Motorcyclists Are Geared to be Startup Founders
I have always been someone who enjoys being on two wheels and just riding. There’s something special about having my thoughts and no other distractions, just listening to the wind and the sound of the motor…ahh, so relaxing. I’ve always been a risk taker, physically, financially, and, in dating, emotionally. I look back at my younger self, did wheelies at 60pmh and/or rode #tailofthedragon (318 curves in an 11 mile stretch in Gatlinburg, TN), and wonder how I’m still alive today. The risk-taking chemical in my body has bled right over into my professional life as a founder, although I have become more calculated as a 39-year-old with a wife and three children. I’m still willing to take on some risks while I enjoy the ride, just not on two wheels since I sold my motorcycle seven years ago. That being said, why do I think that motorcyclists are geared toward being founders? Let me explain…
When operating a motorcycle, there are some key fundamentals that you have to know in order to ride well and get home in one piece. Many of those same fundamentals apply to starting a business and running a startup as well. One of the biggest questions that I’m asked as a founder is: “what skin do you have in the game?” In other words, what would I lose should the company do badly? Why is this question so important? Well, if you had none of your own money in it and if you didn’t work months or even years with no pay, then what do you lose if the company goes under? You lose nothing, so why would someone give $100,000 of their own money for you to take and potentially squander however you see fit? It takes no skin off of your (the founder’s) nose, but it takes 100K worth of skin off of the nose of the investor. It’s the same exact analogy for when Mr. Motorcycle Rider/Owner offers to give someone a ride. The passenger will make a comment like “I don’t want to crash” 100% of the time…and, no dip, crashing is bad. On a motorcycle, if the passenger crashes, so does the driver, but the passenger has relatively little skin in the game, no pun intended (referring to road rash), meaning that Motorcycle Rider/Owner faces the outcome of crashing as well as the loss and/or damage of their property. When I started all of my companies, I had skin in the game, that’s for sure. Magazine Jukebox Inc. was and and still is my biggest investment by far when it comes to starting a company. There are a lot of other reasons why motorcyclists are geared toward foundership.
When riding motorcycles, it’s best to ride behind the tire of the car in front of you. Why? Because whatever that car tire can run over, so can your motorcycle’s tires. The middle of the road is the slickest because that’s where oil spills from vehicles. It’s the same with founders; your company often starts behind the wheels of others. The fact that somone has done it before doesn’t mean that it’s easy; the terrain constantly changes and you have to navigate it.
Motorcyclists must always look down the road and predict potential accidents/collisions. Founders must do the same as they build their companies; they must predict issues that haven’t happened yet so that their company can survive long-term. Doing this means that when an accident does happen right in front of you, a plan is already in place on where to go and what to do so that you can continue to thrive.
Motorcycles are geared to go fast, just like a startup. Startups need to scale quickly in order to succeed.
Motorcyclists also count on the builders/mechanics to give them a safe bike to ride. This doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t do your daily checks to ensure that everything operates correctly. In the same way, a founder needs to depend on their team, but they
Motorcyclists have other motorcycle enthusiasts around them. For founders, it’s critical for them to be surrounded by like minded individuals/founders who can help them navigate through difficult times.
Motorcyclists are passionate about their bikes; founders had better be passionate about their company because both their time and money are not on your side. If anyone is going to be passionate enough to get the money needed and scale in the time they have, it’s going to be the founder/owner.
As you’ve read this, I’m sure that you’ve seen how startup founders and motorcyclists are similar, but that doesn’t mean that all of the people who are riding motorcycles need to start a company, nor do all of the people who own companies need to go out and ride a motorcycle. The moral of the story is that using caution and taking calculated risks are a big part of both roles, although one can carry life threatening risks while the other typically does not.
This whole post came up because a potential investor said to me: “I don’t want my money to crash and burn.” I responded with: “Neither do I because if your money crashes, so does mine, plus all of the time I’ve given to the company.” I have a lot of skin in this game, but I’m loving every minute of it.
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps!
Scott T. Janney
Co-Founder / CEO
Magazine Jukebox, Inc.