The Second Year

NYC's Mayor Mike Bloomberg visited TechStars NYC on Demo Day this week. He gave a funny and inspiring talk about being an entrepreneur. This is the Mike Bloomberg the NYC tech community needs. He's the most successful tech entrepreneur in NYC and he's also our mayor. It made me so happy to see him do that. He talked about installing 4800 baud modems in closets in Chicago to set up Bloomberg's wide area network before there was a commercial internet and he talked about the trials and tribulations of being an entrepreneur.

What stuck in my mind were his comments on "the second year." To paraphrase him, the first year is full of excitement. You are building things and getting going. The third year is when things start to work, you get customers, you start hiring quickly. The business ramps. But the second year is tough. Really tough. Everyone starts doubting you and if you stop and think, you can start doubting yourself.

It is a great metaphor for what a startup is like. Of course for some people it is months, for others quarters, and for some multiples of years for each phase to come and go. But each and every startup goes through the second year. If you are in it now, keep plugging away. Make sure you are surrounded by supportive and encouraging team members and investors. Be honest with yourself about what is working and what is not. Make the hard choices. But stay true to the vision.

Not every startup works. There may come a time when you realize the third year is not coming. And then you have to move on. But with the right vision, the right team, and a ton of hard work, many get past the second year. And the good news is that the second year is history when that happens.