This applies to me personally. I'm currently suffering from an anxiety disorder that prevents me from working somewhere else on location, outside of my own home. I'm currently running a startup as the main founder together with my co-founder who lives in a different country. He's cool with my condition as I'm always able to deliver and lead the company. Some days I simply can't work but I always make up for it as I never work less than 40 hours a week. I'm doing this full-time now.
We're launching our product end of this year and I want to start expanding the team. Seeing as we eventually need to raise funds and me being the current CEO, I was wondering if my condition to not leave my house could be an obstacle for other people to join me or invest in my startup. I know that investors usually want to see you in real life but my condition makes that very hard.
What would be the best way to go about? Should I find someone else to act as the CEO or would most people not find it an issue as long as the product does well?
It's not the anxiety itself that may give people pause, but part of what a CEO does is meeting other people - staying at home all the time would eventually cause you some grief in business, even if you made the home environment your company's office. If it were me, I would hire someone I trusted, even if just on a contract basis, to be the "voice" and delegate some of that work to them. You can still set the agenda, just find someone who can deliver it smoothly and follow up on questions. You should also consider seeking treatment that may help you overcome or at least lessen the severity of that aspect of your condition, if not already.
I am sure it would create challenges for everyone. Michael's response is a good one about hiring a cofounder to be the voice. I am sure there would be a lot of people who would have a lot of respect for you for pushing your boundaries and be happy to find ways of working together. And IMHO nobody is "normal" - the human race would be boring if we were.
From my experience, being a startup founder is enough in itself to CAUSE an anxiety disorder! A lot of teams can and do work very well in a virtual environment today - there are a lot of tools that help enable that. The 2 things that I find are not so easy to do virtually is relationship building and fundraising.
Relationship building is a catch all that spreads across nearly every vertical, whether for culture and leadership for your own team members, getting feedback from early adopters, selling the vision to the outside world or selling your product to customers (tho with some SaaS type products, this is not as critical). Without building a relationship that goes beyond emails or phone calls, gaining the trust necessary to do some of these is really hard to do.
A special category is fundraising, where relationship building is paramount since most of the time, the money is not investing in the idea or the company so much as they are investing in a person or a couple of people that they trust.
Can this be done? Sure. It can be worked around to a degree. Is it a limiting factor? Possibly, most especially as you get larger. The key, as others have mentioned, is to have someone who has the face to face skills you lack and who can articulate the vision and be your surrogate when and where it is needed. That said, investors especially are going to want to be comfortable with you, the original founder - again the word is trust. Video conferencing can help but someone is going to have to probably do the physical networking it takes to get the meetings with the investors in the first place.
Its daunting for a fact - but a word of encouragement, investors will much more accepting of a founder's "peculiarities" in direct proportion to the amount of traction the business has. Create a good business and people will FIND a way to work with you.
Michael, Steve and Stephen..
Thank you guys so much for your honest feedback as well as the encouragement. I did not expect such thorough answers. I will find someone to be the face and voice of the company and hopefully when the business will start to get some serious traction I'll let that speak for itself as well.
Much obliged guys!
Read Traction by Gino Wickman and E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. Then ask yourself what the best role is to serve in for the company.
Your post reflects a high level of self-awareness that I think will go a long way in your favor. To that end, as long as you continue to be mindful of how your work limitations might impact employees and take steps to make sure that it does not become an impediment to them doing their work, your condition shouldn't interfere with your ability to find good employees, especially if they believe in your product.
Fundraising is another story. If you're raising from friends and family, and even some angel investors you may be able to work around your condition. If it is your intention to pursue venture funding, at some point you will have to do an in person presentation. The degree of concern potential investors will have about your anxiety condition will probably be reduced in direct proportion to the degree of traction your company has achieved. So you may have to delay raising funds until your metrics are so strong that VC's are chasing you. If that's not possible, you may need to consider letting someone else take the lead role.
Entrpreneurs come in all shapes and sizes so you can have success no matter your situation. However its understood that the ability to connect with people face to face is a massive business advantage. A CEO closed off to the outside world would need to get really creative with growth or hire people or founders that complement you. Understand your current situation, accept it and pull the right strings.
If you were suffering from IBS or diabetes or some other chronic condition would you be asking this question?
You might suffer greatly - many of us do from something. You have to fight and not be defined by what you cant do.
It sounds like you must be doing well if you are looking for funding. My suggestion is to fake it till you make it. Hire a talking head but make sure you in charge.
If you have the ability your disability is irrelevant. If your not outgoing hire someone who is. advertising your disability would not be a selling point. Be proud of the successes you have had - none of us can see the rest.