That Founder Chip On Your Shoulder: Bad or Good?

Motivation comes from many sources, but that chip you’re carrying could go either way.

Being an entrepreneur is entirely different than going to work for a company. As an employee of a company, you are placed within a prescribed environment with a set of standardized operating rules. These rules are created to provide you with all of the tools necessary to do your job as well as demonstrate how to behave in the workplace.

But how about that chip on your shoulder?

To some extent every great founder gets started with a chip – a chip that basically tells the established way of doing things that they can go jump in a lake. As an investor, I like a certain degree of sticking it to the man as a motivation tool. Heck, it’s sometimes the only thing that wakes us up in the morning. The journey to startup success has all of those valleys and we all need something special to power through them.

On the other hand, there are those whose personal version of their chip takes a negative or counter-productive turn to the detriment of the company or themselves.

One example is the founder who complains about other founders or companies raising money when they can’t. You have heard the words, “Joe raised $1m for that stupid idea, I can’t believe I can’t raise $500k with my company”. This is a comparative chip and the target is another person. You can’t help but look immature and scary to investors when you roll with that attitude. Why would anyone hearing this want to work more closely with you?

Another example is the founder who whines about their state in life and the burden this has caused them as they sit behind more fortunate founders. The notion here is that they (not you) have a starting point in life that makes it easier for them to succeed. The excuses can include being poor, a woman, a minority, a college drop out, short, overweight, ugly, etc. You get the picture. All of these are potential obstacles in a traditional business world.

I recently attended a show by Trevor Noah (the Late Show comedian) who shared the thought that we all share tremendous barriers to success either individually or as part of something bigger than us.

Most companies fail at some point. The reason for a company’s failure is not because of your starting point in life – it is that you failed to find a product that fit a market in an economical manner that produced positive results.

Every founder is burdened with that mission.

To paraphrase Trevor, it is how you decide to work against the barriers you are confronted with that will separate you from others.

As an entrepreneur, we specifically rail against rules and by definition are seeking to create a workplace environment that embrace a freedom of expression. Just don’t bring your baggage to the room with a chip on your shoulder.

Speaker, investor, mentor, startup founder. One of 3 or 4 Co-Founders of MapQuest (sold to AOL for $1.2B). Managing Director of $25M Venture Fund in late 90's. CEO, COO or President of various companies ranging from $200k to $20M in size. One of two Managing Directors of The Startup Factory (35 investments across 7 cohorts), founder and MC of the Big Top Reverse Job Fair and national writer and speaker waxing poetic around startups and startup communities. Currently EIR @ Techstars with Brad Feld ~ Startup Communities, to help community leaders around the world grow their startup community.

6 comments On That Founder Chip On Your Shoulder: Bad or Good?

  • Mr. Shutdown Factory

    Dude, why so negative all the time? Seriously, you need counseling. It is obvious that you are unhappy about yourself and where you are in life. People like you can only make themselves taller by standing on another person. You are not a role model. You take yourself to seriously. You failed with the Shutdown Factory, made a fool of yourself. So what, get over it! Grow up or be a loser for the rest of your life. Please, stop polluting and abusing the Internet with your immaturity. Relax and enjoy your life.

    • Sometimes I feel a little negative too. I will work on it.
      I am very happy on where I am in life so not sure why you think so.
      Role model – I will let others determine that, you are one vote so I know how you feel. I have tried to conduct myself in a proper fashion.
      We did not fail at The Startup Factory. 35 investments, over $3.5M put into play.
      Grow up? NEVER.

      Mr. Troll – wanna come out from under your fake email? At least I put myself out there for others to see.

  • Make Chris Heivly Great Again

    This is a stupid article where the author shows his real face and attacks the poor, women, minorities, obese people e.g. This ego maniac offers no real solution to close the diversity gap in tech. This is exactly what is wrong with tech hubs like Durham. Just another failed guy, loving the sound of his own voice. His flyer, Build The Fort, that he dares to call a book, tanked on Amazon. Please can somebody Make Chris Heivly Great Again?

    • A couple thoughts –
      – Diversity? Happy to compare my actual track record vs some Comment troll’s semi-anonymous thoughts
      – I do like the sound of my own voice.
      – My book did not tank on Amazon, it did quite well. I am very happy with it and it has brought many people joy.
      – I was never great to begin with so not sure where to go with that one.

  • I agrree that a chip can be a big motivator. From my view, it becomes an issue when the chip on their shoulder is combined with a lack of empathy which causes issues with a growing employee and customer base. Thoughts?

    • Yes, when your chip turns into a extra weight is the issues. That can manifest itself in poor customer relations, growing employee or peer resentment but most importantly when the chip turns you into the you you dont want to be. I am looking for a little self-awareness and introspection as some people dont realize the negative aspects of their motivation.

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