Voyages of self-discovery are hard. There are rock outcrops and fearsome waves everywhere. And just when we think that we are the finished article, something wholly unexpected comes from absolutely nowhere and throws out our equilibrium again.
Being an entrepreneur has, for me, been the hardest thing I have ever done. Harder, much harder, than nursing a father with Alzheimer’s when I was 24. Harder, much harder, than dealing with the death of my best friend and mother when I was 31.
Significantly harder than raising 5 kids, or being a husband to a wife with extraordinarily high standards and ethics.
Being a partner in a law firm was a walk in the park by comparison. I didn’t have a month there where there was a threat of not getting paid or having to fund the corporate VAT from my mortgage.
A good guide along the way has been Patrick Sheehan, a partner at ETF, the leading clean technology specialist fund in Europe. It was Patrick who told me that the secret to business success was not ideas, which were cheap, but:
“the sheer dogged determination not to give up….”
Others have also helped in guiding the journey. Tim Bunting at Balderton set me a challenge of explaining the secrets of sustainable competitive advantage beyond just being organized.
The quite amazing Humphrey Nokes http://investing.businessweek.com/research/stocks/private/person.asp?personId=820886&privcapId=991913
told me when I first met him:
“I’ve been waiting for you to arrive. I didn’t know your name or what you would look like but I knew you’d come…”
He then gave me a space in his Kerestsu alongside Mannie Gill and Thomas Jepsen who were just creating Renovata and the ETV team of Richard Honey, Nathaniel Norgren and others.
Humphrey and I met for lunch 15 months ago and he was still at it:
“You never know how far you’ve come until you look behind”
“Eyes on the far horizon, don’t look down…”
“At every crossroads on the road that leads to the future, each progressive spirit is met with a thousand guardians of the status quo…”
All great guides and pointers to a little business, like a small foal, trying with all of its might to find and stay on its feet.
But Humphrey also had one prediction that I did not like. And it was that one of the closest people to me would stab me in the back. One of my founders already had repeatedly I explained and I was convinced that this would be the one.
But he insisted that there would be another. And then, two weeks ago, there was.
Al Capone apparently had a saying:
“If it happens once it is happenstance (a random event). If it happens twice it is coincidence. If it happens three times it is enemy attack..”
After sitting down one night and reflecting on the actions of one of the people I thought of as a guide (hasten to add, none of those mentioned above), I got hit by a sledgehammer that myself, our business and therefore my family were and still are under enemy attack.
In response to the attack, the normally mild-mannered me becomes somewhat like Pitt from Pulp Fiction. Furious, vitriolic and utterly vindictive as my former friend is and will increasingly find out.
Pitt, you just have to love him. I really did not understand how compelling fury can be when the righteous man is taken off the path by the inequities of the selfish and the tyrannies of an evil man.
A clear and absolute, utter breach of faith and trust. And something I honestly could never have seen coming.
True conceit is extremely hard to spot as it comes cloaked in nice words, apparent friendship, gifts, the works. It gets really close up and personal.
And then BOOM!
One for the top 10 tips for entrepreneurs. Watch Pitt, over and over again and as you pour your emotional self into your venture, just imagine that the person you hold in highest esteem might not be, just might not be, all that they appear. And when it happens you won’t be so crushed as I have been for all of, well, to be honest, 48 hours.