The Letter I Wish I Received With My Seed Investment

So you are a young founder starting your own venture-backed company? Here are some of my thoughts after 3+ years of doing exactly that. 

May 13, 2024

The Letter I Wish I Received With My Seed Investment

So you are a young founder starting your own venture-backed company? Here are some of my thoughts after 4+ years of doing exactly that. When I started my first company at age 26, I was clueless. I quickly learned that the CEO’s main first job is to set the vision & convince people to join the journey. 

At this early phase, you usually have nothing to offer but yourself. People will help you, invest in you or join your team because of your energy, motivation, personality, and vision.

Below is the letter I wish someone would’ve sent me after closing my seed funding. 

Hey there, 

You’ve spent the last year ideating, learning, finding a co-founder, building an MVP and you are now about to get your seed funding. It feels like a huge achievement but it’s actually only the beginning.

Starting your own company is one of the most rewarding journeys you can embark on. You get to turn your vision into reality. You build products that delight customers and change their lives. It is also one of the most challenging adventures you can take on. In the next two years, the main personal challenges you will face are:

  • Managing your energy
  • Learning to handle the shit
  • Building support systems
  • Listening to your inner voice
  • Enjoying the journey

Let’s dive deeper into each of these.

Manage your energy like it’s your finances

Running a startup is like running a marathon and as you think you approach the finish line, you have to run three more. 

It’s a long, hard, and often lonely journey. 

As you start bringing in revenue, raising money, and growing the team, your time and energy should be spent on the company’s most important challenges. Anything that isn’t mission critical or draining your energy should be outsourced. The people you hire should make YOUR job easier, if that’s not the case, don’t be afraid to let them go. There are many of them but only one of you. 

When I was running my first company, I put myself last. I thought that’s how leaders operate, putting everyone before themselves. I would take calls at any time, schedule meetings on weekends, and didn’t take a salary. There are points in the company’s life where these actions are necessary, but not as a lifestyle.

On the personal side, I barely worked out, my nutrition was poor and don’t even get me started about going on dates.. I was constantly putting everyone and everything else before my own needs. That’s not how leaders operate, it was the classic recipe for a burnout.  

Learn to handle the shit

Your journey will be full of challenges. Shit happens and it will continue to happen. A global pandemic will start. Markets will crash. A VC will pull back a term-sheet. Your key customer will leave as soon as you are about to close an investment. Core employees will leave. A family member may get sick. The honest truth is that some things are within your control, but most of them aren’t. The only thing you can control is the habits, routines, and people you have in place to protect you when shit happens. 

As serial entrepreneur Mickey Haslvasky shares “In 2019, we launched our travel startup company, raised funds and hired some of the best people in town to our team — in 2020, when COVID hit, we had to let go the entire team after our industry collapsed and our customers went through the most difficult times in the industry’s history.

Your ability to pivot extremely fast and to let go of everything you’ve built is a skill and you have to design and develop it. Make sure you move quickly and you don’t get attached to anything you’ve built until product-market-fit is achieved.”

One of the things that helped me the most was to have a small group of fellow founder friends that you can be open and vulnerable with. You will quickly learn you are not alone and that everyone in your position is going through similar struggles. 

Build your support systems

I have read countless articles comparing founders to pro athletes. The success rate is extremely low (less than 0.1%), many people are relying on you and it’s an extremely stressful, high stakes environment. 

While pro athletes have a coach, sports psychologist, nutritionist, personal trainer, and an off-season; the best startup founders get is free AWS credits and office space. It’s up to you to build that supportive environment. 

One of the best investments of your time will be to find the right team for you. You can even dedicate a small portion of the money you raised for this. Find a coach, psychologist, and personal trainer. Make sure you like them and have a good personal connection with them and use them as needed. If you don’t know where to find them, ask your fellow founders. You are starting a long journey and can use all the support you can get.

Listen to your inner voice 

As the founder of a tech company, you have a distinctive set of skills and a unique view of the world. You are able to take on risk, you are charismatic, extremely driven or extremely smart. You are a leader and not a follower (otherwise you probably would have chosen a less painful journey). As a young founder, it’s your responsibility to develop and listen to your inner voice. 

On this journey you will be surrounded by smart people. From investors to co-founders to customers, who will want to weigh in and sometimes pull you in different directions. Your responsibility is to take in all this input, and make the adaptations needed while staying true and in tune with your inner voice. This is crucial.

As Tomer Suarez, CEO & Co-Founder of Interai shares “I can say with absolute certainty that the majority of the mistakes I made and failures I had are rooted in me trying to satisfy everyone else and not listening to myself. You are what you’ve got, so make sure you don’t lose yourself in all the noise”

Enjoy the journey

Even the best investors can’t predict the outcome of a startup. So if you can’t control the outcome, make sure you control the journey, it’s your company, make it fun! Work with people you like or on something you’re passionate about. If you can do both, even better. Actively work on making sure you are having fun throughout this journey. 

One of my favorite examples of combining work & play is a story Amos Haggiag, CEO & Co-Founder of Optibus shared with me. “On a recent business trip to Brazil I saw that they have an incredible climbing scene. I found a guide online, stayed an extra day and went to climb the Corcovado, it was one of the best climbing experiences I’ve ever had” 

Bottom line – make sure you take care of yourself, enjoy the journey and go turn your vision into reality! Remember to ask for help if you need it, and if you are not sure where to go, feel free to reach out to me. 

*Disclaimer – Don’t take anything written here as absolute truth, it is written from my personal experience, building and running a B2B AI company in the Transportation space between 2020-2023. Founders & Start-ups are each very different but I found that many of these challenges are extremely similar between me and my friends. 

 

Gal Bechor

Gal Bechor

Founder & CEO of Stack

Bio

Gal Bechor is the founder of Stack, on a mission to enable anyone to make a living doing what they love.

Gal Bechor

Founder & CEO of Stack

Bio

Gal Bechor is the founder of Stack, on a mission to enable anyone to make a living doing what they love.

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