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Building a Company

Building a Company

Originally drafted on Dec 19, 2023, revised and posted 6/23/2024

Building a company is tough. Really tough. But is it worth it? The honest answer: I don’t know yet. Companies start for a variety and combination of reasons: a genuine need or idea for a new product, a drive to have an impact, a passion and desire to work independently from larger firms, making decisions that have true consequences on the survival and outcome of the business, the dream to innovate and disrupt, or a thirst to learn as fast as possible. These are all stellar reasons to build some form of business.

The earliest beginnings of Bimotal started in a suitcase while visiting family in Gittersdorf and Berlin, Germany

The Highs

When your daily actions and activities align with your broader purpose, you have an awesome team, and you are making clear and measurable traction, there is no better feeling. You solve an electronics reliability issue, and you now have a shippable product. You improve a mechanical latch, and your product is now more user-friendly. You start to ship early units, and the first adopters re-order and have friends order at an extremely high rate. Social media reels go viral. These are all the wins to notice and appreciate.

Bimotal continues in the kitchen of an apartment in SF, 1400 sqft with four roommates

The Lows

In stark contrast, the challenges of building a self-sustaining business are great. There’s payroll to make, and with any sort of major R&D effort, it can be a significant amount of capital. There’s fundraising—a lucky few find it enjoyable, while most probably do not. There are business-to-business contracts and programs, which can sometimes greatly accelerate a company’s traction but at other times can hinder innovation and disrupt by steering products into more traditional channels.

The Roller Coaster

Now, take the highs from two paragraphs ago, the challenges in the previous paragraph, and have them shuffled like a deck of cards, with positives and negatives alternating with the passage of time. Sometimes there are multiple positive/negative direction changes in a single day. This is the “roller coaster” people refer to for early companies. The expression fits, and the mental toll can be significant. But it can also be managed.

Some Advice

Good advice I’ve received: don’t get too excited, don’t get too bummed. A big win may seem like the biggest win at the moment, but it may not have huge weight in the long run. Appreciate when something goes right, but do it neutrally in an acknowledgment frame of mind. Similarly, when something goes wrong, acknowledge it as a challenge or puzzle to be solved with equal value to the things going well. Often, challenges create the most value—as real growth happens in solving these challenges.

Bimotal present day with an actual work shop and small production line


Is it worth it?

So, at the end of the day, is it worth it? Nvidia's CEO recently was interviewed stating he would not go through it again. Each experience is unique, and the answer may change. Someone once summarized the college experience to me: “It’s the most fun you’ll ever have that you’ll never want to do again.” The cost of starting a business is great: numerous missed social events, less time with friends, sacrifices to relationships, little mental capacity for anything outside of the focused startup effort. But it is a blast. My goal was to learn as much as possible, as quickly as possible, and in doing so, try to bring new products into the world that are enjoyable and make a tiny dent in the decarbonization of transportation.

More discussion on decarbonization in this blog.

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