Is Entrepreneurial Balance achievable in 2015?
"Evolving personal improvement and learning...
As we start the new year off, I'm making it a point in 2015 to be more retrospective, focused and balanced. At the same time, I'm working on curating my thoughts into written words and sharing my perspective. So here's the first of several blogs around some life changes that have been in the works the last few months that are being implemented now... starting with Balance!
For those of you that know me, for nearly the last decade, I've wholeheartedly jumped into tech entrepreneurship opportunities. By it's very nature, that role assumes significant risks to disrupt markets with new ideas. I've raised capital, boot strapped and everything in between to take a seedling of an idea and create a company from it. The game changer for me was after conceiving a company in 2008 and achieving a successful exit in 2010 by boot-strapping MobileWait. Sure there were start-ups before that, but that was a pinnacle moment. Ever since, I have sacrificed, nearly as much as the early days and have been 'betting on the come' with a focus on equity and investing my time and money on other entrepreneurs and ideas. As much as I've been actively engaged, vested and wholly committed to my investments and projects, those effort for the most part have come without regard for a sustainable paycheck or lifestyle... thus, imbalance.
For my fellow entrepreneurs, you unfortunately know that's a hard way to ensure financial success long-term and the odds are rarely in your favor. The truth is, it's very hard emotionally, mentally, financially and extremely trying on relationships (friends, family, business partners, employees, etc.). Not only is that the case for the entrepreneur, but everyone around them. They experience those same nuances of life dealing with a start-up, likely without the same passion, involvement or hands-on understanding... it's basically a roller-coaster for everyone involved.
With all that in mind, let me bring you up to speed. In 2014, I spent most of my time attempting to raise VC funding for a consumer-based app called Sprout it. We'd done very well by establishing a strategic partnership with Scotts Miracle Gro. We 100% boot-strapped Sprout it, got scrappy and built an impressive user base with strong metrics by most people's standards. We invested heavily into robust technology and our team, focused on killer content, distribution and analysis.
Being a Midwest, under-resourced tech start-up, esp for a primarily consumer focused app is difficult to say the least. As co-founder & CEO, I was full-time for the most part; taking minimal pay all while declining new projects or being open to new opportunities or jobs. Basically, I wanted to ensure investors knew I was committed and was ready to scale the business upon funding.
Over the last year, we got high level meetings with major players in the gardening industry, we came close to a merger, we got multiple, positive meetings with fantastic VCs across the country and got close a few times to some great funding opportunities, but unfortunately we couldn't get the deals over the finish line for a variety of reasons.
As a result, we have scaled back our app development and we are focused on content and distribution in creative ways to support our growing user base and our partnerships. We are still looking for strategic funding and have a few other interesting options in the works, but the plans are changing in terms of my time and where those dollars/resources will be invested for 2015 and beyond.
"Agricultural production must increase by 60% by 2050 in order to meet the world's growing population.
By no means have I given up on Sprout it, in fact, I think with the right resources we have huge potential. I have a significant passion for what we are doing for many reasons. One primary reason is, globally we need to produce more food to meet serious demand. At the same time, the world must get smarter, care more and know where and how their food is produced and grown. As such, we should be growing our own food. I believe DIY gardening is a primary answer to these problems and we have built an fantastic application that will help tens of thousands of people globally do just that this year and in the future.
Nonetheless, I bring it back to balance. As deeply as I care about solving a major global problem and improving the lives of others, I along with my peer entrepreneurs need to pay the mortgage! Although I'll continue doing the right thing for our users, partners, company and our potential investors, it's time to find balance.
So... Is balance achievable in 2015? Yes, I believe so. Investors may not like to hear you have balance. They want you committed 24/7 to the idea and the company you are growing, but I'm telling you, you have to have balance. Balance that meets the demands of family, self and shareholders. No doubt, it takes soul-searching, discipline and much more, but it's achievable.
In my next blog, I'll share more detail as I enter a new journey and how I came to 'what's next'. Spoiler alert, I get to keep the Sprout it dream alive and do what I love (helping start-ups and building great apps). Perspective is the key!