The First Startup Founder
It’s the first century A.D. and a middle-aged carpenter is starting to make some waves in a niche service industry. He recently decided to pivot from the manufacturing sector, and he recruited employees one, two, three, and four, even though they didn’t have any technical expertise, because he believed in them. He knew he could train them on the job.
Much like the founder of Soylent, this man proposed a revolutionary diet that he believed would change people’s lives. He gave free samples to 5,000 people, but his freemium model proved to be ineffective. Many of them signed up for a free trial but didn’t turn into paying customers.
He needed to be more effective. He needed to pivot the focus of his startup, or his early employees would abandon him.
Like many cattle-driving startup founders, he didn’t give bereavement leave because he believed that it was more important to push to the next deadline.
Nature was the mini-fridge in the startup’s outdoor break room, and when a fig tree didn’t produce soda and chips to feed the founder at his two o’clock snack time, he made the tree wither, even though it wasn’t even fig season.
While he wanted to bootstrap to retain creative control, there was discord amongst the first 12 employees. One of the disgruntled employees wanted to raise venture capital. This would increase his total earnings and make himself wealthy.
The disgruntled employee ended up betraying the founder’s original vision, which directly caused the founder’s death. He couldn’t live with himself, so he died, too. Twice.
After the founder died, the startup was run as a worker-owned co-op. It currently collects royalties on a popular book series, and is also in the self help business. They tried to spin-off into a defense contractor but that division was shutdown a while ago because of a shift in the market.
Some of us are drawn to the power and allure of success and fame in the hope that it will bring eternal happiness. But the true test of longevity is how long your memory lasts after you’re gone. We all live on like waves that slowly dissipate their energy across the great expanse, but some of us start as tsunamis with a great force that overtakes the world.