A couple of weeks back I was really lucky to have the opportunity to speak at UCL on the topic of “How to Start a Startup” to an audience of a few hundred. The night before my lecture, I met up with a close friend who challenges me regularly, who wanted to challenge me on a simple point that we talk about often:
Never be embarrassed
Apparently I was getting too ‘comfortable’. I had a pink bandana (a long and different story) and she challenged me to wear it for my lecture and to incorporate it to make a serious point. I did (see below – the picture was shared quite widely after my talk…).
But, besides embarrassing myself, what was the point? In startups, you end up doing a whole bunch of things you didn’t expect to when you started out. Last year whilst acting as CTO of pingWHEN, I was surprised by the number of roles I had to fill. Sure, developing the product (a backend application, database architecture, REST API and various mobile app frontends) was a big part, but it probably wasn’t more than 50% of my working hours. The remainder included conversations with our investors and mentors, customer development and administration stuff. But that wasn’t it: as part of the construction of our company, I had to:
- Do two Karate take-downs on video
- Make terrible visual effects in a product video
- Act in a product video
- Take photos out in York at 1am in the freezing cold trying to get rid of light from a street bollard with a coat.
- Pitch to senior executives at Disney
- Attempt to sing (terribly).
The point is, if you hold yourself back, restricting yourself to things you feel comfortable with, you might not fulfil your potential or achieve what you ned to achieve. If you want your startup to succeed, you’ll need to do a few things that make you uncomfortable.