Orphan StartUp Founders: No Place To Call Home

"I work extremely hard doing what I love, mainly to ensure that I don't have to work extremely hard doing what I hate."
— Hugh MacLeod

Orphan StartUp Founders: No Place To Call Home

Dear Reader,

Being a StartUp Founder can feel like being a nomad. You’re driven by a vision, fueled by passion, but often, you find yourself alone, with no place to call home. [Tweet]

The brutal world of nomad or sometimes referred to as orphan founders is a place where dreams are born, innovation thrives, but a path that is mostly lonely, and unforgiving. It’s often self-inflicted, a result of locking yourself away, abandoning people around you in pursuit of your vision. Other times, it’s the reality that no one else gets it, or you.

Book: Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging” by Sebastian Junger – A deep dive into the human craving for a tribe.

Last week: StartUp Arrogance: Brand Beats Product. Every Single Day.

Your employees, investors, board? They might love you and they are part of your journey, but they don’t fill the void. It’s rarely a true safe space.

You’re the one awake, dissecting every decision, processing every investor rejection. The burden of financial strain and decision fatigue is real and heavy. Yes, you need to work harder, more focused, more aggressive, more everything, the “f*ck you all, just watch me” syndrome but you must have some routine and some level of self-care.

Even nomad founders – with all their external brute bravado need to recharge, so build systems that offer some predictability in a journey filled with unknowns. Burnout isn’t a badge of honor; it’s a red flag.

All compounded by the hype bubble of Silicon Valley, the seductive allure of founders doing founder things with founder people at founder places. It’s why accelerators can be so potent, not just for the resources and the cash, but for the makeshift family they create. People who get you.

As a founder, you have to find comfort in your role, the outlier, the lone wolf. A co-founder can exponentially reduce that pressure, but if they are a hired, found, or making up for a deficiency co-founder vs a long-time friend – that support is usually within the confines of the vision, the common dream, you don’t have enough shared baggage!

Being a founder is more than the empire you are building, it’s as much about the relationships your create. It’s about the emotional toll, the weight of decisions, the relentless pressure of expectations. It’s that moment when you realize that customers become friends quicker than friends become customers.

Even work from home, it’s enabled a 24/7 global org with access to the best talent from day one, but it’s also amplified isolation. You’re no longer just physically distant; you’re emotionally distant. The birthday celebrations, high fiving when something goes fab, crying when it doesn’t, impromptu brainstorming, the simple act of the conversations between the meetings? Gone. Everyone is a pixel on a screen, each with their own set of priorities.

So, take more chances, be one iota more proactive in a random introduction. Seek guidance not from the unreachable giants (yes, we all want the titan of industry on our advisory slide) but instead look for those just one step ahead of you. Find mentors who just walked your path, who have a fresh memory of your now, they understand.

Find your tribe. Go search for it, it’s not going to ring your doorbell. Find people who understand, who’ve been there, who can guide you, challenge you, and lift you up, and maybe, spend a day a week at WeWork.

Embrace this journey, with all its mayhem, this path is not a curse, you chose it. Turn isolation into inspiration, loneliness into leadership, and uncertainty into unbreakable resolve.

Now go build your home.

— James

(LinkedIn | Twitter | Tiktok)

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