November 10, 2014


What does it feel like to be CEO of a startup?

Note that in the diagram below "Happiness" spends almost all of the time far below pre-startup levels. Note also that the "trough of sorrow" is long, and even gets worse before it gets better. 

Just about everyone who has been there, done that, will have some vivid memories of that period of time. It's a great question because you get some amazing answers. Kinda makes you wonder why anyone would do it if they knew it was going to be so consuming.

I figure that most people become a startup CEO without any idea what it will truly be like. 

Consider for a moment that taking on the role of a startup CEO is just about the easiest thing a person can do, at the outset. All you need to do is just start down the path. With that first step you become a startup CEO. 

Some may have been prepared for it to be tough, but then "tough" is relative, and unless they have experienced off-the-scale tough, then they can't imagine startup tough.

Investors would be smart to give preference to CEOs who have been through it at least once before.

Here are some of my favorite answers to the question about what it's like to be a startup CEO:

Being an entrepreneur is like eating glass 

and staring into the abyss of death.

Elon Musk

Starting a company is like throwing yourself off a cliff 

and assembling an airplane on the way down.

Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn

Personal note: 
With significant experience as a pilot, and a serial startup CEO,
I totally agree with Reid Hoffman's take on how it feels,
except that I would add "... without instructions" to the end of his quote.

A startup feels like this. 
Now imagine driving 100mph with no lights.
Bryce Dot VC

For more on what it feels like to be CEO of a startup, check out these Quora answers.