“Hi, I’m the founder of Artsicle. Well, the former founder. The founder of the former Artsicle. I’m Alex. I’m unemployed right now.”
After 5 years as a founder & CEO, my identity is so tangled up in my company I’m not sure where it ends and where I begin. I sneak Artsicle in to a conversation, the same way parents causally slip that cute thing their kid did yesterday into every discussion. I measure my worth by its worth. Since we’re shutting down Artsicle, where does that leave me? How do I measure my worth?
My company, Artsicle, failed. I can say that out loud now, usually without crying. I’ve cycled through my 5 stages of grief and recently completed the paperwork to make our dissolution official. And I actually feel pretty damn good about it — until I need to introduce myself to someone new.
Then I freeze. Who am I now? Who am I without this appendage I’ve grown so used to? How do I introduce myself? When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll say I consult for startups or that I’m taking a sabbatical. But more often I fall back on the comfortable — I’m the founder of Artsicle. All those answers are true, but all lack the complexity of who I am today. None ring true.
You see, as I’ve made peace with Artsicle’s failure, I’ve gotten stuck on this equation:
If Alex = Artsicle
& Artsicle = Failure
then Alex = Failure
Fuck. That packs a punch. Its true, I did fail many times. I failed the original idea, my investors, my team. Yet on a personal level, I can’t call 5 years of learning every single day a failure. The mistakes I made could fill pages. Every one of those decisions, big or small, has become part of who I am. They haunt me, but they also inform me as I move forward, hopefully making me stronger and smarter for next time. Because there will be a next time.
In the meantime, I’m Alex. It’s good to meet you.