Startup Founders Are Not Rock Stars
One of my investor friends has a habit of introducing me as a “rock star.” He means it affectionately, so it’s flattering. It’s just not true. I’m not a startup rock star. I know this because I used to be an actual rock star. For like five minutes. I’ll get to that.
Don’t get me wrong. Not being a startup rock star is a good thing. When investors consider investing in a startup, they don’t want to be writing checks to support the antics of a rock star. Rock stars are moody, flighty, prone to Christ-complexes, and always chasing the dragon of their next ego trip.
Adam Neumann is a rock star. But… he ‘s still attracting investors. So maybe my whole point is moot.
Regardless, you can’t argue that cults of personality come standard with huge servings of both attractiveness and risk. And in my experience, your standard investor wants their risk to be wrapped up in — ideally — an obsessive compulsive psycho nerd.
They want someone who will check everything thrice and push themselves way beyond their limits to make their vision a reality. Someone who eats ultra-boring industry news and next-gen KPIs for breakfast. Someone who is friends with other, more nerdier nerds.
The founders who generate massive ROI are almost always the ones who, when you put them on a stage in front of a crowd, absolutely no one in that crowd says, “Man, I want to be just like them.”
Actually, I think I get Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk now.
Why I’m Not a Rock Star
Few people still know this about me, but I’m an above average singer and a heck of a guitarist. Don’t ask me to prove it. I’m not the guy who can pick up an acoustic guitar at a dinner party and be impressive, but plug a Schecter into a Marshall and I can play a lot of Van Halen songs note for note. At my age, that’s no longer charming.
But it does give off a little bit of obsessive compulsive psycho nerd.
Anyway, I started my first band in high school and it was awful. But about five years and 17 bands later I was getting pretty good at making music, and a couple of independent label…