Before I started Techstars, I was looking around for a few opportunities to get involved with interesting new startups as a founding CTO. A couple of really interesting ones came along, and I remember having to make a conscious decision between starting Techstars and doing another startup.
I distinctly remember one (great) guy who was recruiting me be his co-founder saying something like “You can always do something like Techstars later in life, and you’ll do it better after you have even more operational experience.”
Around that time I took a mini-vacation, which is what I often seem to do when faced with big life decisions. I usually arrive at decision very quickly, but reading a few books and giving it a few days to sink in before announcing it always seems like a good idea around those times.
So in 2006 I started Techstars.
I think I had a very specific negative reaction to there being “plenty of time for that later.” First of all, as I learned from my fathers death at the age of 62, there really isn’t time for everything later. Second, I’m a big believer that the time to follow your dreams is always now.
For these same reasons, I’ve always been puzzled by the general idea of retirement. My wife and I try to take at least one big trip a year and usually we can do better than that. Life is something that you have to live now, in each moment. If I want something badly enough, I’m not going to wait around for someday.
Recently, a friend told me that their close friend and mentor told him that now is not a good time to do a startup. The economy is down, and companies aren’t getting funded. My friend is relatively young, so the mentor suggested to him that “there will be plenty of time for that later.” My friend approached me on the same subject and I told him the story of Techstars, and suggested that doing a startup is always hard regardless of noise like the global economy and the decisions many VCs are making. Think of it this way: now is always a great time to start a great company.
Personally, I think “Doing a startup” is a particularly special case where the “don’t wait” rule applies. It gets harder to do a startup as you get older. It just does. You get more comfortable in life. It’s hard to give up a nice salary. Mortgages must be met. Spouses and babies must be fed. You have less time and attention. And you just have less energy.
So, if you’re thinking about doing a startup that you’re really jazzed about, and are trying to decide if now or later is the time, here’s my advice. Look at the clock on your computer, and make a note of the current time and date. Hang that note on your desk or on a wall somewhere where you will see it every day. Now, ask yourself if you want to watch the days, weeks, months, and years slip by while your dream just hangs there on the wall or if you want to do something about it.
If you passionately want to do something about something, now is the time. Later is just an excuse.