Entrepreneur · Motivation

Why are you doing this?

Jimmy Jacobson Full Stack Developer and Cofounder at Wedgies.com

June 24th, 2014

Being an entrepreneur can be tough. What motivates you? What gets you up in the morning? Why are you doing this?

Jimmy Jacobson Full Stack Developer and Cofounder at Wedgies.com

June 24th, 2014

I would love to hear what everyone thinks about this.

I've worked at some great companies as an employee. Like Overstock.com and Zappos.  354 days of the year I was happy, challenged and worked with other great people pushing new ideas and products forward. But there was always one day that I dreaded. The annual review.  This was the day when my managers would compare me to a checklist that was usually decided upon by the HR department of what made a good software developer.  It always seemed to ignore the parts of the projects I was the most proud of. 

Hackathons and Startup Weekends were my gateway into Entrepreneurship.  I discovered that the things I loved to do had a name and a job description.  I do this because my career path isn't to be an engineering manager at a large software organization.  Being an entrepreneur gives me the opportunity to develop and use the skills that make me happy.  Even when it's really hard.

Brandon White CEO of Zeuss, Inc.

June 24th, 2014

It's simple, I can not imagine doing anything else. I love to build things that solve problems and I'll be dead someday and may not get the chance to do it so I take advantage of every waking minute.

The tough part of being an entrepreneur is the fun of it for me. Every day you wake up with an adventure ahead of you, you get a chance to put your head on the pillow at night having possibly made or created something you had no idea about when you woke up. I go to sleep looking forward to waking up.

Once you have been an entrepreneur a while you realize that even the toughest times will pass into good times, the impossible becomes possible because you imagine it. Getting through the tough times is simply about having "courage" and "persistence". Courage is not about not being scared, it's about being scared but doing it anyway. Persistence is about keeping going even when you think you can't. The satisfaction of getting through things far outweighs any of the negatives, at least for me.

Steve Douty CEO of Nexo, Inc.

June 25th, 2014

Way back when I was interviewing for jobs out of college, I remember answer a question like "What motivates you in life?" with "I want to make a difference."  It sounded smart, important and I truly did want to become a CEO one day - but I didn't really understand what it meant.

Now on my sixth startup, I do understand much more about what I was trying to say. (I did chuckle at Dimitry's comment about world peace.) It doesn't have to be on a grand scale - but if you start a company, you can actually choose how you want to make that difference. You can pay attention to how companies and people are struggling and find solutions that make things better for them. And, if you've found the right problem, hired the right team and directed the right work - you get rewarded.

The potential financial rewards are obviously great. There is also the feeling that your company was able to have a positive influence people's work and/or personal lives. Back in the 90s, BSG helped pave the way for client/server computing and Hotmail made email simple. In the 2000s, Moxie Software helped the employees of large companies collaborate in a different way and now with Smaarts we're changing the nature of enterprise security.

Not everything you touch will be successful - VCs have a track record of one home run out of 20 companies, and maybe a few singles. But I've learned more from failure than from success. So if you have an appetite for learning, starting a company is one of the fastest paths to sating it. And if you keep trying, your hard work combined with a measure of good luck will pay off.

Plus, you actually do have some control over the culture of the company - because you will hire people you love to work with, and they will do the same, and so on. When you're dumped into the middle of a huge organization, that ship has sailed and half of your job is understanding it, playing the game and avoiding getting trampled by it. Regardless of the pablum on their web sites, 99% of large companies are not entrepreneurial. (For fun, take a look at employee reviews on Glassdoor.)

The happiest people I know have more than just money in their pocket - they feel like they've made some sort of positive change or contribution, no matter how large or small.

Dimitry Rotstein Founder at Miranor

June 25th, 2014

1. Because I tried working at a big company, having an inferior superior, working when THEY want me to, not when I want to, with 14 vacation days a year pending permission... it's just not for me. I was miserable and level-7 depressed all the time. Entrepreneurship is an emotional roller-coaster, they rightfully say, but even at the lowest points I'm no worse than at that big company, except that over there that low was a flat line, rather than a point.

2. Because I hate my neighbors with their barking dogs, booming music, night parties, and petty jerkness (if there isn't such a word there should be). My only hope is a house with no neighbors around, but I can't afford anything like that on a programmer's salary, at least not without seriously lowering my standards of living. I'm not desperate enough to become a monk or go living in the woods like Tarzan, so my hope is to become sufficiently rich to escape.

3. Oh yes, and world piece :-)

Mike Masello

June 25th, 2014

Thank you for putting this thread out there.

I agree with a lot of the sentiments above.  I've always loved my job, but like you those dreaded annual reviews where everyone has to fit the same template were a spirit killer. What brought me here was an experience where I worked day and night for a year on a web redesign, and when it launched it doubled the company's sales overnight.  The forecasted impact was about 1/10th that.  Despite this I was told I wasn't good at my job.  It was by far the most successful project (talking $$$) in the company's 7 years of existence.

I don't ever want to be in that position again.  Being an entrepreneur provides the opportunity to be rewarded for risk and effort that you just can't get as an employee.  You can chart your own path.

The most difficult part is I do/did really enjoy the team environment.  So that's another motivator to succeed is to get to a point where you have team members to bounce ideas off of, share in successes, etc.


June 24th, 2014

Because being busy all the time means I don't have to cope with social awkwardness!

Kind of joking, but workaholism should be kept in check I now recognize.

Real answer, you must be the change you want to see in the world.


June 25th, 2014

I tend to rail against the machine when I'm put into a standard corporate environment. I guess I just don't like being told what to do. I'm very skilled at a lot of things that aren't called "showing up on time" or "not being argumentative". So, it's either this, or the soup line.

Ben West CTO at Health eFilings

June 25th, 2014

Ethics: http://80000hours.org/blog/12-salary-or-startup-how-do-gooders-can-gain-more-from-risky-careers

Eric Sullivan CEO at FoundationLab

June 25th, 2014

Jimmy, my company was built to help entrepreneurs validate and bring products to market by acting not just as dev's and designers but as strategic partners. Which is extremely gratifying. You have someone who is extremely passionate about an idea but lacks a lot of the experience they need which going through the process can take making a lot of mistakes which in turn burns cash. Helping them to alleviate these mistakes and do things right the first time it's a lot of education for them on the fly but is very rewarding throughout the whole process.

Nick Mancusi Designer | Entrepreneur

June 25th, 2014

I can't imagine doing what I do any other way and being happy.  

I am a designer - a creative in the truest sense of the word - to me design is the ingredient that makes or breaks products and builds or crumbles societies.  To do what I love I need space to think, I need to go around in circles, I need to be able to cut out things that don't work, and introduce items that where never on the table without permission, without hesitation - something that is rarely possible in the confines of most corporate settings.  That freedom to do the most with the limited time I have - I love it.

To boot, I'm a horrible employee.  I don't play well with typical tasks, I'm still mystified by a photocopier, I have learning disabilities like the rest of us - working for someone is more impossible to me than coming up with an idea for tomorrow that could change the way we live forever.  That is just how I see the world. I've only had a few "real" jobs working for someone - other than that I've always either lead or worked with individuals - I prefer it.  I like to be in the center of it all. 

The ability to have control of what I do, the ability to push my team to give more to society, the opportunity to make sure that everything I do is the best idea, the best design that can be delivered without the fetters of someone else's rules is what gets me going everyday.  I wake up with a new idea and I have the power to turn that idea into a reality, to change the way people live, to go out on a limb and take big risks and there is nothing holding me back, but me.