Another year in the books. Time, once again, for our annual introspection.
(By way of reference, here are the retrospectives from last year, our 5th anniversary, our 4th anniversary, 3rd anniversary, and first. Somehow, we missed the second year – probably for good reason as that was a particularly turbulent time.)
The theme of this past year was one of growth – growth in customers, growth in product (features and capabilities), and growth in team.
Life is very good. How did we get here, though?
Really, the story can be told by looking at the failure rate of all startups over time – it’s severe at first, but bottoms out somewhat after five years:
In the early going, when the risk of failure is great, EVERYTHING is a struggle.
You are simultaneously trying to build a first product, build a team, and build business processes – all the while worrying about just keeping the lights on (i.e., continuously raising money to keep the ever-depleting bank balance above zero).
The day-to-day environment is relentlessly chaotic. Young businesses are inherently unstable, and any misstep can be fatal.
Gain is no longer in that space.
We, like other companies who have been the right combination of “lucky” and “good” and reached a certain tenure, have transitioned to a new set of challenges. We have achieved product-market fit, made great hires who form a core team, and created a vibrant business.
Boy – what a struggle, though. Much of the time, progress was a two-steps forward, one step back affair.
As Gain enters its eighth year, much is different, but it’s still stressful. This phenomenon is reminiscent of American cycling great Greg LeMond’s observation on what changed as he reached the most elite levels of performance:
“It never gets easier; you just go faster.”
Early-stage companies present a never-ending set of challenges, but the types of challenges change (for the better) over time. A mature startup is still hard work, but a different flavor.
Occasionally, it can be satisfying to look up and reflect on just how far you’ve come. And then get back to work.