Founder Fog

Founder fog. Weather report in startup world is calling for founder fog? Huh?

Big Red Car here on a glorious Saturday morning in the ATX – Austin By God Texas.

Up early with contractors arriving to do some renovation work and the new granddaughter, Tempe, known as Baby T. She is a Southern girl from Savannah.

Baby Tempe and Gwantpa discussing Founder Fog with red-headed momma on her second startup at the elegant and delicious Tiny Boxwoods, Austin, Texas

So, I have had four conversations with founders in the last month in which there is a common issue which I shall call the fog of founderdom.

How does it manifest itself, Big Red Car, you ask? Let me tell you.


One of the guiding principles for any endeavor is to “keep it simple, stupid.” KISS

Founders are continually finding the most complex way to do something when there is an easier, less complex way to do it.

Maybe you should not try to automate everything until you have some customers?

Crawl, walk, run

In the development of any enterprise, founders are training themselves as they build their startup. You really have no alternative other than learning and training from a “crawl, walk, run” perspective.

Do something, circle back, do it again, master it by spaced repetition training – crawl, walk, run.

This will be a valuable principle even when you are a hundred million dollar company.

Minimum Viable Product

Your first goal is to create a minimum viable product. You can stand up a prototype, conduct alpha testing, conduct beta testing — making continuous improvements along the way, but always remember the short term objective is Minimum Viable Product.

You are not giving up on the “ultimate” product. You are giving yourself enough time and space to get there, but make no mistake, you are working toward an initial milestone of Minimum Viable Product.

Perfect v good enough

A huge problem with founders is they get so enamored of the startup process they strive for perfection, thereby making “perfect” the mortal enemy of “good enough.”

Do not do this. Again — good enough — you are striving for Minimum Viable Product.

A word about perfection — you NEVER get there. Sorry. It is always just beyond your fingertips. Elusive.

I’m afraid, Big Red Car

Of course you are, dear founder. You’re chafing against the edges of your comfort zone, you’re traveling where mankind has never gone, and you are not an experienced CEO.

Fear makes you hesitant. When you hesitate you become ponderous and you eat time like it was cotton candy. Drive through your fear.

[Pro tip: Even when you have been a CEO for 33 years, new stuff still scares the crap out of you. Just when you think – “Hey, I got this” along comes some monumental disruption: 9-11, market implodes, massive recession, tax changes.]

So what? This is what is called “normal” in startup world.

A CEO called the other day and said, “Every night, I lay in bed with butterflies flying touch-and-goes in my belly.”

To which I replied, “Call me when they feel like a flock of condors, hungry condors, trying to tear through your stomach lining with their talons. Call me then.”

“You heartless bastard, Big Red Car,” the guy said.

Three months later, he called and said, “I get it. It’s normal, isn’t it?” Tough love.

Founder Fog? What do I do, Big Red Car?

Simple, founder darling, you recognize the reality of founder fog. You get up early, stay late, work your butt off, come to work every day prepared to bite the ass off a grizzly bear, but you remember KISS, crawl/walk/run, MVP, perfect v good enough, and you harness your fears and drive on toward launch day.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car, y’all. Be kind to someone who you don’t like today. See what happens.