On Keeping Notes as a Founder

Thanks Brian Pirie via 500px CC


When Vince Monical and I founded our first company, we had no idea what we were doing.  We knew something about strategy, but hiring, firing, managing, product design, engineering and software development were all pretty much blank slates.  Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes, and learned more than I have than at any other point in my life.  “Trial by fire” felt more literal than figurative at times.

Having moved to London to start the company, we had little network to rely upon for advice and guidance.  One figure that stood out was Vince’s father-in-law.  Neither of us were genetically driven to entrepreneurship, being the offspring of teachers and accountants.  But through marrying well, Vince had brought an honest to god entrepreneur, CEO and manager into the bloodline.

I can distinctly recall two pieces of very good advice he gave us, and I will share them with you, and at least the first one has my endorsement:


Tip #1:  Keep a Journal

I had never been the journaling type, and I thought of this as I recently began writing in a journal again.  But he urged us to keep a record of the wild journey we were about to undertake, and despite my reservations I did.

There is an obvious benefit: starting your first company is going to be one of the most memorable things you do in your entire life.  It will be a whirlwind of activity and emotion, highs and lows.  The first year will feel like a decade, win or lose.  And I promise you, as you get older, you will lose the color and the shape of those memories, of the epic struggles around firing an employee or signing the first big customer, and you will be grateful at some point to go back and relive them.

There is a less obvious benefit:  writing will bring peace and settledness to you during a very unsettling period.  Being a founder is an emotionally taxing experience, and by organizing your thoughts and letting a lot of the emotion and challenges out through your pen, you will (if you are like most people) gain some perspective on them.

Write, and you won’t regret it.


Tip #2: Wear Bright Colors

I actually have no idea if this is correct advice.  But no one had ever taken my picture before with the idea of publishing it, and David came though with a strongly held point on view: when being photographed, wear a bright shirt that will stand out.  I’ll let you judge the results, but I’d have to say I don’t think I pull it off.


Who’s the guy on the right with all that hair?


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Written by Josh Hannah
Josh Hannah joined Matrix Partners after a career as a serial entrepreneur (Betfair, eHow, wikiHow.) Read more about Josh.
  • Roger Rohrbach

    And I knew a fair amount about software development, but little about any of those other things, most of which I was tasked with doing, either alone or in collaboration with others. Moreover (and maybe this was true for you), I didn’t know at first how little I knew. As my ignorance became increasingly difficult to, ah, ignore, I scrambled to learn how to do my job, on the job. I used to run across the road to Benugo at lunchtime and draft war plans for the week, or sometimes just for the next meeting.

    Having been thrown into the deep end, I was too busy swallowing water to consider that the founders were also learning as they went. A pity, that; I might have been less hard on myself (and on you). Neverthless, it’s undeniable that I, too, learned more in those eighteen months than in any other job.

    Wish I’d kept a journal!

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