I was asked this question by an entrepreneur the other day and thought it was a great one. When I asked him to elaborate on the question he mentioned concerns such as a company’s ability to scale, raise follow-on rounds, recruit talent, threats from large players like Google/Apple/Facebook, etc.
My answer was that my #1 concern with any of our partner companies is the founders taking care of themselves physically and emotionally.
What is consistent across any startup I’ve been involved with is that the environment is demanding, stressful, fast-paced and competitive. 20+ hour workdays and 100-hour workweeks happen. What isn’t consistent is how founders deal with it.
When I hear a founder say something to the tune of ‘I’m exhausted because I’ve worked four 20+ hour days in a row’, I’m always hoping it is followed with some sort of statement about what specifically required the long days (like a feature release) and what they are going to do to recover (not work at all the upcoming weekend, go camping for a couple days, go to bed at 8 that night, whatever). When I hear them say that they just have to work this much because ‘things are so crazy right now’ I get super concerned that it is going to keep happening, which isn’t sustainable.
I’ve absolutely seen both sides and I absolutely believe there is a correlation between how founders take care of themselves and their long-term business performance.
There is always pressure to move fast and get ahead, but as an investor I’m a big believer in burnout and consciously try to work with our founders to get ahead of it.
Being fresh matters. Having balance matters. Feeling good matters.
If you feel like shit, it shows and seriously impacts all of the other stuff like scaling, raising follow-on capital, dealing with competitors, etc.
Startups and venture are long-term games and we all need to remember to treat them that way.