Passion – The Secret Sauce For Success – But There’s One Thing It Cannot Do


“Passion is the genesis of genius ” Gallileo Galilei 

The tech start-up space is a maelstrom of organized chaos, glued together by one core phenomenon – passion. Just head on down to any tech start-up event and you feel it oozing from every pore of entrepreneurs looking to spruik their latest and greatest world-changing idea.  Passion fuels the fire that everyone wants to watch; it fuels the fire that everyone warms to ; it fuels  the fire that inspires anyone who comes closer to feel the warmth.  But why is it so prevalent within the tech startup space?

Running a tech startup is hard work. It’s fearfully competitive. It’s all about pitching, hustling; change. Being aware of ever-changing technologies, the ever-changing minds of investors, the ever-changing competitors all scrambling to grab the real estate before you in a marketplace whose pace leaves Usain Bolt in the starting blocks. The emotional highs are higher than you have felt before; the lows, the lowest depths of despair. There are 16 hour days and sleepless nights as you are rocked between elation and desperation. If you didn’t have passion you’d give up; and far too many do.

According to Forbes magazine, 90% of all tech startups fail. So you have to ask yourself “why do it?”. Why put yourself through the pain and the agony? The money? The glory? The cache of saying I am the CEO of a tech startup – the reprised geek chic. Or is it the potential to change the world with your ideas ? To disrupt a market that is ripe for disruption and refuses to change?

The majority of CEO’s that I speak to at the startup events consistently talk about the fact that they are driven by the power to change;  to make a difference. Can this be said within the corporate world that they have left far behind – probably not.  But whilst passion is critical – by itself there is one thing passion cannot do – pay the bills.

Your dream can come crashing down if the burn rate is too high, your costs are out of control and zero cashflow is only a hair’s breadth away. Startups never plan to fail; they just do. Passion is not enough. Sure, it gets you through the tough times; it gives you the confidence to address issues head-on – but its hard work and can never make up for a cold reality check of your business.

So often, when you are rushing around at 1,000 kms per hour the last thing you feel you need to hear or want to hear is a reality check. But if your cashflow becomes increasingly tighter your passion will wane. It’s hard to look forward, and excitedly outwards, when you are looking inwardly at how you are going to squeeze out next month’s rent. Tight cashflow sometimes makes you do things you never thought you would – the devil rides when needs must.  Your core job as CEO of a tech startup startup is not to run out of money – it’s really that simple

So before you lose sight of your passion make sure you have a great CFO on board or at least an independent voice that can help you see the wood from the bark of the trees – and hopefully not the bark of your creditors.

Passion will drive your success – but it doesn’t pay your bills.

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