26 May, 2011 - 10:57 By News Desk

Day 23 - Optimism, Team, and a Bit of Madness

It was our earliest morning and our most lavish night.

We prepared for an 8:30am start, and most people managed to stumble in on time. The early kick-off was absolutely well worth it with Suranga Chandratillake joining us for a founder story session and a behind-the scenes look at life on the road to IPO. As CEO of Blinkx, he was introduced as 'way too young to have done all the things he has done', and people couldn't believe how nice and down-to-earth he turned out to be. While it would be easy to paint a rosy and victorious story, Suranga offered a reality check on the hard times with advice for getting through the low points of startup struggles. Words of wisdom included:

- You need three things to get through rough times: (1) Optimism for the fundamental product, (2) Team - a handful of people that will stick by you, (3) A bit of madness.

- Getting to IPO is not the end of your bad days. Watching the share price fall, seeing employees leave, getting pissed off emails from stock holders...

- 'You have to have the resolve, the grit, the determination to stick with it during the shitty times'

- You will question who you are, what you're doing, why you're doing it. One day you'll feel on top of the world, and the next day you'll feel everything is falling apart. Dealing with that change of fortune is tough, but it is also a lot of fun if you're wired the right way (or wrong way, rather).

That set the tone for 10am mentor sessions, and we had a terrific crew of Round 1 and Round 2 mentors with us. The full cast included Reshma Sohoni, Russell Buckley, Suranga Chandratillake, and brave returnees Alliott Cole, Philip Catterall, Sandy McKinnon, Jens Lapinski, Stephen Oliver, and Robert Sansom.

Meetings seemed to go well for everyone today, with excited feedback from teams on both their follow-ups and first timers. I heard countless introductions offered as I tried getting dates to end, and eventually we'll give teams more time to build and sprint forward with the advice they're received. Mentors clicked with some teams much more than others, as expected, and we'll stay tuned to see where people pair off.

Suranga's advice was well timed as teams are starting to face some rougher patches. It turns out that juggling 6 or 7 balls at once - a full Springboard schedule, taking advantage of mentors & opportunities, listening to feedback, trying to sell, delivering on existing deals, and building new product  - is a little stressful. I'm not surprised!

We had a nurturing evening as Dave B and his parents invited us all over for a BBQ, and it was an amazing retreat. I was concerned the family didn't know what they were getting themselves into, but the real shock was for us as we arrived to a beautiful spread of quiches, pasta, salads, chicken, sausages, Pimms lemonade, strawberries, brownies, and all sorts. I felt like we'd just won a round of The Apprentice! I felt terribly sorry for a few stuck in the office, Jon included, but we behaved well enough that we might be invited back one day.

With Amazon on Day 24 followed by more Mentors 2.0, hopefully most of us are feeling refreshed and ready to go.


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