The yardstick for Building Small

I’m a builder. Teams. Companies. Products. It is what gets me out of bed everyday with a smile on my face. But the road is filled with people who have a thousand reasons of why you can’t do “x” which is why we entrepreneurs tend to congregate with each other.

Of late I’m worried about builders in a culture that cherishes the success of the billion dollar sale or better now know as the “Unicorn Club“. The odds of becoming a billion dollar exit in internet related companies is 1 in 1,538 so you have better odds at playing in the NHL or making the NBA from college then building a Unicorn. This leads us down a path of raising large sums of cash from VC’s who need ever bigger exits to make the numbers work. I’ve had an uncomfortable number of recent conversations with fellow entrepreneurs who are going to easily raise $2-$10+ Million on the back of their highly unprofitable but very cool company. Which they hope to raise into a Unicorn or maybe a Pony Unicorn.

I live in an old mill town of 30,022 people that has plenty of office space and is needing 150 more builder/entrepreneurs to come build the next $15 Million dollar company. Bootstrapped, local, unsexy, but inherently worth getting out of bed for.  Maybe I’m jaded being on startup #8. One spectacular failure, one humbling failure, two going concerns, and four exits. Two above $200 Million.  At best I’ve batted .500. What if the yardstick was jobs created? Or references given? Or kids in fully paid daycare? Or the number of employees that make it to retirement?

At 41 these are the questions that I wrestle with. If you are a fellow or aspiring builder send me your yardstick as I’m busy wrestling with mine.