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It felt like the first-time

Yesterday I introduced my brand new startup, PublicBeta, to the world. As I was getting through the final to do's, and putting the checks & balances in place, before flipping the switch, I found myself feeling a tad queezy. I stopped typing and it felt like I had a thousand butterflies scurrying about in my tummy. WTF.

The launch wasn't technical and there wasn't much that could possibly go wrong. But I was nervous like hell.

What surprised me about this sensation was that I have quite a bit of experience in releasing pretty major stuff. This wasn't the first time that I would flick that "go-live" switch, yet every sensation and every emotion I experienced made it feel like my first time.

I'm no virgin

My entrepreneurial journey probably started about 10 years ago when I started dabbling into what I would call "projects" (as calling those businesses would probably be an exaggeration). I have also been a startup entrepreneur for about the last 6 years, having launched the product that would eventually become WooThemes on 2 November 2007.

I'm not sure whether that 6 year period qualifies me for Malcolm Gladwell's 10 000 hour rule and I doubt that I fit the description of being an expert at either entrepreneurship or startups. But what I do know is that yesterday's launch for PublicBeta wasn't my first time.

I'm not a virgin in that sense. Yet, my emotions got the better of me yesterday.

This is literally what the timeline of my emotions (from yesterday) looks like:

  • 4:45pm: We're going live in 15 minutes. Awesome!
  • 4:50pm: Everything seems fine and I've double-checked all the critical bits & bobs. Super-awesome!
  • 4:51pm: We're going live in 9 minutes. Fuck.
  • 4:52pm: What happens if no one signs up?
  • 4:55pm: It's okay if no one signs up. Wait, at least one person should sign up; even if it's my mom. One person is good.
  • 4:56pm: WHAT!? To make this a business and to justify my $100k investment, we need like a thousand people to sign up.
  • 4:59pm: Shit. T-minus 1. No backing out.
  • 5:00pm: Go-live. Finally! Been waiting for this day for weeks. 
  • 5:01pm: No sign ups yet. But we've built it & they will come.
  • 5:05pm: No sign ups still and whoever said "build it & they will come" is a dick. They obviously got it wrong. Completely.
  • 5:10pm: First signup. And it's an annual plan @ $300. Everything is right in the world.
  • 5:11pm: Clicking refresh every 10 seconds now. Second signup and it's annual plan again. $600 in revenue. I'm a millionaire. Yeah!
  • 5:15pm: I pour a glass of wine and I settle in for some prime-time (sales dashboard) viewing. This is the fruits of my labour and my version of sitting on an island with a Pina Colada.

What rollercoaster?

I shared that timeline to illustrate the contradiction in my experiences and emotions yesterday. I know every entrepreneur says that the greater entrepreneurial journey is a rollercoaster. But yesterday I experienced that rollercoaster (with multiples downs and a few ups) in a short span of 30 minutes. I was absolutely petrified throughout and whilst in that moment, I hated it.

I absolutely hated feeling so vulnerable, being scared and knowing that whilst I can feel good about shipping something, failure is still a very real probability.

I've previously written about how all entrepreneurs are scared before starting. The difference is just that they eventually pick up that JFDI mindset and they start.

There is no journey that has no start. And everyone or everything has to start somewhere.

I'm no super-human

It's been about 24 hours since launch and I've had a bit of quiet time today to reflect on the emotions from yesterday.

What I realized is that I'm human, I'm average and I'm a mere-mortal. Yes, I've been a very successful entrepreneur with WooThemes. But I've also tanked my second startup (Radiiate), where I lost more than $100k. To date and statistically, I'm a one-hit wonder.

I also still have a mortgage to pay and I'm only a theoretical millionaire on paper. I'm by no means a self-made man that has any guarantees in life for the future.

I've poured my heart & soul into PublicBeta and I've chosen to pursue passion over money. None of that makes me invincible though and I too am fighting the odds to succeed here.

Too many times we look up to entrepreneurs whom we consider to be our role models. People that have been immensely successful; people that have become the thought leaders of our time. We look at them in awe when they sell their companies for $1bn.

They too started somewhere. I bet you that they too knew about the risks and odds before they started. And they were probably scared as well.

Heck, yesterday should've been easier for me considering I had 6+ years of experience. Yet, yesterday was so much harder than I ever imagined.

We are all battle-wounded soliders. For whatever reason, we have wounds from our past that prevent us from taking action and startingWe've forgotten that the first time and taking the first step is the hardest part.

Worse is that we've invented all these excuses for not just starting. Instead we've become really eloquent in explaining to others why we haven't quit that shitty corporate job, picked up that hobby, written that book we've talked about or started our own companies.

We're all vulnerable and we're all scared. What separates us though is our willingness to embrace the chaos (along with the weird, contradictory emotions that comes with that) and to actually start.

Real artists ship.