Sleep sounds nice, but for startup founders it’s an unaffordable luxury

Sleep sounds nice, but for startup founders it’s an unaffordable luxury



As I’m writing this, it’s 1:34 a.m. on a Tuesday. I’m working right now, and my guess is most people aren’t.


It’s not that I’m not tired, I am. It’s not that I can’t sleep,
I can. I’m working at 1:34 in the morning because that’s what I do. I’m
a startup founder, and I don’t sleep. Startup founders don’t sleep
because the work of a startup is never done.

Many years from now, when this startup idea turns into a big company with a lot of managers and bureaucracy, then I can sleep.


As it stands now, there’s too much work to do.

My Only Hurdle is Me

Unlike a big company where my
extra hours really benefit the company only, in a startup, these hours
benefit me directly. Every extra hour I put in and every extra step
that I take converts my vision into a reality that much faster. In many
ways, the only hurdle to my growth is me.



The extra hours I put in this early morning working on a
marketing plan means my company’s marketing team will get the next ad
campaign launched a week earlier. That means our customers will show up
a week sooner. That means we’ll get paid faster. That means we’ll be
able to hire more people and increase our marketing spending more
quickly. In a nutshell, we’ll get bigger, faster.


I could go to sleep now or I could stay up and accelerate my vision by a week. I think I’ll stay up.

My Competition Sleeps

I surely hope my competition likes to sleep. Heck, I hope the founder I’m competing with is a total narcoleptic.


When he wakes up from a great night’s rest and hops in the
shower to get ready, I’ll already be two hours into my day. By the time
he gets around to reviewing his calendar for the day, I’ll be half way
through my task list and setting my goals for tomorrow.


When he clocks out at 5:30 p.m. to go home and have dinner,
I’ll be ordering lunch and blowing past my task list for the second day
a little bit early. And while he’s watching late night television, I’ll
already be working on tomorrow’s plan.


Sleep tight, buddy. You’re about to have plenty of time to rest.

I Stay Up for Everyone Else

I know that even the most
motivated team members of a startup company have other things to do.
While I’m totally infatuated with a vision to build a great company,
they are more infatuated with their own lives and goals. Fair enough.


So I need to lose a little sleep for them, too.


I need to stay up later to make sure we’re thinking of all the
possible opportunities for our sales team. I need to review our balance
sheet one more time to see if we can squeeze some additional capital
out of our bank. I need to think way ahead of our team to ensure our
strategy remains aggressive.


By the time my team wakes up in the morning, they’ll have some
new ideas for this week, and I’ll have new ideas for next week, the
week after, and the week after that. I stay awake because if I’m not
spending more time and energy on our growth, no one else will.

The Market Won’t Let Me Sleep

Of course I could nod off
for awhile. I could decide that it’s time to slow down and rest. My
friends have been saying I’m working too hard, I’ve got permanent
circles under my eyes and I haven’t taken a vacation in a long while.


Yet every time I try to slow down and rest, something keeps
waking me up. It’s like an alarm clock attached to my senses. It’s
called the market, and the damn thing won’t let me sleep a wink.


The market is a constant reminder that every time I want to
slow down and relax, there is someone else out there who won’t. That
alarm clock in my head isn’t the ringing of a bell, it’s the loss of a
big contract to a competitor. It’s my executive vice president who just
got hired away by a faster growing company. It’s the new competitive
product that’s sweeter than ours.


The market will move as quickly as guys like me will push it. Like Gordon Gekko said in "Wall Street," "Money never sleeps."


Neither do I.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

This self-instigated sleep
deprivation can end right now. I can get off this hamster wheel and
leave it all behind me. I can go back to getting nine hours of sleep,
relaxing on the weekends and playing it safe.


But that’s not what I’m built to do. I’m a startup founder, and
I don’t sleep, I build. If I stop now, there will be someone else to
replace me, maybe you. So I’ll be staying up now and sleeping when I’m


As for you? Sleep tight.


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