What Drives a Startup Founder?

I’ve been working on numerous projects since the year began, and on Sunday night I finally got around to watching The Social Network. My expectation was that the movie was going to be a breathless attempt by Hollywood to insert themselves in something cool and relevant, a tin-eared paean to their own importance. “Hey, we can be part of the social media revolution too – check out this awesome movie we made!”

But I was wrong – the movie was excellent. I assume that aside from some specific numbers regarding equity and valuation that the movie is a pretty accurate depiction of the early years of Facebook. I don’t know Mark, but from the movie I gathered that he was a socially challenged person who was very, very focused on getting one thing done.

What Drives Me

The image that gripped me most from The Social Network was the scene where Mark and the early Facebook engineering team were living together in a small house in Palo Alto, hammering out code and taking ziplines into the swimming pool. I thought “that’s what an adventure looks like – this is what being in a startup should be all about.”

The biggest thing that attracts me to startups is the desire to be a part of a great team and the sense of shared accomplishment and camaraderie that comes along with it. I tried going it fully alone in my last startup because I simply couldn’t wait to find the right teammates any longer, and I just wanted to give it a try. It didn’t work – lesson learned.

I’ve had countless ideas, some of which I’ve tried to implement, but up until I joined Microsoft I was never on a team where everyone really gave a shit and pulled their own weight. My friends in high school and in college talked a lot of game, but no one ever stepped up with me to try to actually accomplish something. So that’s why that particular scene reached me – everyone gave a shit and did the requisite work to prove it.

Not-giving-a-shit is a disease; it corrupts morale and ruins companies. I’ve been in situations where I came into something full of ideas, energy, and effort to match, but was quickly ruined by the malcontent spirits known as don’t-give-a-shitters. If you find yourself surrounded by these types – get out before they spread the infection to you and waste your life.

I’m motivated by working with an effective team of people who want to achieve a common end. I don’t know what truly motivates Mark Zuckerberg, but my best guess is that he’s motivated by the experience of realizing a specific vision for Facebook: to map the college social experience online.

I found the whole experience of watching The Social Network to be deeply motivating - realizing an idea and doing it with the right people is better than all of the wealth in the world, and it's a hell of a lot better than making millions in the stock market. The movie made me want to be a better programmer; take more risks; find more potential teammates; and do it sooner rather than later.

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I'm the CTO and founder of Petabridge, where I'm making distributed programming for .NET developers easy by working on Akka.NET, Phobos, and more..