Jeff the Great Says to Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Early stage startup founders have a problem. Early stage startup founders in Portland really have a problem. Too often, we look at venture funding as the goal, rather than a means to the end. Once you start focusing on raising money, you have failed.

I am currently in the process of raising financial backing for my early stage startup and sometimes I find myself taking my eye off the ball. Funding is not the goal. Building a wildly successful company that makes everyone involved rich is the goal. Every time I fail to focus on that, I am not taking a step forward.

The idea of investment dollars is to accelerate your company. Not to pay yourself more or to get a fancy office. Sure, those things *might* come with the territory, but they are not the goal. When you take an investment, that's when the work really begins.You now have more work and more responsibility. You just have some cash in the bank to help you through it all. If you take an investment and don't feel more pressure to succeed, I think something is wrong with you.

While high-fives may have gone around the Portland companies that have recently been funded, like ShopIgniter, PHP Fog and Urban Airship, I can guarantee you that the celebrations didnt' last long. They now have to work their asses off, and they know it. While I don't know the founders of these companies, I can confidently say that they were given that venture capital money because the investors knew they were focused on building wildly successful companies. They did not focus on getting funded. They saw funding as a means to the end.

As I network around the Portland startup community, I see too many of us that are focused on getting funding and not building wildly successful companies. I think part of the problem is that we read about all these funding events on TechCrunch and we fail to see all the hard work that has gone into those companies and we are not exposed to the greater vision they have. We don't see the pressure that those founders feel after the funding happens. We think its all ice cream sundays and stuffed animals. We want that TechCrunch recognition. We want ice cream and stuffed animals. It sounds so great, right?

All those companies on TechCrunch...funding wasn't the goal. Building a wildly successful company is the goal. They didn't accomplish anything by raising venture capital. Now that they have capital, they have to go accomplish something. Funding isn't the goal.

So next time we talk at a Portland area event, don't tell me about your fundraising efforts. Tell me about your product. About your customers. About your vision. Don't tell me how much you need. Don't say that if you just had X dollars, you would be set.

Make sure I do the same thing. If I start talking to you about my fundraising efforts, remind me that I need to focus on my product, customers and our vision. Don't let me take my eye off the ball. After all, I am writing this blog post as a reminder to myself.

Sure, we need money to realize our vision. Let's just not focus on that. Once we are focused on funding, we have failed. Our chances of building a wildly successful company are next to nothing once we take our eyes off the ball. Focusing on funding means your eye is off the ball.

Funding is not the goal. Building a wildly successful company is the goal.