I'm the Co-founder and CEO of The Grommet. We launch undiscovered consumer products. It's also the birthplace of Citizen Commerce. I write about design, cultural anthropology, and start-ups, mostly.

The top four things I learned in the time elapsed between these two photos.

This is me and Joanne, sometime in 2008, a couple months before our Daily Grommet launch.

Notice the empty shelves....just a few scattered possible Grommets.

Notice the empty shelves....just a few scattered possible Grommets.

This is the two of us, last week, a little over a  year later.

You can hardly see us, for all the Grommets crowded on the shelves!

You can hardly see us, for all the Grommets crowded on the shelves!

(We really did not plan to dress like Bobbsey Twins in both pictures, BTW.  Just happened.  I do like that we actually look happier now than then!)

Here is what I learned in the intervening year between these photos:

  1. There is no room for compromise on your partners.  And you need them. I would not be smiling if I did not have Joanne by my side. I really don’t know how solo startup founders do it.   You need to be challenged, mutually supported, and the sheer workload is just too much for one leadership person.  Beyond that, running a startup is a race against time and it takes real distributed horsepower to stay one step in front of the zillion things threatening to kill you every day. 
  2. There’s going to be a special place in Heaven for startup teams birthed in the last year. Because the last 12 months have been a special brand of Hell on Earth for all of us.  Are there good things about launching in a financial crisis?  Sure.  There must be some.  We will think of them when Inc. magazine comes to do a profile.
  3. There is no room for fear and plenty of need for guts. There are a few things that have the power to scare me.  Possible burn-out by key team members.  Stomach flu (really!). House fires. But when I think about the broader life picture, I realize I’ve never had a safety net.  The only “privilege” in my background is coming from a rock-solid family.   (This is a common life-theme on our team, BTW. We were  born with shovels in our hands, not silver spoons.)  Yet in the last year I realized that having comfort during  a perpetual high-wire act is pretty unusual. (I’m speaking about most of the time–I do have Yikes! moments fo’ sure.) It’s easy to take risks when you have the cushion of money flowing freely in a good economy, or you come from privilege, or you’ve struck it big before.  Doing it this year, especially with none of those advantages,  takes guts.
  4. The people missing in the photo are probably more important than the ones getting their picture taken. I am thinking of our ridiculously fierce and courageous team.  But I am also thinking of our families. The sacrifices they make probably exceed our own. 

Surely,  most of these lessons were shared by anyone who started a company in the last 18 months.  I’ve seen a bunch of experienced entrepreneurs pull the plug quickly in 2009, planning to “wait this one out.”

I realized lately that I take a lot of Daily Grommet pictures because I know these early days tend to turn out to be some of the best ones.  I want to remember them vividly, for both their pain and glory.  I am sure I will learn a bunch of new lessons next year.  I may not get smarter, but getting wiser is inevitable.

7 Responses to “The top four things I learned in the time elapsed between these two photos.”

  1. Melinda Wax

    It is total pleasure to see your shelf full and read about what you have learned in the last year! Your honesty is refreshing. You each are a great example of how to embrace, believe and persevere! All while out of the box. Thanks for the inspiration and those great smiles! I look forward to another year of Daily Grommet and hearing about each of your personal stories. Especially because I have rediscovered an old acquaintance and can finally make a personal connection to one of the websites I have been encouraging my students to follow!
    The cake looks yummy.

    Reply
    • julespieri

      I have been walking around telling people about how cool it is that we connected via Facebook, Melinda. I am happy to trade stories….about the last, oh, 20 years or so.

      Reply
  2. Apolinaras "Apollo" Sinkevicius | LeanStartups.com

    Congratulations on surviving the first year. It is usually the hardest one.
    I have been burned by “partners” twice in my career. It is like marriage and when you find the right one (or two, or three), you become exponentially more effective, powerful, and innovative. If you end up “hooking up” with the wrong ones, everyone around you (including your family) suffers.

    Hopefully, you will write a deeper article on the subject on finding the right partner(s) and building the right team. I know it caused me to write on those subjects.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    • julespieri

      I will ruminate on that “team creation” post idea Apollo. I feel like we have operated fairly intuitively on our hires (backed up with a lot of references and a clear understanding on expectations). Honestly, when you are working on something that does not fit a current pattern, one of the biggest factors is finding people who fit the Fearless/Courageous point above. A person who needed a lot of structure or security would be miserable in our company.

      Reply
  3. Drew Beja

    Jules & Team

    Congratulations on your One Year Anniversary. Having watched Daily Grommet go live, grow, & prosper amidst the horrendous financial markets (and funding environment) as well as fierce macro economic headwinds, I am amazed at what you have all accomplished. I also think the new site is a home run.

    As an investor in Daily Grommet I’m proud to be aligned with this cool company with wide-open potential, but much more feel privileged to be partnered with such a committed and talented team of people.

    Kudos-

    Drew Beja

    Reply
    • julespieri

      The team deeply appreciates your support. Our committed angel investors are a big part of the Daily Grommet story. You stuck with us, and many came back to support us when things went pear-shaped in the economy. You also attracted new investors as the year progressed–which was no easy feat.

      Reply
  4. Jeff Bennett

    Entrepreneurial endeavors are not for the meek of heart. The big idea. A set of values to model all you do. Doing everything you can until you have help. The recruiting of a team. The fiduciary responsibility to investors. Getting partners to see the vision and commit. Always on the hunt for next capital. Testing. Listening. Reacting. Learning. Driving. Evangelizing. Evangelizing. Did I say Evangelizing. The site is up 7×24. It takes a village…entrepreneur, family, friends, colleagues, partners, investors, advisors…CUSTOMERS…lots of CUSTOMERS, more. And in this social web world we do this all under a microscope. What an exhilarating journey. Congrats to you Jules and the whole Grommet team on year one. Onward to year two!

    Reply

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