Starting a High Tech Business: The Wind at Your Back


ULCER Century Route

I'm starting a new business called Kynetx. As I go through some of the things I do, I'm planning to blog them. The whole series will be here. This is the twenty-fifth installment. You may find my efforts instructive. Or you may know a better way---if so, please let me know!

Saturday I rode the ULCER century bike ride for the fourth time. This is a great century that goes around Utah Lake. I look forward to it every year.

Every year the ride is a little different. This year, the wind was blowing from the South-South West and the weather was perfect with some high clouds that cooled things off a little. Before 11am, there wasn't much wind at all. There was a rest stop at mile 45 at a place called Lincoln Beach on the south shore of Utah Lake. The next rest stop after Lincoln Beach was at Elberta, almost 20 miles away. After Lincoln Beach the route turns south and the wind was picking up. That stretch is on the west side of West Mountain and has some small hills (e.g. 1-2 miles of 4% grade). So, you're 50-60 miles into a 100 mile ride, it's getting hilly, and the wind's blowing in your face.

I wasn't particularly tired and I didn't have any trouble with the hills since I normally climb a lot. But during that stretch I had a cramp in my leg and my right shoulder hurt (I have a hunching habit on my bike that I'm trying to break). I did everything I could to get comfortable but nothing worked. After we turned west we were on Highway 6 with traffic and the wind was still blowing. I wasn't having fun. In fact all I could think about was how much my shoulder hurt and how much further to the next rest stop.

At Elberta there was a rest stop and the route turns north and we had a tailwind. In between mile 70 and 80, I had the best 10 mile stretch of my life averaging over 30mph. I decided to make hay while the wind was blowing and got into my biggest gear and pushed with everything I had. Even after that I felt like I was flying. I felt great. I realized my leg was no longer cramped and my shoulder didn't hurt anymore. Amazing.

What's funny about that is that my shoulder probably did still hurt. In fact it hurts this morning. I just wasn't noticing because I was having too much fun. Things (specifically the wind) were going my way. I finished with my personal best time of 5 hours 51 minutes over 107.5 miles.

Startups are a lot like my ride. One of the stories Steve likes to tell is about one of the down times at Kynetx. We had been writing code for 9 months and had one pilot customer. We had a meeting with them and they said they were turning us off. In essence, they were going to plug the fat pigeon. We came back to the office and, as Steve tells it, he was very dejected. I went back to my office and started writing more code. He looked at me and said "what the hell are you doing?" I said "writing code." He thought I was nuts.

In truth, I wasn't any less dejected than Steve. I was just lucky in that I had something concrete to do and so I went and did it. I just kept pushing toward my milestone, whatever it was, even though we'd just gotten kicked in the teeth. Steve had the harder job, as far as I'm concerned. He had to pick up the phone and call the next potential customer and pitch a product he was having trouble believing in because of the experience we'd just had.

I have to say I never stopped believing in the product, maybe because it was my baby. But there are some times when you have to keep going despite setbacks. There are times when the wind is blowing against you and you're just slogging along. Everything hurts and you're grumpy. Other times, the universe is conspiring to make you successful and it feels like you're flying. The trick, of course, is to put your head down when the wind's blowing against you and keep your next milestone in sight. Just keep moving ahead. Find ways to keep moving ahead. And then, when things are going your way, push as hard as you can.