One of my favorite people at Datorama has a great question for anyone leaving a job.
“Are you running away from something or running toward something?”
To be clear, there are times when you need to escape a situation. Mental or physical abuse, discrimination, unethical behavior, a generally toxic environment. All can be reasons to pull the rip cord.
However, broadly speaking, it seems to me that it’s preferable to be running towards something as opposed to away.
At Datorama, there’s not much to run away from. The company is growing faster than it ever has. 75% of the sales organization is hitting their numbers, including everyone that reported to me. We have a stellar management team. We have built-in distribution in a large base of existing Salesforce customers. The stock is up 70% in the last 2 years. What’s not to like?
But remember, I am running towards something. In my annual letter
this year, I wrote about the driving force of my life. I wrote about the desire to achieve economic and intellectual escape velocity. Taking a shot at building a company is the next step on that journey.
On the intellectual front, building this company will be an infinitely harder intellectual challenge. It falls on my shoulders to define the sales process, marketing strategy, pricing model… everything to do with our go-to-market. My partner’s area of responsibility is all things product and technology. To be honest, it’s actually a bit anxiety-producing when I think about it. But I think that anxiety is natural. Your heart is supposed to beat faster and your palms are supposed to sweat before you ask the girl to dance.
Further, even if this doesn’t work out, I believe that the learnings that I take from the experience will be invaluable. You can read all of the books and take all of the classes, but some things in life are trial by fire. I don’t want to look back at today when I’m 50 and say that I never took my shot.
On the economic front, starting a technology company is not rational. The overwhelming majority of companies fail. However, the upside potential is far greater than working for other people. And that’s not only with regard to the outlier companies that ring the bell at the stock exchange or sell for hundreds of millions of dollars. When you hold substantial equity ownership in even modestly sized businesses, seemingly small outcomes become meaningful.
And again, to come back to the very real possibility that it doesn’t work, the economic downside is limited. We have sufficient money in the bank to take a chance. My beautiful wife has an incredible job with great health benefits that I can attach to. I’m confident I could get another job down the road if it came to that.
In short, it’s worth taking a shot when you have limited downside with unlimited upside.