My Precious…De-Coupling Myself from My Startup

A couple of months ago, a mentor of mine pulled me aside and gently made an observation…

“Tara…you are a great presenter. You are passionate and can make any story or idea sound interesting. I’d want you to sell anything that I was trying to get out into the world…HOWEVER…when you talk about yourself or your company, you sound uncertain and nervous. You lose that passion. I just wanted you to know how you come across.”

It’s true. And it is the craziest thing. I DO believe passionately in what we are doing with Buyosphere. I’m excited and energized with how awesome the site is progressing and I know in my heart that we are solving a real problem with what is being launched in a few weeks. I’m so excited, I’m up at night feeling giddy and have great ideas on how to grow and monetize and build a really strong, amazing business.

So why the hell do I get sheepish when I talk about it to others?

Because braggarts are irritating and I can’t de-couple myself from my startup. The answer lies in how I tell the story. This is how I’ve been telling it since the beginning:

  1. I’ve been dreaming about solving the purchasing experience online since 2007 (I have)
  2. My co-founders and I are a tight-knit family who have grown together a LOT over the past 18 months (we have)
  3. The broken purchase experience relates to a story from 2007 – a search for a black skirt online that took me 3.5 hours and going to 13 websites (it did)

But none of these things matter. Yes, they matter to ME. This IS where my passion lies. But all three of these things make my business WAY too personal for me. So when I pitch my company, I’m essentially telling a potential investor, “Invest in me and my dream.” Not a good sell. And, when that potential investor passes, he or she is passing on my dream, not my company, so it feels much more personal.

Buyosphere is my precious. And rejection of Buyosphere feels like a personal rejection.

I now understand that this is nuts. And I don’t know if it’s a ‘woman’ thing or what, but it’s definitely a ME thing that I need to un-learn. Yes, investors say they ‘invest in people’, but they aren’t investing in people’s dreams. They invest in people they trust to build a business, sell that business, grow that business and, ultimately, make them a lot of money. These are not charities. They could give a flying snake that I’ve grown or what my shopping woes are. They want to know the big picture and how we get there. No preciousness. I’m starting to understand what some (who are very helpful mentors) have referred to as ‘fluff’.

Someday when I write the chapter on ‘how to speak VC’, this will be the very first lesson (I have yet to know what the next lessons are). Very analogous to how the ring drove Smigel crazy and turned him into a paranoid Gollum, being too coupled with your idea will lead to heartbreak over time. Every rejection will become a personal wound. After a while, you will feel alone and hyper protective. It’s a selfish thing. I have two co-founders whose ideas, input and implementation are just as formative (if not more) than my own. Investors become partners who also bring ideas and input into the mix. It is not ‘my precious’, it is a company. A company that I believe in and I’m excited about and that I will work hard to help succeed and be a great tool that will help people.

I wanted to share this revelation because I don’t think I’m the only one who is stuck in this paradigm. I’ve heard others talk about their companies in the same way. And when you are so close to the idea, it closes you to input and growth. Knowing, instead, that this is your job (not your dream) and your job is to make your company wildly successful opens you up to more ideas and helps you see where you need to let go of others.

I’m working on shifting this paradigm now, but it won’t be easy. I’m seeking outside help from people who can take me through the withdrawal steps:

  1. Reframing the pitch – de-coupling it from my ‘dream’ and speaking to the business opportunity
  2. Rethinking my relationship with Buyosphere – if it’s not an extension of my identity, what is it? And really, who am I?
  3. Becoming the biggest advocate for Buyosphere I can be
It won’t be simple, but it’s highly necessary. And it will release me of the pressure I feel when I talk about Buyosphere. I hope. ;)
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Categories: Buyosphere, entrepreneurship, personal

Author:Tara Hunt

Strategist. Researcher. Interdisciplinarian. Founder, Lime Foundry + Buyosphere. Author, The Whuffie Factor. Speaker. Mother. Karaoke lover.

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4 Comments on “My Precious…De-Coupling Myself from My Startup”

  1. Greg Marcus2
    October 27, 2011 at 21:51 #

    This is a topic I am very close to, and based on the information that I have gathered in 30 interviews with executives, very common. Excess devotion to one’s company, such that it is hard to separate your identity. In this case, the company usually becomes the top priority in one’s life, and takes over. I think this topic would interest you. I call it corporate idolatry.

    Corporate Idolatry is bad for the individual, in part because it results in an emotional investment in something that isn’t capable of reciprocating. A company, while an artificial person in the eyes of the law, is no more alive than a wooden statue. Your story supports something I have long suspected – corporate idolatry is also bad for business. Emotional attachment leads to distortions in rational analysis, intuition and sometimes can poison a corporate culture before it has time to form.
    I’d love to hear more about your story

  2. October 28, 2011 at 09:25 #

    I was going to post something similar to what Greg noted – a lot of it is how we have a relationship with work, and in particular, the C level suite where your company naturally ‘becomes’ a huge part of their life. As the CEO I’d expect that you’d be consumed with your company; maybe what you’re realizing is what’s natural too (i.e. life outside of work, something we too often forget). I think it’s quite poignant that in the new Steve Jobs biography that there’s a sense that one of the reasons he was so candid for the book is that he wanted his kids to know him better since he was consumed with Apple. It’s such a balance for so many people, and not an easy one, as I’m sure you know :)

    It would be interesting to see what other CEOs in this space feel – in particular, what Neighbourgoods and other collaborative consumption and social networking companies feel in relationship to the (their? oops) brand. Maybe part of the answer is in that shared community ownership of the brand; how can folks like community evangelists help share the love and stewardship of a brand might help lighten the load on the company’s founders on some level. Something like the Burning Man model of a shared philosophy rather than an entity (they’re a LLC) is something to think about. It would also be good to get Guy Kawasaki’s thoughts on this. I sense a CEO roundtable for you guys on this :)

  3. October 31, 2011 at 11:45 #

    Tara

    What helps me most with this issue is to have my attention and energy be on the audience, who they are and what they want. That really serves to take the focus off me, my doubts and body sensations which have nothing to do with making a difference with others.

    Thanks for your candid sharing.

    Bill Welsch, Welsch Consulting

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  1. If You Could Be A Hero | Sara Mooney - November 5, 2011

    [...] 40 years of marriage. I was going to write how Tara Hunt holds a special place for her tenacity and ability to see light in difficult situations. Or Tony Hseih for being a visionary and an extremely generous person. Or Hugh MacLeod for his [...]

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