Thanks to my recent travels, which took me from San Francisco to Munich to LA and back again — all in less than a week — I got to thinking about the past four years. It’s been nearly that long since I first started working on GigaOM, the business, and thus crossed over to becoming a founder.
The role of a startup founder is a pretty unique. A great startup founder is a heady blend of The Rock, Woody Allen and Winston Churchill — and Harry Potter. In other words, a fearless, neurotic creative, and a stubborn visionary — one that believes in the power of magic. It also requires an entirely different level of obsessiveness, which can lead you to greatness or the grave. But somewhere along the way, many founders develop what I call founderitis.
Founderitis is a side effect of being a startup guy. Using my own experiences, talking to a handful of my close founder friends and channeling knowledge acquired after years of writing about entrepreneurs, I have come up with a list of signs that you might be suffering from founderitis. If you’re exhibiting three or more of them, perhaps it’s time for you to dial it back a bit — even for a brief period of, say, 24 hours.
1. You mistake insomnia for work ethic.
2. You are constantly looking to add hot new features to your products such as Tweet This & Facebook Connect.
3. You obsess over features/details over which you have no control.
4. You have the constant urge to do everything.
5. You have attention deficit disorder, in that you’re constantly checking Twitter/Facebook/Google Reader and have set up Google Alerts to monitor what people are saying about you and your company — when you should be actually working.
6. Your idea of dining out is picking up take-out food rather than having it delivered.
7. In moments of great weakness, you regret not just starting a virtual farm application and selling virtual goods via cell phones.
8. Your favorite “vacation” over the past year consisted of going to a conference for 72 hours.
9. The last time you cried was last night.
10. You mistake half a dozen T-shirts with company logos for your wardrobe.
11. When people ask how your day went, you tell them it’s only half over.
12. You have more gray hair than equity.
Here is a bonus symptom from my friend Aaron Levie of Box.net.
Because your startup has 70 people, you begin to think you’d do a better job than Obama. And you’ve begun regularly saying things like, “Please don’t come to that meeting without a chartered project plan.”
If you have any more additions to this list, please feel free to add them in the comments.