The reason everyone got so caught up in the mania of the 1990s dotcom bubble was that we got carried away with the dreams and energy of all those entrepreneurs and start-ups. Passion can be contagious.
In late 2008, I met with one of my old employees who now lives in Boulder, Colorado. His brother was the founder and chairman of PayPal. Twelve years before this meeting, I got a phone call from them when they were raising money for their first company, Zip2. They also had the domain name www.x.com – think about how early they were into the Internet game!When Kimbal Musk, brother of Tesla Motors Founder Elon Musk, told me about what they were building, he was gushing with optimism, and said a few times on the call, “we don’t even know what we’re doing yet, but we’ll figure it out as we go.”
In early 2009, I shared the stage at a talk with Morten Lund, who was the initial investor and co-founder of Skype. He’d recently gone personally bankrupt and lost $40 million of his own cash but said, “I was mad at myself for a few minutes but then realized I own parts of eighty other companies already so I know I’ll make it all back. I don’t know how yet, but I know I will.” Those are the kinds of Uniformed Optimistic comments entrepreneurs need to be making to rally their teams through the tough times and craziness of growth.
When Jeff Bezos was launching Amazon in the mid-90s, he used to jump up and down on stage because he was so excited and also in roughly a billion dollars of debt. This stage can also be dangerous. Spending money is a bad thing to be doing during Uninformed Optimism. It’s why so many companies blew up in the dotcom era after spending millions on Superbowl TV ads.
When you spend all this money during the optimistic yet uninformed stages, at some point you’re going to cross the curve and then you’re going to find out the real picture. When you have those feelings of manic energy, you don’t want to be doing business planning, you don’t want to be working on your budget, you don’t want to be making buying decisions, you don’t want to be making hiring decisions, right? You don’t want to be doing your accounting, or your bookkeeping. You don’t want to be doing anything that requires you to be thinking, logical, planning, or doing any decision making. You just can’t think straight and calm enough for that!
The stuff that you want to be doing is standing in front of groups of people recruiting, looking for new employees, telling your story, doing your guerrilla marketing, going to networking events, talking to the media. Leverage your energy in a good way by being the outward face of the company so people feel your energy and buzz.
And remember that when you’re at that Uninformed Optimism stage, do anything that’s outward facing; talking about your company, selling the story, raising money, all that is stuff to do at Uninformed Optimism. And don’t make buying, hiring, planning, or budgeting decisions. Harness your excitement and make people flock to you and your company.
For more information on this topic, check out: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Entrepreneurs.