I Don’t Know How to Run a Start-Up and Neither Does Anyone Else

I incorporated The ODIN in 2013 in the state of Illinois while doing my Ph.D. in Biophysics at the University of Chicago. It took me three tries sending in the paperwork by mail.

Back then I thought running a business was easy. How hard could it be? You have a product and people buy it. I thought people who went to business school were lame and that running a business took little more than common sense. Now, in 2017, after running the business part-time while working at NASA, raising over $70k in a crowdfunding campaign, getting employees and making The ODIN a full-time endeavour and trying to stay afloat without any VC funding. I have found that in truth, running a business is hard.

Maybe alot of that is on me. I never ran a business before or had someone to teach me. I don’t have rich parents or a savings. I don’t have a wealthy significant other or friends. No co-founder to this day yet, because all of the people I pitched thought I was crazy or weren’t willing to leave their job to help. I own 96.7% of my company(I gave my amazing mother 2.5% because she does all the accounting and George Church 0.8% for his advice and DNA and other things). I owe alot to many people who have helped and supported me and believed in me along the way but maybe I never asked for enough help.

The ODIN is now a self-sufficient company that runs off of revenue and blood, sweat and tears. It got that way through lots of failure and mistakes. I’m an amateur. But don’t get me wrong I have tried to overcome my lack of knowledge. I read(and by read I mean audiobook) all the books they tell you to read and more, Zero to One by Peter Thiel, The Hard thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, The Start-up checklist, The everything store, Steve Jobs Biography, Elon Musk’s Biography, The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump, Paul Grahams blog, &c., &c. I read and continue to read alot. There are some small tidbits of insight in some of these but 99.9% of the material just didn’t apply to me or I felt can’t really be applied to Start-Ups. I mean, I know I should hire only the most amazing employees evar but yeah, I have a budget… Most of these books or websites tell stories of people who were either stochastically in the correct place at the correct time(some call it luck) or who had extensive support networks and connections(i.e. hundreds of thousands invested from family and friends) but one thing is common, most all blame the successes on themselves. They tell you that they know how to make a Start-Up succeed when most of them never even ran a actual Start-Up, never were involved in marketing or sales or logistics. Never slummed it and struggled like most Start-Up founders.

I usually write about Science and Biohacking but I like talking about my other life as a Start-Up founder so I figured I might also enjoy writing about it. Not only will it get me to really figure out and understand what I have learned but also I hope to learn alot from others who are also actually in the arena now through comments and suggestions. I hope to give actually applicable advice that people can use on how I have grown and continue to grow my company.