Crossing the Threshold

I have started Entrepreneur First! The tenth London cohort of the company builder is officially now in action. I am writing this at the end of the first week of the programme and I am cream crackered. It has been an intense and exhilarating week, which is surprising considering I’ve basically spent the entire week just talking.

In my last post I discussed The Hero’s Journey. Placing my entrepreneurial journey within that narrative structure I am currently at step three: ‘crossing the threshold’. Me and my 95 fellow cohort members have left the familiar behind and ventured into the unknown “where the rules and limits are unknown”. This transition has been both exciting and chaotic.

The first stage in the EF process is to find a co-founder. Even with EF having done the hard work of finding such a hideously talented array of willing startup-ers, this is easier said than done. For starters, just getting to know that many people in a short space of time would be intense. The conversations aren’t just freshers’ week level getting-to-know-you small talk though. Introductory chats very quickly become in-depth discussions of fantastical business models and solutions for global scale problems.

It feels like next level speed dating. As if you’re looking for someone to marry and emigrate to a mutually chosen foreign country with. The two of you are not only finding out whether you make a good fit personality and skillswise, which is challenging enough, but also whether you are interested in working on the same problem space. Whilst you are deciding who you most want to work with, everyone else is also deciding whether they want to work with you. Talk about a complex optimisation problem.

This unique freewheeling social experience was disorienting at first, especially combined with the freedom offered by EF. I had anticipated the difficulty of evaluating potential business partners. What I hadn’t anticipated was that the constant sparking of ideas and analytical feedback would lead to a fast evolution of my own thinking and approach. Whilst I’ve been recalibrating my outlook, everyone else has also been recalibrating theirs. This has lead to surprise discoveries and regular reassessments of potential working relationships.

After a week though I feel like I am acclimatising (although my strained voice is still struggling). The offbeat culture EF has cultivated feels more comfortable and the excessive parallels with dating have become less awkward. The crazy ideas are becoming more refined and the unambitious ones escalated.

We are currently at the point of highest potential. There is a sea of possibilities that could come out of the cohort. Some of these could create millions in value. From now on the number of potential co-founders declines, the number of ideas to explore gets more limited, and therefore the number of resulting businesses reduces. Eventually this will go down to one (or none!).

It would be tempting then to wallow in analysis paralysis. But with only seven more weeks of team building to go, time is short. Most investors look for teams that have known each other for years. We have only two months to stress test the relationships with promising fellow cohort members. The ultimate test of your working partnership is whether you are productive together, which means getting down to work. Now I’ve regained my balance, it’s time to start running.