Of Blankets and Beaches

In the northern hemisphere, the new year starts in a fairly cold climate. For me, it is a time when my skin constantly consists more of blanket than of actual skin. A lot of them in different types are available at any time, spread around the house and one of them is in use at any given time. I prefer the ones that have some weight to them because I like that feeling of being hugged by the weight of the blanket. And because they tend to be extra warm, obviously.

In the end, blankets do not come out of thin air. They must be woven together from threads. And just as they must be woven together to form a unit, sometimes those threads loosen up. And suddenly the whole piece of fabric comes undone and with it the cosy feeling of the warm hug.

For me, much of the last year felt like my proverbial blanket came undone. I had some trouble making sense of a lot of things I am told and they don‘t really feel cosy. I started looking into some endeavours and somehow nothing seems to fall into place. It’s not the ideas themself. The ideas are solid. It’s more the way of how it feels I am supposed to bring them to life.

At the beginning of this process, I read a lot of books about how to build a start-up. How to get funding, how to get traction, and how to grow your business. The more I read the more frustrated and discouraged I got.

I do not want to get VCs to give me money. What I’m building should belong to a community, not to a fund, let alone a money-printing machine for somebody else. I do not want to build a business whose only purpose is to scale as fast as possible. What I’m building will grow into what it’s supposed to be over time. I do not want to build a user persona that then is the golden customer and make a plan for how to target them. And what I certainly do not want to do is send them through yet another dehumanising funnel. I am confident enough that this endeavour will attract the right people at the right time.

Can you define the problem that you are trying to solve? I could. But I don’t want to use this negative language of a “problem” that I am the only capable person to offer the solution to. Where is the community aspect and inclusion thought behind that?

How much revenue are you expecting in 10 years? I don’t know! Can we agree on the fact that since COVID everybody knows that nobody knows what happens in 10 years?

As a consequence of all these objections, I fail the most basic task of drafting a standard business plan. Or better said, I am told that I failed it… The more I research, the more frustrated I become. Is our business world really just about the greedy, old money-based capitalistic system?

In my head, I question the endeavour regularly. Where do I go without anything to offer that fits a regular scheme? Without anything that follows the rule of the game? None of the models out there feel comfortable. None of the models fully support what I stand for. None of the models give me the cosy feeling of a warm blanket.

To me there are three choices of what to do in that situation: you can just ignore the discomfort and go with them anyways. Go with the flow is not an option for me. It’s why I am thinking about all those things after all. I’m not willing to look the other way, because not only does it go against what I want to stand for. To and for me that is also not sustainable behaviour.

You can put energy into rewriting the rules. But rewriting the rules to the same game also doesn’t feel right. It’s still the same game! It’s still the same place. And even if you come out the other end with a sustainable building block, it’s still meant to sustain the system. I don’t want to be part of that game.

It was clear to me: This is not how I want to do business. But I definitely want to bring the idea to life, also because I already had very supportive feedback. Holding it back would be a shame.

The option that remains is to create your own game. You can decide to play a completely different game yourself. I want to be part of something new, that’s more than a zero-sum game. And it seems, this wish means I have to write a rule book myself.

So I changed my view on it. If I don’t want to do “x” the rule book way, how do I want to do it? This is where I am now. Sorry, dear VC fund managers, this start-up will not be profitable for quite a while – maybe never. But this is not what it is about. Also, this start-up will not produce extraordinary yearly growth right from the start. Things take time when you have to write the rule book with your actions.

In the end, I decided to look ahead to summer. I want to play on the beach full of opportunities and build my own castle while everyone else is trying to compete for the limited resources in the sandbox they play in. I am not sure how long it will take to build a stable foundation. Or if a wave comes and washes it all away. But I can be sure I build it in a way that those coming my way to destroy it and profit themselves are not welcome at my beach. Also, I am not building alone. The people who come to the beach with me will all play their part in helping build the castle. And I know, whenever the waves will take away this castle, each sand corn will take a journey to be part of another foundation.

Well, this was the long and very wordy answer to say that this blog will undergo some changes as it will become the publication channel for the endeavour. As the topics of my endeavour and this newsletter overlap, you can expect more content on the topic here soon. It will still function as a stand-alone newsletter, with the regular categories of long-form text and recommendations about other sources. It will not turn into an announcement newsletter, although I might add a section with announcements somewhere further down the line. I know, that what the business creates will add value to what I want to create for this newsletter community. I hope you follow me along for the ride.