In front of me sit 4 incredibly accomplished and tenacious women. They are building companies of impact and scale. Each of them are YC alumni so they have been exactly where I am today. And through smarts and guts, they have grown really compelling businesses over the past 3+ years.
So I am eager to hear more about their trials and triumphs. Each one goes through what they’re building, the incredible growth and progress they’ve made and what they’re most excited about. Then they mention the funding they’ve been able to raise.
To a one, the audience breaks out into enthusiastic applause after the funding amounts are said. I even hear “wow” and “that’s amazing”.
And it occurs to me, we’re clapping for entirely the wrong thing.
The funding is not the thing we should be celebrating. It’s all of the other stuff.
A year ago I would have been clapping too. But this year I know better.
Because we’ve now raised millions in funding. And it still catches me off guard when people congratulate me for that.
Not for the amazing growth we’d shown or the team we’ve built or the problem we’re solving. But for the money we’ve been able to raise. As if the tally of dollars somehow equates directly into the worth of my accomplishments.
And it doesn’t. If anything, it’s the opposite.
Closing a round marks the beginning of a race not the end. As soon as that money hits your bank account you realize the clock is ticking. This is not my money. It was loaned to me under the promise of greater return. A significantly greater return. And don’t get me wrong – I am grateful for it. I know what every single dollar means for what we’ll be able to do.
But the money is not what I am celebrating.
The chance to live another 37 months is what I’m celebrating.
I know it’s not what’s praised in the press – whole articles are written about the fact that money was raised. Founders are celebrated, revered, lauded for the sum in their bank account.
I get it. I did the same. I obsessed over getting funded, closing funding, being funded.
I see how far I was from the point.
Funding is not the point. Building the company is the point. And whatever enables me to build that company is certainly critical, but not an end in and of itself.
I didn’t realize how passionately I felt about this until the past two weeks. When I have been overwhelmed by congratulations on the funding, without asking how my business is doing. I don’t fault anyone for it. Because it’s what we as a society have repeatedly said is valued.
But as I sit here, listening to the truly enormous accomplishments of these founders, against the most formidable of odds, we shouldn’t be listening for the amount raised and creating some sort of imaginary competition. One founder’s $9M does not make her 3 times as worthy or effective as the one that raised $3M. Nor do those figures reflect the realities of their businesses. Or, most importantly, assure success.
We need to all change the culture of what we celebrate.
Let’s get back to celebrating the real successes worthy of admiration. Growing revenue. Positive margins. Stellar hires.
Let’s applaud for the accomplishments, not for the money.