When CloudHealth was still a private company, I would regularly get congratulations from people over the performance of our business. If we were raising money, it would be common for a potential investor to say: “Congratulations on a really impressive business.” Or if I were at a networking event, I might hear someone say: “I heard you guys are killing it. Congratulations.”
These positive comments always struck me as odd and uncomfortable. While I felt proud of what we had accomplished as a business, I also knew we were very much a work in progress. At any given moment, there were a few partly broken areas of our business, and sometimes one or two burning issues we needed to address. Over time I came up with this analogy to describe the feeling I had upon receiving positive feedback:
“I feel like everyday I’m driving around in a hot red sports car. As I pass by, I can hear people making comments about how great my car looks. While sometimes it can feel good for a moment or two to hear the positive feedback, at the end of every day when no one is watching, I drive my car into the garage where I stay up all night working on it. The next morning when the sun comes out, my hot red sports car is working again and back on the streets where the process repeats all over again.”
You’d think a founder would be able enjoy success when it happens, but unfortunately sometimes what appears like success on the outside can feel like being one bad decision away from failure on the inside. So if in the future I give you an odd look when you comment on my hot red sports car, it’s because it may look pretty and shiny on the outside, but it only runs because of the incredible hard work and effort my team does when it's inside the garage each night.
Note: The above picture is former CEO Dan Phillips driving the "hot red sports car" Avis gave us when in the SV raising our C round. I am fairly certain is was our cool wheels that resulted in Sapphire giving us the winning term sheet.