(I originally published this on my Medium blog, found here @samhouston)
If I had to create a word cloud for what my experience of 2013 was, it would include “fear”, “challenge”, “uncertainty” and “perseverance”. This year has been one of the most challenging that I’ve experienced, with a turbulent tenure at a startup that ended with a layoff, several months of unemployment, and then ending the year with joining a company as the fourth employee. Throughout this year I’ve been uncertain that things would go well, been afraid that I would fail, but somehow was able to persevere through the challenges.
After I was laid off, it took me awhile to get over the pain and self-doubt that came with being laid off. Despite being told that I was laid off due to reasons that weren’t performance related (just staffing/re-org related), I still felt like I had failed somehow.
I was laid off after being at Couchsurfing for only 9 months, which meant I had a tough story to tell potential employers. Several people that I interviewed with told me that it was hard to understand what I accomplished at Couchsurfing, since times were so hectic at the company and within the community. This assessment was very difficult to hear, and fairly de-motivating for awhile. I started to get fairly frustrated with my job search, since my options weren’t very satisfactory to me.
But it was out of this frustration that I was forced to be creative and come up with new solutions. I decided to run some Facebook ads to promote my Linkedin profile, and after only a couple of days I got lucky and met a guy for an interview.
The latest part of my journey has brought me to a pre-seed investment company as their first employee. This kind of startup is virtually the definition of ‘uncertainty’. At this stage we’re still figuring out what our product is and what it should be, who our customers are, and hoping that we’ll be able to make it all work. There are a lot of ups and downs with a startup, but we have to persevere and work hard to make things happen.
I’ve never been at a company this early in its life. By the time I’ve been hired, usually a company has figured out the things that have worked and you’re building off of those with the help of significant amounts of money that were raised. But this experience is a new type of challenge, where we’re working together to create something that fits with our vision of the world and where it’s headed. While I’ve found the inherit uncertainty of a tiny startup to be quite stressful and scary at times, it has also been very creatively and personally rewarding. At this point, we can attribute every download of the app to our actions, every press mention to something that we did, and the future of the company is sculpted every day by the four of us.
I don’t know what 2014 will bring and in some ways I’m scared, since 2013 was a very tough year for me personally. There were many times I’ve wanted to give up and wished that things were easier for me. I’ve written this post to remind me that despite how bad things can get, or how crazy and uncertain the future may look, things will work out and I’ll somehow find a way to persevere.
I’d like to thank my family, my girlfriend, and my friends for being so supportive this year. Maybe they didn’t always understand my want to take risks or thought ideas were crazy, but they still supported me anyway.
I hope everyone has a great 2014, thank you for reading this article and for ending 2013 with me.