Last Monday (June 16th) I had my first big investor meeting. I had spoken with many people along the way and secured a few verbal commitments, but this one was more formal. I had the opportunity to stand in front of 15 well established and successful Washington, DC based entrepreneurs and convince them their next investment should be with a company that has yet to make its first sale. This was for the big money, the amount that would really get Atayne off the ground.
Overall, things went pretty well. Being an unwavering optimist, I walked into the event hoping to hit a home run and walk away with $350,000 in signed checks. Those expectations are not realistic when you are asking people to hand over such substantial sums of money. However, there is no doubt I hit a triple. I have a man in scoring position, and now I just have to step back up to the plate and knock him in.
But I want to get beyond the outcome of the event. The point of this post is to talk about one simple question that one of the attendees asked me, “What keeps you up at night?” My first thought, “What doesn’t?” I could have named a long string of things, but I spared the room of my stories that lead to sleep deprived, coffee fueled days. I mentioned a couple things, and we moved on to other topics.
I should have known that the question was foreshadowing what was to become of my evening. Mentally and physically exhausted, I laid my head on my pillow at about 11:45pm that night. And it was like I turned on a switch, a switch that instantly filled my head with a wide array of thoughts. I lay there replaying the entire evening in my head: I could have done this, I should have said that. We all know hindsight is 20/20, but knowing does not prevent one from thinking how things could have played differently.
For 5 hours I lay there. When my alarm clock went off at 4:45am to start another day, I did not want to get up. I wanted to make up for the 4 hours of sleep I had gotten the last two nights combined. But I didn’t stay in bed. I made the very hard first step of the day. And after a quick run, a shower, and few cups of coffee, I was once again energized and filled with passion for the 16+ hour work day that awaited me.
Why do I tell this story? It is not to say that a run, shower, and coffee give me my energy (although they all sure do help). I tell this story because as I was taking step 1, then 2, then 3, I thought to myself, “Does it really matter what keeps me up at night?” The answer to me was simple, “No.” Staying up at night is easy. I do it once or twice a week and ultimately the reason is always different. What is really hard: taking the first step of the day after being up all night. Getting out of bed and putting every ounce of energy and passion into building a dream. That is the hard part.
So in my mind I should not have been asked, “What keeps you up at night?” but rather “What gets you up in the morning?” Because getting up in the morning is the true test.
I hope that you are now asking what gets me up in the morning. Here are just a few things:
- An advisor who forgoes paid work to fly across the country on a red eye, sleep on a basement floor, and then fly back across the country at 6am in order to support me at the investor dinner.
- Friends who make room in their basement for another “son”, adding to the 4 sons they already have. And a college buddy who has recently volunteered to support me financially until the dream takes off, so that I can move out of the basement.
- A girlfriend who has spent countless hours reviewing and editing multiple versions of business plans, executive summaries, website copy, and blog entries.
- A family that understands why I had to miss the first family vacation that we have planned in over 20 years.
- The people I tell the Atayne story to and then they pledge to be the first customer.
- The strangers and soon to be friends who read and comment on my blog.
These can all be simplified to one thing, PEOPLE. The people who believe in Atayne. The people who believe there is a better way to do things. The people who believe that if you do good by people and the planet, profits will follow. Every day that I struggle to take the first step out of bed in the morning, it becomes easy when I think of all those people that believe in me. And I refuse to let them down.
Over the next couple weeks I need to close on a substantial amount of financing to bring Atayne to the market on schedule. I have to convince people with the money that I don’t have, to put it in my pocket. Now more than ever is the time to show these potential investors how many people believe in Atayne. So, just as I have asked investors to show their faith in me through direct investments, I’m asking you to voice your support by posting a simple response to this entry – “I BELIEVE AND I WILL BUY.“ To add even more impact, include your city and state and forward to friends you think will believe.
And always remember:
“Dreams are like the paints of a great artist. Your dreams are your paints, the world is your canvas. Believing is the brush that converts your dreams into a masterpiece of reality.”