Welcome. This blog and website are a master class in entrepreneurship. I won’t be teaching you the basics of finance, accounting, marketing, legal, admin and the other skills that are required to start and run a business. There are plenty of resources available to help you learn the basics, although I will provide the occasional pointer. This blog and website exist to give you the kind of advice you can’t find in books. I’ve spent 20 years as a full-time entrepreneur, failed many times, had my tail kicked around the business landscape, and finally succeeded. I hope my advice here will get you there faster and with fewer scars.
When I was very young I read a book called Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. JLS is a short book about a seagull who chooses not to squabble for food with the flock, but instead to perfect the art of flight.
There is a quote in the book as follows:
“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the albatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!”
“I don’t mind being bone and feathers, mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.”
“See here, Jonathan,” said his father, not unkindly. “Winter isn’t far away. Boats will be few, and the surface fish will be swimming deep. If you must study, then study food, and how to get it. This flying business is all very well, but you can’t eat a glide, you know. Don’t you forget that the reason you fly is to eat.”
It took me half a lifetime to realize the profound effect that the book had on me. When I read it, I was younger than 9 years old, and from age 5 to 9 I read voraciously courtesy of the local public library. The book taught me that, not only is it OK to be different, but being different separates you from the flock and provides you the opportunity to seek a higher plane of knowledge, friendship, love, achievement and existence.
Around age 9 I started to read less when I learned to program on the Apple IIe, which consumed me. The inspiration that Jonathan Seagull and the Apple IIe provided set me on a path that would lead to building a fast growing software company with a team of 40 in 2020 and still growing.
About 15 years ago I wrote a lot and this blog was popular. But after 5 years of writing about entrepreneurship, I realized that I had never actually created a successful company. I had been trying full-time since 2003 along with my wife, Kerry. In fact, by 2010, I was, as Jonathan’s mother put it, Bone and Feathers. I decided to stop writing, because I felt I had to earn the right to advise others by first figuring out this entrepreneur thing myself.
In 2011 Kerry and I pivoted into cyber security and created a very popular firewall and malware scanning product to protect WordPress publishers. After trying for a decade, we finally knocked it out of the park.
The next few years saw tremendous personal growth and growth in our business. By 2015 we started hiring. Today our business is around 25 full-time employees with above market salaries and benefits that lead the industry. We also have around 15 contractors, the majority of which work full-time for us. They are all amazing people and I feel privileged to work with each of them.
Today – which is late in 2020 – I feel that I have learned enough to begin to teach, mentor and guide others, just as Jonathan Seagull does in the book.
Entrepreneurship is a hard path. Many lessons are not teachable, but are learned by walking the path. Creating a business out of thin air, retaining ownership and control, and seeing it through to financial success is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. But once you succeed, the rewards are many and they range from the financial to the psychological to the spiritual.
Entrepreneurship takes many forms. Some of us are the lone entrepreneur, broke and sitting in a room trying to think our way out of a deep hole. Some entrepreneurs start with co-founders or a small team. Some raise large amounts of money, while others choose to tough it out without investors. My path was to create a new product, targeting a new market, while raising a small amount of capital and retaining majority ownership of the company and control of my board. This, I believe, is one of the hardest paths. It is long and torturous. But I had tremendous help from my co-founder and wife, and several amazing mentors.
Whether you choose the path of the solo entrepreneur with no money, or you join a team of innovators who are fast moving as they change the world, I think you will find that this blog has something for you.
If you do choose to leave the flock and learn to soar, I wish you the very best of luck. I know how difficult the journey is, and I am committed to doing everything I can to help you.
Let us begin this journey away from the squabbling flock, together.
~Mark Maunder – Orcas Island, September 2020.