Army lessons that got me through the last few startup weeks (and rough they were)
The last few weeks have been totally draining. Let’s start from the beginning:
A. Became a finalist at SeedCamp, one of Europe’s most prestigious accelerator programs (big high!)
B. Developer then left owing to differences in life ambitions (big WTF low!)
C. Got into TechStars NYC finals (great - but WTF do I do now that developer left???)
This was an oh-shit, gut-check moment. Do I go on, or just call it quits? How the fuck could I turn this around? That’s when I really had to dig deep. And those little things one learns in the Army come flooding back.
Lesson 1: Don’t ever, ever ring that fucking bell.
SEAL recruits, during BUD/S course, can voluntarily ring a bell to signal that they give up. But those that ring the bell are precisely the ones that the Navy SEALs don’t want - those that give up. Because BUDS/S at the end of a day isn’t a course about physical prowess - it’s about mental toughness.
When C. happened, I refused to ring that bell.
Lesson 2: Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.
So now I had to find a solution to the slight developer problem. I contacted over 22 people from 6 countries in a little more than 24 hours - calling everyone I could find. And at the end of the day, I found a fellow Army vet buddy I had met at TechStars Patriot Boot Camp. I knew I could trust him, I knew he had the intestinal fortitude just like me, and I knew he wanted TechStars just as badly as I did.
Obstacle - overcame.
Lesson 3: Mission, Men, and Me
The next step was to finish the mission. That included finding the team’s ex-Serie C goalkeeper and awesome designer all the way from Italy, revamping the company, and getting ready for the big interview with Eugene Chung.
The team focused on execution leading up to the big day - getting things done, building apps, building a new launch page, getting customers. We booked our flights to NYC from Venice and London in just a few hours, and traveled a combined 7,000 miles to get there. We set up our War Room (kindly donated by Jukay Hsu from Coalition for Queens and set up through Regina Chien and Startup Leadership Program NYC) and got some office space at We Work Labs through Tuan Pham. We worked 17 hours days - working till 3 AM - and then got up the next day to do it again. Wash. Rinse. Dry. Repeat.
We mock interviewed with TechStars RisingStars organizer Tom Chikoore, my TechStars RisingStars mentor Josh Emert, Tuan, and Taylor McLemore to make sure we got our story right and got grilled the toughest questions they could find.
The team fought - of course because we were passionate. But we came together. And when it came time to perform that mission, our team did well. I’m proud to have worked with my men then and what we did together as a team and as a mission.
Who knows what will happen next? Whatever happens though, I know that during my darkest moments, what comes out of me is strength and determination. And when I look to my left and to my right, my team has that same quality.