For today’s post, I reached out to several founders and asked them why they started their business. I heard back from ten early-stage CEOs with a range of answers that I was able to relate to from my own experiences starting businesses. While there are likely numerous reasons someone decides to strike out on their own and launch a company, the people I polled all jumped on one idea that was most important to them at the beginning. If you are just starting your own founder journey, these should be familiar sensations for you too.
The most common answer, which I heard from half of the people, could be broadly classified as looking to solve a problem. Carter Russ, the founder of Champions Round, talked about the end of the basketball season being a disappointment, since he loved participating in fantasy basketball with his father. He started his business to keep the fun and camaraderie going after the season ended. Austin Webster of Deepr spoke about a problem he saw in the music industry that he was the ideal person to solve. Another founder built his business initially to bring eyeballs to himself and his buddies, and it later expanded into a full-blown media company.
I could relate to the motivation to solve a problem as a top reason to start a business. I founded Sportal back in 2017 to make it easier for travel hoops teams to find gyms for practice and training, a problem I dealt with all the time with my son’s basketball teams. I later started Beyond The Game Network with my partner Andre Fluellen, who had the idea to recreate a team atmosphere for retired football players and other pro athletes.
The next most popular answer to this question was some version of a desire to be the boss. Evan Kirkham of Colorcast said it well. He was a lawyer and had grown “tired of papering other people’s deals and fighting other people’s fights”. He “wanted to truly feel a sense of ownership over [his] work”. Other founders talked about always wanting to be an entrepreneur or being “tired of others determining my quality of life and creating a ceiling for how far I could go”. I think this desire to be in charge and in control is a great reason to start a business. After 20 years in investment banking, this was a strong force in my decision to start Aquina Health, my first startup.
However, if I am truly honest with myself, being the boss was not my primary driver at Aquina Health. When I dug deeper into my motivations, the main reason I started that business was that I saw an opportunity to make some serious money. I thought I knew something about a market that I expected to grow rapidly, and I wanted to make bank. Only one of the ten founders I spoke to admitted to this as their primary reason for starting their business. This founder was a lot older than the ones with the other more noble answers above, and he had already exited his company and made a nice profit for himself. I wonder if I had talked to more founders that had gotten to the end of their startup journey if this answer would have come up more frequently.
Thanks for reading today’s post, I hope this helps you think about your own motivations as a startup leader.