Life on the Frontier

benbuie | 7/28/13

I’ve been following Brad Feld’s blog since I moved to Boulder. I like it because he makes it personal, I always learn something interesting, and many times I’m inspired. His post last Thursday, Welcome to The Frontier – An Ode To Startups, was both instructive and inspiring. The post was written by Zack Rosen, the CEO of a Foundry portfolio company.

I’ve often talked about entrepreneurship being the wild west. There is no status quo. You survive by your vision, wit, street smarts, and a little of what many people call luck (I call it destiny because I don’t believe in luck).

However, the analogy of the wild west falls short in many ways. Right? There are no due’s in entrepreneurship, particularly if the entrepreneur is any good. It’s not about standing face to face with a competitor waiting to see who will shoot first. Rather, entrepreneurs work together, even with those who may seem like competitors, to build a thriving market out of nothing. It’s a game of growth, not of market share.

Also, entrepreneurship isn’t about hijacking trains, bandits, or bluffing. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Reputation is extremely important and tarnishing yours can end your career.

Zack’s article shared a much better, yet similar analogy for entrepreneurship. He called it the Frontier. It is not about duels. It is about working together. It is about respect. “Notice the other paths laid by other teams out here on The Frontier….When you pass another team blazing their path, tip your hat….Be gracious on The Frontier.”

Why? Because things change quickly on the Frontier, you never know when you may have to pool your resource in a hard winter. It happens! The only example I can think of is a competitor becoming an acquirer. Others?

I’d love to hear your reaction to Zack’s article (I’ll apologize in advance for his two expletives).

Personally, I think his ideas would be perfect to share with potential employees. They’ll either be inspired by the challenge, or scared away by it. Take, for instance, the following thought, “On The Frontier, there’s no rule of law and there are no guarantees. There are consequences if we get it wrong. We won’t be destitute, but we’ll always wonder if we could have done better.”

If someone isn’t inspired by that, they shouldn’t work in a startup. It’s that simple. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, it makes total sense to not be an entrepreneur. Why would any one want to live without rules, where the consequences can be enormous.

But then they may have to live with what might have been. I can’t do that.


About the Author

Ben currently works as a contract web developer and business consultant in Boulder, Colorado.

His passion for entrepreneurship led him to study business and learn to code. Although he never anticipated working on the web, Ben has spent the past 9 years learning everything he could about building and operating websites and web assets.

When not at work, Ben spends a lot of his time with family. He is married to a “beautiful” woman and they are raising 4 energetic boys. In his spare time he loves keeping up with technology, playing guitar, eating Sweet Cow ice cream, and painting (although he has very little time for painting these days). Other than that, Ben is a supporter of freedom and liberty, a fluent speaker of Russian, and he tries to be a humble follower of Jesus.

Read more about Ben.