The Unclear Path: TedxConcordia talk


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I am 37 years old and this month marks the first time in my adult life that I had to call up my landlord and tell him I couldn’t pay my rent on time. I’m not telling you this for pity and it isn’t a rags to riches story. I am doing what I love. I am more alive than I’ve ever felt. And though I’m more broke than I’ve ever been, I’m also happier.

Hello, my name is Tara and I am a startup entrepreneur…

Let me tell you…that it takes HERCULIAN levels of strength to hold the faith day after day as you travel down an unclear path.

Imagine this. You are an entrepreneur standing in front of a group of important people, people who hold the power to change your future – venture capitalists, media, potential employees, and YOU – and you pour your heart out to them. You present your vision in the best way you know how to articulate it. Your palms are sweating. Your heart is beating out of your chest. You are so excited and filled with passion and you just know they are going to recognize it. They will understand your vision and want to be part of it. They will want to help you get there.

But then you start noticing them checking their blackberries and looking bored…their furrowed brows…and you know what is coming. They proceed to tell you every way in which your business will fail. It’s been done before, so it will fail. It’s never been done before so it will fail. There are too many competitors, so it will fail. You come into those meetings with your heart on your sleeve and the reach across the table, grab your heart, put it in their teeth and take a big, juicy bite out of it, hand it back to you and say, “good luck with that.”

And you leave those meetings with two things. Number one, a broken, bleeding heart and number two, a burning desire to prove to them just how wrong they are. And you hold onto that second thing, imagining yourself handing them their hats on a silver platter when they come to you to beg to be part of your success some day.

But those meetings are the easy ones. At least you know exactly where you stand when you leave them.

The worst meetings go something like this…once again, you are presenting your vision with passion and this time, the reception is different. You see a sparkle in their eyes. They are nodding their heads. They start to ask you deeper questions about your marketing strategy and technology and you answer these questions like a pro. You know your business. You know your market. They tell you they want to follow up! You leave those meetings in a very different mood. You are giddy. You practically skip back to your office.

You get back to your office all fired up and send that follow up email, “great to meet with you! Here are those things you asked for!” finally! Someone who gets it! You want to celebrate! Your business is going to move forward!

Then a couple of days pass….nothing. Days turn to weeks….still nothing. Your spidey senses start tingling…well…maybe they got busy? Perhaps a family emergency? Maybe an illness?

So you send a follow up email, “hey! Just following up to see if you need anything else from me! If you have any questions, just ask!”

And then comes the reply. It’s vague and flat and sounds nothing like the previous meeting. It goes something like this:

“Tara, thank you for coming in and showing us what you are working on. We really enjoyed meeting the team and though we like your idea, we are just going to pass on it right now. Keep in touch!”

Huh? This is the point that you take a drink. Tequila has become my personal favorite. Take a pass? What? What happened? Where is the love?

It’s as if everyone you meet with is directly or indirectly telling you that you are chasing a pipedream….that you should just give up.

Give up? Never. Isn’t this what a startup is about? Building something with unknown results? It’s never certain. We have a great team, a product that is well on it

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The Unclear Path: TedxConcordia talk

  1. theunclearunclear path
  8. “I’m all in”
  9. delusion
  10. a desireto change the status quo
  11. sheer, utteraudacity
  12. delusion [diˈloō zh ən]nounan idiosyncratic belief or impression that isfirmly maintained despite beingcontradicted by what is generally acceptedas reality or rational argument, typically asymptom of mental disorder.
  13. desire [dəˈzī(ə)r]nouna strong feeling of wanting to havesomething or wishing for something tohappen.status quo [ˈstātəs ˈkwō]nounthe existing state of affairs, esp.regarding social or political issues
  15. "Brilliant improvisers, the entrepreneurs dont start out with concrete goals. Instead, they constantly assess how to use their personal strengths and whatever resources they have at hand to develop goals on the fly...That is not to say entrepreneurs dont have goals,only that those goals are broad and—like luggage—may shift during flight." Buchanan, Feb 1/11 INC.
  16. audacity [ôˈdasitē]noun1. the willingness to take bold risks2. rude or disrespectful behavior;impudence