Fred Wilson on Tenacity

Scott Francis
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Acceleration-FBThis post on Fred Wilson’s blog, “Tenacity”, should be inspirational to many bootstrapped businesses. He perfectly captures the challenge and the zeitgeist of tenacity in the context of the entrepreneur and the investor (because businesses aren’t just up and to the right like the image in this blog post):

One of the things I admire most in companies and their leaders is tenacity. I don’t mean sticking with a failed idea for too long. That is a mistake I see a lot of entrepreneurs make in the Seed and Series A stages. That does nobody any good.

I mean years 5-10, or years 10-15, of building a company. I am talking about the period long past when you find product market fit, long past when you raise your first eight digit round, long past your first revenue check, maybe even long past your first profitable month.

As we’re approaching our 9th anniversary as a company, thinking about year’s 10+ is already on our radar.  We faced difficult challenges early in our life as a company, as we waded through the Great Recession.  We’ll face new challenges right in front of us as our business matures and grows geographically as well as in terms of offerings.

Fred puts this in perspective with a few examples from his own portfolio:

  • SoundCloud, which worked out distribution deals that took 3 years to negotiate.  Three Years.  I thought some of our contract negotiations could take too long! Apple has, I’m sure, had similarly long negotiation cycles with content producers.
  • ReturnPath, which has survived several cycles of enterprise email business models
  • Foursquare, which has survived the trials and travails of being the “it” company only to then be pilloried by the same media that previously worshiped it.

While BP3 isn’t nearly as successful nor interesting a tale as the three above, our core team has sustained this business through thick and thin, through wins and losses, and successes and mistakes.  These are good lessons for me to take to heart as I’m finishing my 9th year at BP3, and beginning my first year as CEO.  I think back to my 20’s and 10 years seemed like an impossibly long time.  Even when Lance and I started BP3 I don’t know that either of us really thought about our 10th year of operation.  I don’t think I fully appreciated what an accomplishment it was for people to run a business so long, to invest themselves in a business for a decade and longer.  Life has a way of teaching you those lessons if you live long enough.