Dear Startup Founders, Yours Truly COVID19

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

A letter of pain, hope, and second chances

Face sculpture deconstructed
Photo Courtesy: Wix

To you my dearest game-changer,

I am proud of you. I’ve seen the look on your face when you said you wanna change the world. You are the bravest soul I had laid my eyes on.

I’ve seen that look before — in the face of the giants who came before you.

You once said you’re tired and sick of the old system. That the system needs an overhaul. Someone crazy enough to raise the bar higher and do the task most people wouldn’t just dare do. When everyone else was sleeping in the night, you were hustling.

You gave up your career. Your savings. Your time. Your family. Your friends. And there were times, you gave up on yourself too. There was nobody else around to cheer you up, so you decided to just pull your sh*t together.

One day, I saw your notes. Those were not written in human language, I assume. There are lines, and numbers, and graphs, and doodles, and just random letters and flowcharts flying in all four corners of your notebook. And oh, some tables too with rows and columns filled with checkmarks and a long list of God-knows-what.

I’ve seen this kind of note before — in Da Vinci’s sketch of the Vitruvian man.

You have millions of things going on inside your brain. So much that the people around you couldn’t just comprehend them.

One shot of espresso. Two rounds of walk around the study table. Three skipped meals. Four declined social gatherings. Five missed calls. Six pounds lost weight. Seven hours of radiation exposure from your laptop screen. Eight hours of sleep, impossible.

This is all it took to solve that ONE algorithm. The solution you believe will ease a portion of suffering in society.

You have to suffer for a while, so the future generation won’t. And that generation includes your future son, and daughter, and grandkids. Your descendants.

Now your finished product (or at least an MVP) is about to be released in the market a few months from now. You are ecstatic and hopeful, yet afraid. Is your vision gonna reflect the product you have just created? Will the product really help them? Will the market embrace your idea? Or dump it into the trash can the moment they spot a tiny glitch? These are all the inevitable questions rallying outside your fence.

But you chose to fight. After all, you’ve run a mile now and burned loads of cash already. It’s about time to expose yourself to people who you believe will invest in your idea. A startup founder needs a venture capitalist or an angel investor, at least, to cover the first two-year runway expenses.

A lot of prospective investors were in awe of your idea. Some were even asking a lot of questions, seem very interested. It took you two hours each. No promises were made. One month after that, you haven’t received a call. Ghosted.

I’ve seen your face. It says “I am fine”, but I read “I am tired”. You remained optimistic. And that’s your gift to the world.

The fight isn’t over yet. ‘It’s just a bump on the road’, you said. And I’m here to remind you that building a startup is not for the faint-hearted. You knew it from the start. You knew what you were signing up for. You’ve had all the plans laid out on your sheets. Plan A and B and C. But you didn’t plan for me. I am a black swan. The plot twist. The outlier. They called me “novel”.

December 2019 — I started in Wuhan. The world never cared, because I’m far from them after all. Until one day, I came knocking at your neighbor’s door. And you were afraid to go out anymore. Well not just you, the humanity itself.

It’s like a month ago, you had everything under control. The killer investment pitch is prepared. A great product lies inside your pocket. Marketing plans and strategies all specified down to the smallest dollar and minute. A startup company-in-the-making indeed. Until I invited myself in, unannounced.

Fight, flight, or freeze. Those were your only options.

You started calling the Divine and asked what’s the purpose of all these. And you realized, this was the only time you genuinely prayed. You thought you were praying this whole time, but no you were just reciting lines over and over again. Now everyone else is at ground zero, and nobody knows what’s gonna happen next. Even me, to tell you the truth, I don’t know my timeline.

To you, my dearest fighter, don’t give up yet.

The world needs a creative and intelligent person like you in times of crisis like this. You will get out of this. This too shall pass. And when it does, I bet you will never be the same again. Out of the ashes, you will rise.

One thing I’m sure of, this happens because it’s not yet your time to shine.

My dear, you need to learn which battle to fight, and which battle to let go. I remember this man named Sun Tzu from 2,500 years ago. His book The Art of War really got me thinking, am I really the enemy here?

Because from my perspective, I bought you some time. A time that you can use to spend with your loved ones, yourself, and the Greater Force of all. A time that was greatly lost when you were so busy trying to change the world. And no, I don’t blame you for that.

Don’t get me wrong. I just want you to slow down. Just this time. Breathe it all in. Prepare for the next battle after me. Because the world will never be the same again when I vanished.

I am deeply sorry if I ruined your plans big time.

I never meant to harm your dream startup.

I just want to give you the gift of time.

Wishing you all the best, COVID19

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