Friday, October 26, 2012

A Pause to Take in the View Before Building Again

One of my cross-country teammates in college gave a pep talk before a big race that "when you get up to the top of the hill mid-race, remember to pause to take in the view.”  Over my career this has proved a good lesson, and one that ultimately has allowed me to be thoughtful before charging ahead on big endeavors.  My current path is determined by it.

I left Google for the second time after an 8-year non-stop run of startup craziness.  I had joined Google before it was 1,000 employees, and had seen it grow to 20,000 and beyond.  I went straight into starting Aardvark, and two years later Google acquired the 30-person company.  I committed to return for six months to help transition the team, and then had a year or so to ponder what would come next, and most of all, a chance to take in the view.

I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan with my now fiance as she finished her MBA.  I spent a decent amount of time traveling (India, Ireland). I lightly plugged into a number of entrepreneurial scenes -- both the one around Ann Arbor, as well as briefly in Washington, DC near my sister.  I spent some time with the portfolio companies of investors I know, which quickly taught me that I could only advise a few people at once. I spent the winter semester teaching at the University of Michigan’s engineering school; pretty fun, and illuminating. A handful of prominent VCs pitched me to turn VC.

At the end of it, what I learned was that I love building.  Especially when it involves people.  Building companies, building cultures.  Building products for people.  Investors work with people too, but much less directly; they get to thoughtfully apply money to help other people cause change.  The best investors also frequently act as teachers / advisors, and get to give knowledge to help other people cause change too.  Builders get to cause the change directly.

I've spent the past twelve months creating something I believe has been needed for some time.  I first had to decide that I wanted to build a company again, and I'm glad I took the time for it to be a conscious choice.  And even then, it took a bit of serendipity and the right team to come together to make it happen.  The real impact is still to come, and if you’d like to help or be an early participant, please let me know.

I was at a CEO summit about a month ago and another CEO I’ve known for some time pulled me aside to say, "I'm glad you're back."   I am too.


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