On Being a Founder

Building a company is an exciting yet difficult journey. It takes a lot of hard work, belief and commitment to the process for a very long time. Most people are not willing to do this, even the entrepreneurs are hard pressed on whether to continue on such a hard journey. Most of them give up and that is where they fail. Commitment to this process is not everything but it is most definitely what will get you through it.

In this essay, I will talk about what it takes to be a founder from my perspective. Being a founder means that you are starting something new like a business, a movement, a nation, a religion and so on. It is someone with a vision, who can articulate it and organizes people to build this vision.

1. Be a Student

A founder and entrepreneur must be a student of the game. One must study the companies in the industry but also study the companies of other industries and even ages. One must even be curious about the building of nations, scientific advances and pure intellectual, political and social endeavor. Being a founder is a lifestyle that must be committed to. Like the Knights Templar, one must identify and believe in this course in life. Like a monk, he must immerse himself in this process and become one with it. He must look up to the people before him who have done great things and study the how of their achievements as much as he aspires to their why.

2. All About Optimism

This road is not for the faint-hearted, the pessimist, cynic and pure energy-takers. One must be an optimist in this journey of entrepreneurship. Like other founders of nations, movements, political parties and schools of thought, one must envision a future that they believe must exist. They see it in their minds as reality and see no other way. They believe that the best way to predict the future is to build it. They believe that it will be built, whether it is by them or someone else. Their unwavering optimism is required to create the future. I will quote Steve Jobs:

When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you're life is just to live your life inside the world.

Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.

That's a very limited life.

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.

- Steve Jobs (Co-founder of Apple Computers)

3. Strong Belief in the Vision

A founder must be unwavering in this vision and believe that he is the most knowledgeable person about his business. As a founder, you have talked to many customers, dwelled on the problems that they face and how you can fix them with the tools that you have around you. You have built solutions to these problems and you have tested their effectiveness at solving said problems. You have proposed hypotheses and tested them through experimentation. You have talked to the experts of the field and hired the best people you can afford to build the solution and take it to the hands of your customers. Don't let an amateur who has taken a 10-second thought to judge and dismantle your business unless they are facing the problem you are solving or are a user of the product. Listen to customers, not bystanders.

4. Do the Hard Things

A founder must be willing to do whatever it takes to push the needle. Don't shy away from hard work, learning new things and looking like a fool. You must do what it takes for the company. Only employees and academics have the luxury of a job description. In the real world, where there are many moving parts and an everchanging landscape, it is crucial that you put your pride aside, pick that shovel and shovel up some shit. You must do the hard things that no one is willing to do in the company then hire someone to come in and do it. Hard things are always the hard problems, the hard customer, the hard compliance issue, the hard conversation with an employee. Other people in the company are not willing to do that. It is up to you to do it. You are the only one who cares more about your company that other people. Defend it.

5. Stay calm and be swift

A founder must be cool when things fall apart but swift in his action to fix a crisis. Things will always fall apart in this game. That's the reality that must be accepted but is never learnt until you see it for yourself a couple of times. When things start to settle, a rock is thrown and the environment spirals out of control. It is important to keep your cool and move swiftly. You have to figure out what needs to get fixed and how. You must push the people around you to move with the same urgency. In the moments of crisis, you are battling against the forces of evil. Failure to defeat this enemy will prove that you are weak, slow and incapable of the journey ahead. You will most surely fail if you continue at that pace. You never know if you are one failure away from ending the journey prematurely. Move swift and decisively, this is not a drill, we are at war.

6. Paint the Vision with Excitement

A founder must inspire and get people exciting about the future. You must be the most excited person about thing you are building. Once this is true, it becomes almost natural to transfer this passion to the people around you. It is infectious by default, especially when it lands on the ears of driven and committed people in the team. As they say, don't throw roses at swine. There will always be those who will not understand. They will neither get what you are trying to do nor why you are so passionate about it. Most people will not get it unless they see the success. Unfortunately, their imagination is not cut out to see such a vision. That's just how the world is. It is best to leave those people behind. Move fast and their lack of commitment will show. To weed out the non-committed, move fast and they will sick out like a sour thumb ready for weeding.

7. Build The Organisation then Build The Product

A founder must intentionally craft his organisation just as much as he crafts his product and go-to-market. Having a great team is more important than having a great product and go-to-market strategy. This is because a great team can always move fast and figure out the best product to build and how to sell it. A poor team can have everything on their lap and lose it just like that. You can be as competent as you like, but if you have a poor team, they will drag you down like an anchor. You will have to either let them go or they will kill the company. Even when you have great people onboard, one must craft a culture on how they must work together to build a great product and dominate your market. It is necessary to form the kind of culture that builds the kind of company that you want. If you want an inventive company, the culture must be around experimentation, openness to new ideas and creativity. If you want a profit-oriented culture, the culture must be about clear sales targets, closing deals quickly and always being alert to opportunity.

8. A Hint of Naivete

A founder must have a hint of naivete when getting started. It helps to be new to the game of entrepreneurship because you don't realise how hard this game is. There are so many roadblocks that come your way and most people would not try if they knew the risks. Startups are a horrible financial investment but they are an amazing personal investment. There is so much that you will learn from this journey that will make you a better person overall. You will unearth what you are capable of and it will push you to start your next venture. The optimism of a founder is almost seen as naive to most people. They will say, "There is high-probability of failure so why try?"". The founder responds, "Why not? How hard could it be?" This requires a lot of belief and a mouth-full of naivete. In a world with so many problems to solve, this presents opportunity. The world needs more naivete. It is the thing that has pushed humanity forward.


Being a founder is a lot more than what I have just described above. These are the things that come to mind for me as I close 2023. It has been a blast building Shukran and I cannot wait for what 2024 has in store. It has been a journey and a half and I am looking forward to the next journey and a halves ahead. Cheers and have a happy new year.