My long-time friends Fred Wilson and Joanne Wilson each had powerful posts about saying goodbye to 2012 and welcoming in 2013 yesterday.
Fred’s is titled Putting 2012 To Bed. I know many people who don’t know Fred other than via his online presence, public actions, and reputations. I expect that 99% of them, when asked if Fred had an awesome 2012, would say “of course – he has an amazing life.” But my answer would have been more nuanced based on the time Fred and I spent together. I would have said “some great things happened but it was a tough and complex year for him.” Fred’s response was characteristically blunt.
“I’ve wanted to write a year end post for days. I actually wrote one and stored it as a draft. But it comes across as a whiny complaint about the shitty year that 2012 was. And it was in many ways a shitty year for me. But the reason I couldn’t publish that post is it didn’t capture the greater picture that 2012 represents for me.”
The entire post is well worth reading. As is Joanne’s titled See ya 2012. Two big stressors from Joanne’s perspective were the damage to their house with their subsequent displacement from Hurricane Sandy and the shift to being empty nesters as their third kid gets ready to go to college. Her punch line is as powerful as Fred’s.
“This year I am hoping for a constant. I just want to live our lives under our own roof with no major disruptions. I could go for a real year of normalcy. 2013 is going to be a year for moving forward. Reflecting on the past and using that to move me forward. Not sure what that means but I will find out. The last few months we have lived out of more than 7 hotels and it is seriously thrown me off. Where it throws me, I will see. 2012 has taken me out of my game. I am hoping 2013 brings me back.”
My dad (Stan Feld) reminds us in his year end post that life is inches with a wonderful story of his from January 1, 1957.
All three of these posts brought me back to my December 3rd post titled Wow – That Was Intense which summarized a really tough period I went through last year between the start of September and the end of November. My dad’s post was especially poignant since if he had died on 1/1/57 I wouldn’t be here. And I so empathize with Fred – it’s hard for me to complain since overall my existence on this planet is awesome, but I had a really shitty three months at the end of the year.
I hit reset every year on my birthday (December 1) and describe it as “booting up a new version of myself” – in this case, v47. A month later I get to reflect on the reboot as everyone rings in the new year with hope, optimism, and renewal. If you had an Apple II, you know that hitting Reset rebooted the computer, so I’m not of the Ctrl-Alt-Del generation, but rather the Reset PR#6 generation. Either way, use whatever method you fancy and hit reset.
Welcome 2013. I’m looking forward to getting the most I can from the experience.
tl;dr: Fuck, I don’t know. I’m not in the prediction business. But plan for it. And behave accordingly.
A lot of people have been talking about how 2013 will be harder for startups and fast growing companies. Tiresome things like the endless discussion about the Series A crunch, more conservative behavior from VCs due to the performance of Facebook, Groupon, and Zynga in the public market, and overall concerns about the economy dominate. Counterarguments prevail as different people try to predict and justify what’s going to happen.
All I know is that I have no idea what is going to happen. The macro is exogenous to me – I can’t impact or control it. So rather than try to predict what is going to happen, I’m going to assume a tougher 2013 for startups until I have evidence that it’s not.
I sent Fred Wilson’s post Advice for 2013: Deliver On Your Promises out to our CEO email list. I felt like Fred’s punch line was powerful.
“So if I can give entrepreneurs a single piece of advice for 2013 it would be to deliver on your promises. Not just to your investors but also to your team and ultimately to yourself. This is no time to be in denial. That is a lethal attribute in times like these.“
That generated a response on the email thread about actionable advice. So, I responded with two examples:
1. Recognize that your expense plan will be linked to your promises. Tighten the time frame – do what a lot of successful companies have done in the past. Rather than having an annual 2013 plan, have a 1H13 and 2H13 plan. Lag your headcount growth behind what you need by a quarter, running “hot” on all fronts as you try to get the growth you expect. Hire only when this growth materializes. Then, replan 2H13 and 1H14 at the end of 1H13.
2. Make sure you know exactly how much money your EXISTING investors have reserved for you and are willing to fund you in 2013 independent of any new outside investors. Don’t ever be in a position where you need a new outside investor to continue operating your business.
I’ve got a bunch of others, but I’m curious what you think. Operate under the hypothesis that 2013 will be harder for startups than 2012. What are you going to do different in 2013?
At some point in the future, the machines will take over. At that time the machines can create Feldborgs if they so desire; until then there is only one of me.
After a day like today it’s hard to accept that I can’t go to every city on the planet and talk about Startup Communities. Today I was in LA – starting at LaunchPad LA, followed by a meeting with Ivee (so, so cool), then an interview with Jason Calacanis for This Week In Startups, and finishing up with a fantastic evening at Cross Campus, first with about 20 VCs who are the core of the LA VC community and then 300 or so entrepreneurs talking about Startup Communities until late in the night. It was an awesome day and my last travel day of the year.
On Monday, Kelly and I had a chance to go through my 2013 calendar and lock down commitments around Foundry Group and the companies I’m involved in, Startup Communities, and most importantly my beloved, Amy. While I am flattered by the plethora of interest in Startup Revolution, I don’t have the ability to do something physically in many of the cities (or countries for that matter) that I have been requested to visit in 2013. I’m tempted to revisit this after a great day like today, but I’ve made a commitment to myself and to Amy that I’m going to approach travel differently in 2013, and part of that is locking down where I’m going to be in advance of the start of the year.
However, just because I can’t be everywhere physically doesn’t mean I can’t participate remotely via Skype, Google Hangout or some other form of video conferencing technology. I’ve been gradually increasing this form of participation and have had great success with it. If for some reason I can’t make it to see you, but you think a remote session would be useful, just ask.
In the meantime, keep an eye on Startup Revolution where I will be posting book tour cities and dates for 2013 shortly. And – LA Startup Community – thanks for today. Y’all are awesome.