Friday, May 7, 2010

Riding Giants

Laird Hamilton Stone Bridge Biomedical has been in operation since last May - ‘hardly seems that long.  The accountants are preparing our annual audit and we’re picking a venue for the ‘We Survived a Year” party.  It’s actually been a successful start and a wonderful experience; I value the creative and task control and the company has operated ‘break-even’. I’m having fun, have navigated all of the residency requirements in Europe (for both NL and UK visas), and the business structures (accounting, banking, legal, branding) are established and operating well. The future feels filled with opportunities.

At the same time, the core content objectives of Stone Bridge have not been met: I wanted to spend time developing software to aggregate, interpret, and visualize data streams for remote medical monitoring, and that hasn’t happened.  Instead, the business operated more as a consultancy: I took a business development role with  a company making sensors, did some teaching, and supported a handful of friends with ideas in preparing business plans and pitches.

In contrast, CamStent was stabilized, funded, reorganized, and is moving forward effectively around its core product development activity.  ‘Not at all what I would have expected – it was dormant a year ago.  Funding does make a difference.

I like the topics and the people that I’m working with, and I’ve learned to comfortably structure the workday so things get done.  A lot of time goes to writing content and raising money, both time-consuming and open-ended, and I want to transition towards doing more product and business development in the coming year.   Life-balance can still be a struggle, although having a car should help get me away form the home-office and out for some air.

There are three major opportunities that I’m trying to sift in the coming months; left-right decisions that will define the business and my activities into the coming year.

1)  I’ve been invited to take a CEO position with the company I’ve been consulting for.  No question that it’s a great opportunity: it’s in my interest-space, gives me a chance to build the  product and the company, provides a stable income and health insurance,  leads to a potentially profitable exit in a few years. At the same time, it’s working for someone else, potentially a geographic shift away from Europe, a step back from Stone Bridge for at least a year. 

The alternative is to keep a loose association, finish establishing the funding and partnerships they need to get to market, hand it over to new management, then step back and focus on funding and building Stone Bridge.  Ideally, I would use their data streams to develop my software ideas, but would still need funding and time to develop my software prototypes.

I’ve talked with my parents, partners, and friends about this, and they are overwhelmingly in favor of taking the position.

2) I’ve been invited to interview for a really cool interim position that would last for the summer, 3 days a week.  Not a huge salary, but a highly visible and connected opportunity that would boost my street cred a lot and relieve some of the short term money worries. And it would be lots of fun.

But, again, it would be a distraction: I feel like maybe I’m being too opportunistic in considering this.  I’ve spent the past five years hopping from one foothold to the next, ever grasping the brighter stone. I need to decide where that ends, and where I start having a stable, long-term focus on building the core businesses I’ve started.

3) I’m getting too geographically spread out.  I have an apartment in Maastricht, now one in Barrington, and a home in Seattle.  Each carries cost, not just rent, utilities, and taxes, but also visas, transportation, furnishings, and time. I watch the investment cost vs. the revenue gained very carefully, and it’s worth it for the short term.

But I’m not establishing a life anywhere in particular.  A folk singer once old me that I need to shift my weight into commitments rather than hover over opportunities.  The residences need to consolidate, and I need to build a personal life around a home again.

laird_hamilton These key decisions are all, in Dutch parlance, left-right choices, three clear choices to make and pass through.

At the same time, they are all hugely consequential. Once chosen, they define the future, and there’s not time or money to go back to do them over.

Life as ‘Riding Giants’.

This was the 2007 Laird Hamilton movie about finding the world’s best wave and mastering it.  Laird is hugely talented and creative, and he was focused, fearless, and committed in pursuing his goals.  Are these any different?

At the same time, he carved a path for the fun of it.  It seems like that has to enter into this too: am I happy living the outcomes.

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