wasn’t the only one. The mood of the party went sour quickly. Someone admitted to voting No and was set upon (verbally) by a couple of people. More arguments broke out. I wasn’t even in the mood to drown my sorrows or ramble philosophically and so left.
It turns out that North Sydney was something like the second highest Yes vote in NSW. And my friends and family were nowhere near representative of the feelings of the population overall. I was living inside a bubble, and was disorientated when it burst.

I was reminded of all of this today when I read “Hashtag Feminism” in The Monthly, a review of a recently released collection of feminist writings from the Destroy the Joint organisers called Destroying the Joint: Why Women have to Change the World. The author notes a disjunction between the feeling expressed in the writings that Destroy the Joint had been an establishment-shaking, world-changing movement of real social significance and that fact that she herself had never heard of them before, and nor had anyone she knows.

This is what most of politics is like most of the time. We all exist within our bubbles. There is no neutral ground upon which to stand and assess “mainstream opinion.” Those who claim to speak on its behalf rarely resemble the masses they pretend to be one of.

The reviewer of the Destroy the Joint book felt that “many of the contributions to this book highlight, for me, the insularity of hashtag activism: social media as echo chamber.”

But life is an echo chamber. We live in a particular place, surrounded by other people who live in that place. We interact with others in a particular industry or cultural community. We seek out those who share our interests and values. And, yes, social media reflects these general barriers to infinite understanding which exist in human societies.

As is so often the case the new thing being discussed, in this instance social media, is being pointed to as a reason for our insularity when in fact it merely reflects it. It takes effort to seek out and understand the viewpoints of those unlike us. Few of us do it enough. It’s easier to consume content I mostly agree with or about things I am already interested in.

However  in identifying this shortcoming of social media, and of the Destroy the Joint movement, but really of humans in general, it’s easy to miss the real story here. We’ve always been insulated from the full spectrum of human experience and opinion but before social media our isolation could very well be an entirely individual experience. In so many domains people previously believed that they were “the only ones,” whether it was gay kids in the country or women frustrated with the general level of misogyny in our society or someone obsessed with blues in the suburbs.

Now for whatever it is is you’re into there’s others like you forming communities online. And yes, deep engagement with a community is perspective-skewing, but so too is watching the commercial TV news each night (you might think, for example, that we are suffering from a crime wave or a weak economy).

For those who have become involved in feminist activism as a result of Destroy the Joint I have no doubt the experience has been genuinely world-changing, discovering a community of others who feel strongly about the same issues as them and are prepared to do something about it would be incredible empowering and exciting. Have they won the battle against misogyny in the last nine months? Of course not. But they are active and involved and speaking up and changing lives and inspiring active citizenship and that’s actually pretty awesome.

This is how it works in a democracy. We find others who care about the things we do and we work together to convince others and affect the changes we feel are needed in our community. And social media has given us a powerful new set of tools to do this convincing and connecting, to learn from and to share our experiences and to support and sustain each other in the long-term effort to create a better future.

Image by zzub nik on Flickr made available on a creative commons license.

If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go with others.

 

Let height differences be no impediment to finding the right co-founder.

Let height differences be no impediment to finding the right co-founder.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the different experience between founding Vibewire in 2000 and StartSomeGood ten years later. There were some pretty amazing technological and social shifts during that time which I want to explore in a separate post. What I want to talk about today is, I think, the single biggest difference for me experientially between founding Vibewire and StartSomeGood and that is that with StartSomeGood I have a co-founder.

While I had some truly amazing collaborators over the eight years I led Vibewire, I didn’t have a single person right from the start who was as committed, as on the line, as I was. Having Alex as my constant collaborator at StartSomeGood has been an extraordinary contrast. Even in the midst of our most stressful moments, and they’ve been many, having someone else that you can be completely open and raw with, who is as invested and committed to finding a way forward as I am, changes everything.

Practically, of course, having a co-founder means you can do more from day one, allowing each of you to focus on different critical areas. Having two heads instead of one leads to more and better ideas. But most important, I think, is the way having a co-founder alleviates some of the stresses of startups by making those stresses shared, allowing each of us to express it and get it out rather than bottling it up, and the encouragement and support that comes from this.

One of the keys to sustainability with a cofounder, and with a romantic partner as well for that matter, is compatibility in your freak-outs. One of you needs to be strong when the other is weak. If one person’s freak out triggers the other to freak out it’s just an emo mess. But it just seems that when I’m having a hard day and questioning everything Alex is strong and when he’s struggling I feel able to be practical and optimistic enough for the two of us, and so we continue.

Judged solely in terms of the skills and experience we bring to the table we are not perfect co-founders. Neither of us is technical enough; our skills and preferences overlap more than is optimal. We have too really push ourselves to pick up and stay on-top of things neither of us is naturally inclined to do and, bless him, Alex has stepped up to more of that than me and kept the good ship StartSomeGood moving forward with his leadership and commitment, such as during the recent site re-build. But what matters most this skill-set match is our attitude match; it’s what makes it possible for us to work through the ups-and-downs of a startup together, even as we’ve never lived in the same place.

I’m working near as hard as I ever have at the moment but there’s a lightness and satisfaction to it, a sense of progress and possibility and pride in our achievements. This is not simply from having a great co-founder but a great team, a group of people who share our vision and commitment to making it happen, who bring great energy and innovative thinking to their roles, who I trust to get the job done without supervision or micro-management.

One thing I’m certain about: I’ll never launch a venture without a co-founder again. The difference it makes to your enjoyment, sustainability and ultimately your chances of success are just too great to set out on the epic journey which a startup represents without one.

I posted a more personal, reflective announcement about the new version of StartSomeGood.com here last week but for those of you know don’t subscribe to the StartSomeGood weekly email (and you really should if that’s the case, see bottom-right of the homepage) I wanted to also share with you the email we sent to the 10,000 members of the site on Friday:

The new StartSomeGood

Hi everyone,

In place of our usual newsletter we wanted to send you a personal email this week to let you know about some exciting changes happening at StartSomeGood and reflect on where we are.

Most importantly and obviously we have just unveiled the new version of our site!

The new site is a big step forward for us and we hope you like it as much as we do. The major changes include a lighter, brighter and friendlier design, with a simplified navigation which gives greater prominence to success stories and information to help you succeed at crowdfunding. On the back-end there’s an upgraded project dashboard to help you launch and manage your campaigns and we’re adding alternatives to Paypal for donors (already available to US ventures, coming soon for everyone else).

But it’s not all about technology. We remain committed to a hands-on and partnership-driven approach which provides you with the advice and support you need to succeed.

So if you have an idea for a project which can improve the future of your community, why not start todayRegister on our site and a member of our team will be in touch to help you design a campaign which will succeed.

Over the past two years, with your support, we have built a vibrant community of changemakers at StartSomeGood. Together, we have successfully funded 125 world-changing projects in 23 countries. We have supported social entrepreneurs as young as 16 and as established as Ashoka Fellows. We have helped launched projects as diverse as open-source mapping in Nepal to Sock Monkeys who fight cancer in the US, from social enterprise cafés in Cambodia to supporting young families in Australia and inspiring youth volunteering in 22 cities across America.

While we are proud of these successes there’s so much further we want to go. Our goal is to launch 1,000 new social initiatives over the next two years, transforming millions of lives around the world.

We would love your project, your idea, your community, to be part of that. Without you, we’re just a boring old website. With you, we can be an epic force for good in the world.

So don’t wait any longer. If you have the drive and the passion to make a difference we want to help.

Together, let’s start some good!

Sincerely,

Tom and Alex

Co-founders, StartSomeGood

PS. Read about the details of the new site and all the great activities we’re doing to celebrate, including a riddle hidden in the website and daily twitter chats this week on our blog.

PPS. Speaking about getting started you may be inspired by the first episode of our new podcast series Starting Good, featuring Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose. Check it out.

Choosing the worst runner

Runner - The Happy Rower on flickr
You are running coach, the analogy goes, and you have to choose between two runners. One of them has textbook form, smooth and efficient in his stride. The other is a mess, straying out of his lanes, arms and legs flailing unattractively. Despite this they are neck-and-neck at the end of the race. Who would you want to coach?

You would choose the worst runner, the guy with terrible form but who somehow managed to stay in the race despite this, because your coaching has the possibility to make the greater impact. You can’t do much with the guy with perfect form; he’s just not fast enough. But the sloppy guy, with refinement and coaching, might just be able to be really fast. In sporting parlance his ceiling is higher.

I feel like that’s where we are at with StartSomeGood right now, as we stand on the brink of unveiling the new version of our site to the world.

It’s been two years since the first version went live and, simply put, we have done almost everything wrong.

We built the first version of the website with only conceptual feedback from our target market – we didn’t show them the actual site until it was live. We didn’t talk enough about what we were doing while we were building it, and so failed to prime the community for our launch. We didn’t even have a LaunchRock page up to collect emails, so we started with zero on day 1. We put far too much time and effort into coaching efforts which didn’t sufficiently move the needle. We recruited the wrong people and compensated them in an unstrategic fashion, giving away more entity than we should have to people no longer with us.

We failed to test or monitor a lot of what was happening on our site. We were so tech-resource constrained I think it was too depressing to constantly focus  what couldn’t, in the short-term, be fixed. We just worked harder and harder to connect with and serve entrepreneurs, but these efforts couldn’t all be scaled and didn’t overcome all the shortfallings of the site itself. This lack of attention to metrics and testing meant we didn’t have as much data or insight as we should have when we became (slightly) less constrained in our tech resourcing and were able to invest in this new site.

So many mistakes.

But we’re still here. Along the way we listened, we learned. And now we are ready to show you some of those learnings embodied in this next iteration of our platform.

We interact constantly with our community, social entrepreneurs and community benefit organisations looking to raise funds in a new way. We’ve been intimately involved in over 300 campaigns now, and have seen what has and hasn’t worked. We’ve been knocked back by organisations we wanted to work with and have always asked why. We recruited an amazing advisory committee LINK who have helped stretch and inspire our thinking, as have a wide range of informal advisers and friends.

I can’t claim that we’re doing it all perfect now because we’re not. We’re busy and over-stretched and making compromises. The new version hasn’t had enough testing or rounds of user-feedback, but it’s had infinitely more than the first version. We would have done more but our updated UI/look-and-feel was done probono by Source Creative, who were lovely and generous and did a great job but didn’t have capacity for ongoing testing and additional rounds of tweaks, which was fair enough. It’s often better to put something out there and learn from how people actually use it anyway.

Raising a small amount of family-and-friends investment has allowed us to get this new version shipped and we’re committed to being much more focused on testing and analytics than we were with the first version.

There are a number of key improvements I’m excited to show you:
•    We’ve simplified our navigation and lightened the feeling of the site, giving it a cleaner and more modern look
•    We’ve put more emphasis on success stories and user-interactions, highlighting the people-powered nature of the site.
•    We’ve added alternatives to paypal, initially just for US ventures but coming soon for everyone else.
•    We’ve upgraded the venture dashboard, to help you launch and manage campaigns and;
•    We’ve improved the how to info and resources on the site to educate people about how to succeed at crowdfunding.

So where are we as a business? I truly believe we stand on the brink of great things.

Despite our abundant shortcomings we have built a vibrant community of entrepreneurs and changemakers. We have 10,000 subscribers to our newsletter, 10,000 followers on Twitter and 30,000 followers on Tumblr. We have successfully funded over 130 projects in 22 countries, and this is just the beginning.

We have a fantastic, talented, passionate team spread Australia, the US, England and Sweden. Everyone is involved because they believe in our mission and are driven to scale our impact and help changemakers around the globe. You can meet our newest colleagues here.

We have just announced a number of exciting partnerships, including with ING Direct who have committed significant funds to social entrepreneurs running campaigns on our site, and with the Global Food Startup Challenge, for which we are the global crowdfunding partner.

In terms of our financials we have started slow but all sites of our sort do. Crowdfunding is boom or bust. Once you pick up pace it tends to accelerate, but the vast majority of sites never even reach the point we are at, remaining extremely limited in terms of scope or traction.

I can understand the skepticism some feel about whether there is enough room for StartSomeGood in an extremely competitive crowdfunding market but I know we provide a unique service and truly believe we are the best home for most social entrepreneurs looking to raise money from their communities. The creative crowdfunding platform are simply not built with nonprofits and causes in mind. Our success rate (comparable with the creative crowdfunding sites), incredible partners and growing traction are strong positive indicators for this belief.

So if you’ve been holding off on getting your idea out there and launching a campaign for any reason I hope you’ll reconsider and give our site a try. If you launch before April 2 you’ll be in the running for the ‘Like-Off’ we are running, with a bonus $200 grant to the project with the most likes during a 24 hour period starting at midnight April 3 Greenwich Mean Time.

Please check out the new site and let me know what you think.

Onwards and upwards!

Image by The Happy Rower made available on a Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Teaching our kids what matters

Oscar statues -  ebbandflowphotography on flickr

So yesterday was the Oscars and Twitter was near-ruined for the day. So many tweets telling you no more than what you would be seeing happen on TV if you had chosen to watch it, perhaps with the addition of sparkling commentary such as “love her hair.” Urgh. So much vapidity.
But what’s really caught my eye as been several tweets along these lines: “I’m watch the Oscars with my kids and the actresses are too skinny. I wish they could be good role-models for my daughters.”

Here’s the thing though:  They don’t need to be role-models for your daughters at all.

To some extent that’s up to you. You already know the actresses are too thin. That’s unlikely to have suddenly changed since last year. You know that it’s a world (the world of Hollywood and the red carpet, not of all filmmaking of course) which is obsessed with a very specific definition of beauty, of which thinness is a central tenant. And you should surely realise that by making a big deal about it, getting excited, having a night in with your daughters and ooing and ahhing over the red carpet you are communicating to them that this is what really matters. That this red carpet celebrity is the highest order of achievement in our society. That being young and beautiful (and, yes, thin) is a critical component in making it in life.

I don’t mean to get all judgey here. We all have our vices and our distractions. I love sport and will no-doubt end up transferring a sense of disproportionate importance over it to my son, but at least sport has an active component of doing, of running around and being part of a team, even if the sportspeople you see on TV are not good role-models in other ways.

But celebrity culture is a cancer, distracting us from things that really matter by making us care about lives barely glimpsed or understood. Not the art produced by these stars, but the aura of stardom itself. The phenomenon of people being “famous for being famous”, of reality TV devoid of real skills (not competitions like Masterchef but voyeuristic exercises like Jersey Shore or Big Brother) and magazines devoted to the practice of harassment and embellishment, practices you implicitly endorse when you purchase Hello or OK! Or any other celebrity gossip magazines. And most concerningly it manifests in the increasing number of children who, growing up, aspire simply to be “famous.” Not to achieve anything in particular, not even to be rich, which might imply success in a specific industry such as music or films, but, simply, look-at-me, know-my-name fame as an end in itself. And because kids aren’t idiots they understand that there’s a strong correlation between fame and looks.

So if you don’t want your daughters to embrace red-carpet walking super-skinny female actresses as their role-mode then maybe skip the pre-Oscars show. Watch the ceremony, which is at least about artistic output, but skip the bit that is purely and simply about how people look and what they’re wearing. Because your daughters deserve to know that success is about what you produce and the meaning you create, not just your waistline and hair. Our fame-obsessed society will push their values at them no matter what you do, but it’s you inviting it into your living room and communicating to your children that this is what matters.

And if this all seems a bit over-the-top for a light-hearted bit of family evening entertainment, that’s fair enough. I know you work hard and you deserve to switch off a bit and enjoy a spectacle with your family. I totally get that. But accept that it’s not about role-models. Don’t blame the stars, they’re just doing what they’ve got to do to succeed in a system we all contribute to. Find great role-models for your daughters in other places, in changemakers, entrepreneurs, scientists or athletes.

/end rant.

Photo by ebbandflowphotography made available on a creative commons license on flickr.

The agony of entrepreneurship

In November 2011 Ilya Zhitomirskiy, only 26 and one of the co-founders of Diaspora, the “open-source Facebook” which received notoriety after raising over $200,000 on Kickstarter (at that stage the most successful project on the crowdfunding platform) killed himself. His mother still believes that if he didn’t start the project he would be alive today.

On January 11 this year Aaron Schwartz, a celebrated and much-loved hacker and activist took his own life. He was also 26. I never met Aaron but several friends were very close to him. One was his partner. Reading the tributes that poured in it was impossible not to be deeply saddened that someone so young, so talented and with so much to contribute had given up like this. The loss not only to his friends and family but to all of us is immense.

And just two weeks ago I read about the passing of Jody Sherman, co-founder and CEO of Ecomom. I didn’t know Jody either but he was also admired by people I admire. The initial reports avoided specifying a cause of death but he too had committed suicide.

As Jason Calicanus asked  over the weekend, should we talk about this?

Yes, we should.

Entrepreneurship is a really hard road, filled with rejection, misunderstanding and self-doubt. You pour yourself into a project only to see the world disparage or, worst, ignore it. You must deal with people telling you to get a real job, with the stresses of poverty and uncertainty, with the constant possibility, indeed the likelihood, of total failure. But your job is to project constant positivity, to always be selling your vision and product, to inspire people to join you on this mad mission.

You probably work long and unhealthy hours. You might struggle to find time for exercise, or to socialise, or to take time out to be alone and reflection.

In other words it can be a very unhealthy pursuit, not only physically but emotionally.

During the eight years I led Vibewire I had many dark days, days when I was so exhausted I was reduced to tears, days when I couldn’t see how we would continue. But then I’d go to a meeting with the Vibewire team or a potential funder or a media interview and I’d have to summon all my positivity and energy and pitch our programs and vision of the future, convince them all that there was a pathway to the future we sought.

After I left Vibewire in March 2008 my successor as CEO had an emotional breakdown just a few months later, crushed by the complexity of our projects and the constant workload and stresses involved in bringing in the funds required to keep them alive.

So how did I survive for the eight years before that? First of all, I didn’t entirely. By the time I departed I was utterly burnt out, and for the year prior to that I was just barely nursing myself through, on many days just focusing on the day before me and what I needed to do to get to the next one, like a prisoner in jail, desperately pushing myself to get what needed to be done, done to get the organisation to the point where I could walk away. Once I did it took me months to feel like I could be productive again.

I pushed myself through thanks to incredibly supportive parents, sibling and partner and a group of friends outside the world of social entrepreneurship, who cared about me rather than Vibewire, who valued me as a person, not just an entrepreneur. I would go out with them to parties in the forests which wrap around Sydney at least monthly and stomp my frustrations and stresses into the dirt dance floor until there was just the freedom and joy of movement and dancing and friendship, and my heart filled up with love, community and connection to nature. Being part of this creative, DIY community kept me balanced, with dancing allowing me to be in my body, not my head, and the friendships I formed giving me an identity outside of Vibewire, outside of entrepreneurship.

I don’t know what drove each of these innovators to take their own life. For Aaron an over-zealous prosecution and the threat of jail was clearly a unique and significant factor. All of them struggled with mental health issues at different times. But I do know that as entrepreneurs we are all prone to driving ourselves to breaking point and that one of the hardest but most important things we must learn is how to be personally sustainable, how to take care of ourselves, in the midst of stress and uncertainty and repeated failure.

One of the hardest things about entrepreneurship is that you can become your venture in the eyes of many people. People would often say in introducing me “Tom is Vibewire” and I would cringe, knowing that wasn’t what we were going for at all, that it was in many ways a sign of failure to build the broad base of leadership we needed to be successful but also that it was such a narrowing of me as a person. And it’s also true that in entrepreneurship, unless you are truly gifted or lucky or more likely both, you’ll have as many bad days as good ones, as many set-backs as successes.

As Jess Lee, founder and CEO of Polyvore pointed out in a great recent blog post titled “Why are startup founders always unhappy?” even a successful growth pattern is wiggly, and as entrepreneurs tend to live mostly in the moment and also be very ambitious it’s easy to get depressed during a down phase even if you’ve experienced extraordinary success over the preceding period of time. And if you are your organisation, when the organisation is struggling you feel a failure personally.

Jess puts it this way:

Humans are terrible at understanding absolute values. We are best at understanding acceleration and deceleration, or rate of change. You are happiest when your growth is accelerating. When growth slows down, you start to become less happy. When you’re not growing, you are in unhappy territory.

This is why it’s so important to have a life outside your startup, to have an emotional floor that doesn’t undulate with your company’s fortunes.
I am not trying to generalise the experiences of Ilya, Aaron and Jody. Each was unique. But I have been finding myself thinking about these issues repeatedly over the past few weeks as tragedy followed tragedy, about my own struggles and what it takes to survive as entrepreneurs and changemakers. Ultimately it comes down to balance, however you find that, to relationships, and community and love.

So please be good to yourself everyone, and give yourself what you need to be sustainable and happy and whole.

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