Revenge!

There's More Than One Way To Start a Company

9.23.16

This is one of those things no one talks about until you bring it up, but then when you do, everyone knows exactly what you're talking about and totally agrees with you.

Revenge is an awesome motivator, especially in startup.

Seriously, run this by any entrepreneur you know, especially those that have sought help and/or raised money. Don't sleep on the fact that all that rejection, rudeness, and backstabbing made them work three times as hard to succeed, and when they did, it wasn't like some Hollywood movie where they felt like they'd driven themselves into becoming something they no longer respect.

It actually feels great. Not even kinda great. Just great.

I have a story I tell about how I was supposed to have a coffee meeting with a guy and he didn't show. He also didn't tell me he wasn't showing, so while I was sitting there waiting for him, I started thinking about the thing we were going to brainstorm about, and I came up with some really good ideas. That led to me sticking around at the coffee shop, typing away. Then, five minutes after the end of our allotted meeting time, a text exchange:

"Hey, I'm not gonna make it."

"Everything OK?"

"Yeah. No worries, Just lost track of time."

I stayed at that coffee shop for another three hours. By the end of it, I had the plans for a new startup that I went on to create, and that guy was out of business within a year.

I mean, look, those two things probably weren't related. I wasn't trying to put him out of business. I actually forgot about it a few days later. But the rage that produced those ideas was so laser-focused and otherworldly that I really came up with something exceptional. Then I just did what I do.

He was an idiot and a jerk and would have effed everything up even if I had done nothing.

But man that felt good.

Does that make me a bad person? Probably. And let's face it, the desire to crush someone for flaking out of a meeting and being flip about it and never apologizing -- man, that's just a recipe for heart attacks and a ticket to hell. It's no way to operate.

So I try to temper my rage when these things happen, or more importantly, when worse things happen, because that was just a fun little anecdote. I've had people do much worse to me for even less reason and it wound up being much more painful and costly. But still, temper, even though I respect the motivation revenge can bring.

My point is that I'm not alone. I'm not the only entrepreneur who operates like this. In fact, I'd say the vast majority of them do. Every time I bring this story up, I get an equal story from the person I tell it to, usually just as funny and just as karmic. And they realize that it's no good for them too, and sometimes I'll be the first person they've even admitted it to.

But man it works. And sometimes, it's not only forgivable, it's warranted.

Startup is and should be about breaking the status quo, doing the old things in a new way, and usually there is an entrenched constituency holding up the old way because they're making a killing on it, and change would destroy or at least ding their empire.

They'll fight you, maybe not even to your face. And they'll be sneaky and awful about it and smile at you the whole time.

When you knock down those walls, it doesn't matter if it was rage or altruism or greed fueling you. It should matter, of course, but at the end of the day it really kinda doesn't.

Another company I started for altruistic reasons was almost derailed by one of these old way actors. It took years and a lot of hard work, but the congratulations I got at the end of it, congratulations that were spit through clenched teeth with bile and anger…

That. Felt. Great.
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