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“There may be magic within the attempting and studying and attempting once more.. however any unprocessed PTSD will come again to hang-out you” Avni Patel Thompson on the Superpowers Of Second Time Founders


Generally you meet a founder throughout a startup pitch and also you simply know you’re going to be pals, no matter whether or not they take your cash or not. Avni Patel Thompson is a type of folks. And I was proper! So when writing about Second Time Founders, Avni got here to the highest of my record. We’ve talked typically about this matter and a fast interview changed into the ideas under (and you may get superb essays on startup life from her free Substack e-newsletter).

I like being a second-time founder.

It’s like having your second child. You don’t sweat the small stuff as a result of you realize what the small stuff truly is. You’re feeling extra assured in your instincts and depend on your intestine greater than your hyperactive thoughts and what different hyperactive minds round you let you know.

You might have a normal sense of the form of issues — the highs, the lows, the issues to be careful for, the issues to not stress about so desperately.

Being a second time founder is such a present in so some ways.

However it will also be a hazard. There’s a distinctive taste of paranoid confidence that’s bestowed upon repeat founders — extra assured in what’s attainable and the right way to pursue it, but in addition always conscious of all of the methods you may fuck it up.

Past that, startup years are onerous on a founder. The hours labored, the guts and soul consumed, the unattainable selections, the painful folks calls. All buried deep down, in service of retaining the corporate alive.

All of this accumulates and except it’s being processed by some excessive energy remedy (which, let’s be sincere, for many of us, it isn’t), it’s simply pile on and piles up, a poisonous carbon compressed beneath the best of pressures right into a lethal diamond that’s what shines when others have a look at us.

However we all know the reality. It’s harmful if not dealt with accurately. As an alternative of the being the toughest substance that offers us superhuman power, it may be the brittle kryptonite that crumbles with the mistaken crack and results in our downfall.

In the event you’ve been a founder and also you’re contemplating getting again into the sector right here’s what I’d say are the three greatest superpowers you may rely on and the three areas of hazard to pay attention to.

superwoman preventing miniature dragons, comedian artwork [DALL-E]

The ‘upside’

You belief your intestine greater than every other enter. This, I suppose is THE most essential factor, and my guess for if second time founders are extra profitable, the explanation why. That you just even have a intestine to belief. Over the months and years of the primary firm, we’ve all constructed up a way of the right way to issues and the right way to do it in a approach that works for us. With Poppy, I would always be asking others how to consider hiring and giving fairness; about elevating cash; about product sprints and progress. With Milo, I understand how to do it, and the way I can do it higher and sooner for me. Doesn’t make the doing of it any of any simpler per se, however at the very least this time round I don’t have the load of my newness weighing me down at every flip.

You can also make greater, bolder calls. As a result of you realize the lay of the start-up recreation higher, you can begin being bolder on what you’re constructing, particularly as a result of it’s doubtless you’re capable of elevate extra capital to do it with. You’re additionally constructing with all of the onerous fought learnings you gained from sure, your final startup, but in addition all the opposite experiences in your life. You’re capable of join extra dots in additional distinctive methods as a result of you could have extra perception and intuition.

You are able to do extra, as a result of you may see extra.

That stated, this cuts each methods. Being a repeat founder carries the burden of understanding when a factor isn’t working and understanding that it’s a must to make harsher calls, sooner. You possibly can’t declare ignorance. So it’s a must to make the equally greater, extra brutal workforce and product calls.

You possibly can out persist even your former self. This one stands to be actually confirmed however, in my case, my first start-up was kind of unintended. I used to be curious greater than something and I discovered myself attempting to do proper by a product that simply took off. To start out Milo, I needed to make the specific name that I used to be going to do that once more. That I used to be keen to dedicate the following decade of my life — of my ladies’ lives — to this. That made me select an issue and an area that I knew I might make my life’s work if I used to be fortunate sufficient to maintain it going. I began this one understanding that it was a marathon and have been pacing myself as such. It’s nonetheless at a dash tempo however one which I understand how to keep up when and the way I have to.

I might let you know extra methods being a second time founder helps — established investor community, higher hiring pool, concentrate on distribution vs. product — however in the long run, all that issues, I suppose, is that it provides me the boldness to do a factor that requires infinite boatloads of it, powered by my intestine, which I belief above all. Even above my closest mentors and pals. That’s the final word superpower.

And the ‘draw back’

And if these are the issues you may rely on as tailwinds, right here’s what I suppose are the headwinds:

Any unprocessed PTSD will come again to hang-out you. There’s a joke amongst founders that it doesn’t matter what area you’re employed in on the primary, you vow to by no means try this once more. Market folks leaping to saas software program, saas folks leaping to {hardware}, {hardware} folks leaping to anything. It’s a type of “if you happen to don’t snigger, you’ll cry” sort of jokes.

As a result of what every of us works on is awfully complicated and we study the onerous approach all of the brick partitions that exist in a class (by operating head first into them, realizing it’s not one that may be bust by, and main our battered our bodies and groups round it). For Poppy, it was the relentlessness of constructing a market — there was actually by no means relaxation. Repair one aspect, break the opposite and on and on you go, eternally. That’s the sport. Add on the labor legislation and belief and security elements of a childcare market and I vowed to myself to take a break from folks and marketplaces and to enter “simply” software program.

That PTSD put blinders on me on how a real answer would work for what I’m constructing with Milo till I used to be keen to rethink each folks and a market. Then, guess what? An unlock based mostly on my capability to construct with each.

The lesson? Relaxation. After which course of that PTSD so you may construct this subsequent start-up with none of the dangerous baggage.

Your understanding an excessive amount of can keep your hand and make you timid. There may be energy within the sheer naivety of a first-time founder. I used to be too clueless to know higher, and in loads of methods, it helped me maintain going even within the face of silly odds. This time round, I’d get into my head earlier than I might ever get happening a factor. The concern would roar louder, fuelled by the reminiscence and ache and skepticism held by my physique. I’d hypothesize all of the methods this factor wouldn’t work, or couldn’t generate income or would simply end in weeks wasted. Mockingly, I wasted weeks as a result of my “understanding an excessive amount of” received in my very own approach.

In time, I needed to study to only concentrate on my finest testable speculation. To make use of all my information to craft that, after which to only get going. Realizing higher is usually a good factor — however let it energy your intestine, not cloud your thoughts.

It could possibly maintain you within the recreation too lengthy. It virtually doesn’t matter how your first startup went. The second go at it comes with larger stakes. In the event you knocked it out of the park, you’re being chased by the ghosts of a “one-hit-wonder”. In the event you failed and both ended up as an “acquihire” or a shut-down like Poppy, you’re been chased by the ghosts of “don’t even have what it takes”. Both approach, this level of ego and pleasure performs together with your thoughts and the way lengthy you persist on a factor. I’ve discovered myself going longer on a product or a course as a result of “it needed to work” and “I couldn’t fail” greater than what truly served the corporate. I’ve needed to truthfully simply recover from this. To know that my value as a founder isn’t wrapped up within the end result of even this go at it, however somewhat how I’m going about constructing it. That even when this had been to finish once more not how I wanted, that I’d nonetheless have a subsequent chapter. That is actually tougher to do in apply than concept, particularly when you could have a household and payments to pay and a really actual “alternative price”. And but. Mockingly, this will make you make the sort of dangerous calls that can sink you anyway. Keep within the recreation so long as it serves the aim and serves you.


I love being a second time founder. However as you may see, the advantages come at a price, as most issues of worth do.

Above all: I get up with gratitude. That I’m one of many fortunate few that will get to do that job. That will get to stand up and take a look at. Once more and many times. And if the associated fee is that I should be as self-aware as I can, of my personal limitations and fallibility, I’m okay with that.

As a result of breakthrough lies within the attempting many times. Within the 10,000 ways in which don’t work till you discover the one which does.

So my hope is for the world to have numerous second and third and fourth time founders, irrespective of the person end result.

There may be magic within the attempting and studying and attempting once more.

And I wouldn’t change that superpower, irrespective of all of the kryptonite.

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