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Startup Founders: It’s OK if Not Everyone Understands Your Vision

Illustration of startup founder pitching his idea

One of the most important jobs for startup founders is evangelizing your vision to the world. To inspire your team and convince others to come along for the ride. I have always been an optimistic person, seeing the world as a glass-half-full landscape. Problems are always solvable – you simply have to work hard and smart enough to find the right solution.

However, as a founder, my eternal optimism has forced me to eat a few slices of humble pie along the way. When you’re building a company from the ground up based on a vision that has been percolating in the recesses of your mind for years, you can become confused if not outright appalled that others who hear your story don’t immediately reach euphoric levels of enthusiasm about what you’re building.

It’s not that you don’t expect for there to be skeptical customers or investors. For startup founders, that’s a given – it’s just part of the sell. But the notion that someone you have so generously offered to come join you and your cadre of visionary pioneers would hesitate in the least can be confusing – and a tough pill to swallow.

Potential new hires choosing to ask thoughtful questions about your business model as opposed to immediately committing their life and livelihood to your endeavor will usher startup founders through all the various stages of grief, from denial to anger to acceptance. If it sounds ludicrous that a founder would act or feel this way in that situation, you are both right and wrong. You would be right in the sense that as a competent adult I would understand there will naturally be questions from folks looking to make a significant life change. You would be wrong in the sense that to be a founder you have to be teetering on the edge of maniacal.

Those situations remind me why it’s critical for startup founders to be able to quickly read the room, reflect, and then reorient to reality. Fortunately, I’ve lived long enough and am intellectually honest enough to know when I need to accept the reality I’m personally experiencing isn’t the same that others are living in. And startup life isn’t for everyone.

Fast forward to today. The pitch to join the team is becoming easier. The company is stable, profitable, and we have the infrastructure most want to see when making a leap of faith. My passion is still immutable and my pitch is very much as enthusiastic as it was 18 months ago. However, my naivete is gone (for the most part), and I’ve embraced the fact that not everyone shares the same desire to live their life on the edge of chaos or riding atop a rocket ship. Make no mistake: the rocket ship is well constructed, has a great trajectory, and won’t crash (most likely), but it’s still a ride not everyone is willing to take. And that’s okay.

Realizing that has helped me improve as a founder and leader. It’s just like I tell my kids when they have a disagreement: look at it from the other person’s point of view. By doing so, I’ve been able to better answer potential employee questions and anticipate investor sticking points – all while maintaining my optimism around what we’re building.

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