Life after startup – Closure

Enjoying the hell out of this NY trip

Removing Funk-e from my desktop

“Well, there it goes, all my old files of my now ex-company Funk-e are backed up on an external hard drive” I say to Evgeny, our new CTO Pirate in the Superconnectors team.

The end of the working day is nearing on a Tuesday and I wanted to get some admin done before going home.

We are sitting in my increasingly messy office that is starting to look like a small museum of the past 14 years of entrepreneurship.

“About time no?” He says.

“Yeah I guess” I say somewhat hesitant.

So I press “delete” and just like that 1000’s of files and many years of work, ideas and projects vanish.

Just like with an old relationship, not all feelings will vanish completely.

But this past month has really felt like a turning point in my life after startup. I am experiencing startup closure.

I would like to unpack the 4 steps that contributed to that sense of closure below.

4 steps to closure

It’s been almost 1,5 years since I stepped out of Funk-e now and the sale was completed almost 3 months ago.

By now the amount of questions from my old team are becoming less prominent, I am not in the company systems and chats anymore and completely out of any regular meetings.

I feel very comfortable now with all the choices I have made, but I guess that is because I went through 4 sequential questions that I can now answer with a resounding YES.

1. What’s missing: Can I describe in words what I feel is missing in my work?

2. How serious is it: Am I willing to bet my work of 14 years on it even if I would end up with nothing?

3. Protecting others: Can I leave the people I took in my journey with me behind knowing I did everything to protect their interests, without ignoring my own needs?

4. Back to the main question: Is the feeling I get from starting the new thing, the feeling I was looking for?

Here is some context to how I answered those questions for myself.

1. What’s missing: big hairy audacious entrepreneurship

Once Funk-e started becoming an established company, the kind of challenges became more and more calculated: how do we scale the team, what exact improvements do we make in positioning, what investments do we make to maintain leadership status in the industry etc.

The early excitement of figuring out if we could even make money with the work we were doing, or figuring out what awesome ways we were going to do things differently in a noticeable way and what culture had to fuel that, were gone.

That rush of pioneering and validating big hairy audacious goals felt over.

So it was clear what I needed and it also wasn’t happening by simply starting new things while still being in the company, I tried it, it didn’t work.

So could I describe in words what I was missing?

YES.

2. How serious is it: it affected me on a physical level

Even though Funk-e was established and had a financially stable foundation even after tough years of COVID, I wasn’t feeling happy.

I did work that was necessary, but the work itself mostly costed me energy: Management, figuring out small improvements, starting new projects that were similar to others I had done before, etc.

The victories like signing a deal or creating a new product were nice, but not enough to compensate for all the energy that the other things costed me.

It got to the point that it was affecting me physically, I felt bored and unhealthy.

So after many years of accepting an unbalanced situation, was I willing to risk it all even if I would end up with nothing?

YES.

3. Protecting others: leaving space for their own choices

Around 2 years ago, I was confident of the steps I needed to take to preserve myself and I needed to get out of the company and prepare for an exit.

I communicated all of this clearly to everyone and started making my moves.

Promoting the management team, promote one of them to general manager, and eventually preparing everything for a sale and looking for a buyer.

Even though people obviously may not like having a new owner, or big changes, this gave everyone enough time to understand the changes coming their way, while having enough financial safety to make their decisions for their own lives.

I could for instance also have closed the company, and saved myself the hassle in selling and have maybe more money at the end of it.

But this would have left my team, clients and freelancers in a very different situation.

A nice testament to this was a lovely day at the Efteling (an entertainment park in the Netherlands) where I invited all the employees and their partners and kids to celebrate a nice ride together and almost everyone showed up. This was my official goodbye present.

So did I feel I did right by everyone that helped me get where I got?

YES

4. Back to the main question: big hairy audacious entrepreneurship

Finally there is the last question, which I feel can only be answered, after already jumping into the deep unknown.

The reason I like the way my goal is formulated is that it is not tied to the pressure of achieving success or a specific outcome per se. But it is tied to the feeling of being on an adventure and aiming high.

Obviously many things can still go wrong with superconnectors or I could end up just wasting all the resources I have spent years building up.

But all of that doesn’t matter, because the pursuit of big hairy audacious goals is what I was after.

Just the view from my Airbnb in New York for our Superconnectors event there, just oozes: Adventure!

So am I on a big hairy audacious entrepreneurship ride again?

YES

Closure

So let me get back to where I started this little rant.

I feel closure right now because:

⁃ I know what it is I needed in the first place.

⁃ I am fully comfortable with the risks I am taking, and am willing to accept even the worst of consequences.

⁃ I feel like I did right by others that surrounded me to the degree that I could influence it.

⁃ And because the things that I am doing, confirm what I was hoping I would find.

So while those old Funk-e documents now sit comfortably somewhere on a backup drive, they made space for new ideas, projects and many adventures to come.

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