Chris Devore wrote a post about a month ago that generated a lot of great discussion. In particular, this part:
But as an investor, there’s only one kind of entrepreneur I want to back: the relentless, hungry, flawed, brilliant, monomaniacal freaks who actually believe they can do it better, smarter and bigger than anyone else in the game.
Rand had a powerful reaction to it, and so did I. You should read Rand’s post. I replied in the comments, and I want to follow-up here too.
I care about inclusivity in tech startups. I’m also level-headed and usually assume other people know way more than I do. Because they do.
Basically, the opposite of the neurotic, obsessed, risk-loving, brilliant entrepreneur archetype that Chris describes, and that dominates our entrepreneurship mythology.
And yet, here I am. And I love it.
During a help-your-colleagues-understand-their-strengths exercise, I gained some insight into the creation of this mythological archetype.
I was shocked to see how many people wrote ‘ambitious’ and ‘driven’ when describing my strengths in the exercise. I would never in my wildest dreams describe myself this way.
I’m primarily motivated by wanting (1) to help others and (2) avoid feeling guilty for letting other people down. This creates a [vicious? virtuous?] cycle where (1) I initiate a program to make something better or help someone out, and then (2) work really hard because I’m worried I’ll let someone down. Here’s the epiphany:
What I experience as ‘working hard to avoid screwing up’ other people see as ‘driven’ and ‘ambitious.’
Talking about entrepreneurship as something that ambitious egomaniacs do creates psychological barriers for a lot of people. Who wants to do something that ambitious egomaniacs want to do? yuck.
I would not have ‘signed up for entrepreneurship’ if all I knew about it was what techcrunch discussed, movies portrayed, or floated around our cultural ether.
I’m lucky that I connected with Rand because we wanted to make some things a little better for people and we enjoyed each other. The rest (building an incredible company that is transforming marketing) feels like a lucky development!
And now I’m proud to be an entrepreneur.