It’s 04:02 am on Sunday the 6th of December 2015 and I am fully awake. Or rather, I can’t sleep! I just took our (my wife and I’) dog for a 15 minute walk around the park to try to get some fresh air and reflect on where I am in life and where i’m heading. I just got back into our apartment, made a cup of strawberry tea with a hint of honey, and started Googling various search terms such as “startup ceo mental strength”. This has now become part of my typical daily routine.
The truth is that at 28, I have gladly taken on the toughest job of my life – and that is to serve as the CEO of AthGene (a Copenhagen-Denmark based life sciences start-up in the field of personal genetics). What AthGene does is actually somewhat irrelevant to this post as it could just as easily have been some other start-up mission that I was on (this is true for most entrepreneurs that I have met). What is more important, is the set of realities that prevail for having taken on so much self inflicted responsibility.
This particular journey that I am on started almost exactly 1 year ago, when on the 16th of December 2014 I met 1 of my soon to be Co Founders Nadir, a Geneticist who’s insights into the industry struck a chord with me at a networking event. He talked about genetics and the pace at which the cost of gene sequencing and genotyping was dropping (exponentially), and I remember asking him — “so what exactly do you need in order to build a business in genetics”, to which he responded “I need a Mark Zuckerberg type of partner to build the business side of things”. I remember thinking that there was nothing I could offer this guy, as I certainly don’t consider myself to be Mark Zuckerberg like, but I decided to take a stab at it non the less. Within 6 weeks, we had enough evidence to suggest that we could in fact start a company providing genetic analyses to fitness enthusiasts, we had on-boarded 2 other soon to be Co Founders, and we had started building “something”. My life has not been the same since!
Now almost exactly 1 year later, we have on-boarded 2 investors and are currently in late stage talks with a 3rd, we are currently a team of between 15–18 people depending on how you count them (pre dominantly made up of some of the best interns I have ever heard of, let alone had the privilege of working with), and we have released the 2nd version of our product, to hundreds of paying customers. So it’s now safe to say that we have successfully achieved proof of concept for our company.
So why then, does it always feel as though I am always behind on work? And how come I feel as though I have not given enough to this company? Even though I catch myself up at 03:00 am trying to research topics to keep me ahead of my game, I still feel “lazy”. I always feel as though I should be doing more, and I always feel as though my team, partners, investors, or our company Chairman will find out that I have been “slouching”. There is clearly a void between the facts of what we have managed to achieve within 1 year, and how I grade myself as the CEO of this company.
The fact is that I have only had 6 official days “off” this entire year, during which time I took a trip to Paris with my wife. Even on days where I am supposed to be off, I spend an insurmountable amount of time reflecting, planning, or worrying about all the things I should be doing.
During a discussion I had with my wife today, I actually said the words “my life sucks right now”. Although that could not be further from the truth. In fact, my life has never been this great before, ever, as I am truly following my dreams, and my entire team believes that anything is possible. What I actually meant was — “working long hours, being subjected to ridiculous amounts of pressure, constantly feeling as though failure is not an option as it would be 100% my fault, whilst earning very little pay especially during the Christmas season, sucks!”
I find myself looking forward to the promise of a 2 week holiday that awaits during the Christmas season, although I can already see myself franticly making plans to keep our customers happy during those 2 weeks, which of course implies that I won’t really be actually “off”.
In the end though, I would not be happy doing anything else, and I do feel as though this has been one of the best years of my life. I have probably mentally written this post or one similar about 40 times, but I just never actually published it before.
Well with that said…. here’s to knowing that the grass is not greener on the other side. Here’s to watering the grass on my side of the fence. Here’s to being crazy enough to think that ours is the 1 out of 200 companies that eventually succeeds. Here’s to being strong enough to turn up every day, even when we feel like quitting. Here’s to you, who dare to dream!
Thanks for taking the time to read through my ranting!!
Oh, and here’s to my daughter and 1st child, who’s birth is scheduled for the 16th of May 2016. I have no doubt that the world will get a lot clearer once I finally hold you in my arms 🙂