StartUp Founders: The Misunderstood Lunatics?

August 13, 2023 4 mins read

You have to be willing to be misunderstood if you’re going to innovate.

Jeff Bezos

Dear Reader,

May you be blessed with a lifetime of being misunderstood — by those who recognize that innovation requires critics, lunatics, and unapologetic visionaries.
(tweet this)

Book: “Loonshots” by Safi Bahcall – How to nurture the crazy ideas that win wars….

Last week: Founder Glow Up: With All Your Sh*t, You’re Still The Best CEO.

Being misunderstood isn’t a romantic notion; it’s a harsh reality. You must choose which voices carry weight and when you need to listen. Dissent is a gift; treasure it. Use it to sharpen your conviction and refine your approach.

There are those who will never get it, and others who lack the humility to ask. Give patience to those who invest the time, energy, and intellect to truly try to understand.

The shadow of being misunderstood haunts this newsletter’s bravado. Most founders, through Series A, face the reality of being both resource-strapped and misunderstood. Only made worst by the fear that you’re not misunderstood; you’re just dead wrong.

Being misunderstood doesn’t always mean others can’t understand your product or vision. Often it’s as simple as failing to see the potential market, the opportunity’s scale, or as granular as a marketing, sales, or feature strategy.

It lurks in the relationships with your co-founders, employees, or family. A mismatch in tactics or a failure to recognize the nuance of your approach.

It is woven into the fabric of the details, and sometimes, you are the problem. Your failure to communicate, quantify or detail, so immersed in your mission, that you assume a shared understanding.

If your vision is being misunderstood; You need to crawl back into your cave and emerge somewhere, somehow, with someone or something that shows that this dream is real, tangible, and potentially huge. Being right but dead in the water serves no one. Step back in the arena when you have something to show.

As the investor, customer and recruitment doors slam shut, and no one seems to get it, you will be tempted to conform, to secure the investment. Betrayal or a strategic play? It’s not that simple. Survival means making tough choices, and sometimes you don’t get the choice, you have to make payroll.

Being misunderstood is a part of the founder journey, a rite of passage. It’s why the best early stage investors focus on the founder. They may not see your vision, but they know you see it and they think you might be able to pull it off. Tackling unaddressed, misunderstood or even weird problems is the essence of venture.

Think you are unique? Role play these pitch meetings….

Newbie founders presenting a Blockbuster competitor with no stores, strangers are going to rent out their bedrooms to other strangers, it’s a folder in the cloud for your stuff, a taxi service without owning a car, social networking for professionals like Facebook but with ties and briefcases, a camera that deletes your photos after a few seconds, selling glasses online without trying them on, a pocket computer that’s more than a phone. At the time, all absurd, impractical, or even impossible, but sometimes, ludicrous turns into legacy.

That’s the issue. Most people are limited by the confines of what they already know, unable to see into the unknown, to grasp what it could be. If they could they’d be innovators, pioneers, founders. But they can’t, so they aren’t – and that’s why you’re in the seat you’re in. Your advisors, capital partners, and circle may not always see IT, but they must see YOU.

When Sam Altman talked about misunderstanding, he surfaced this quote by legendary StartUp Founder Coco Chanel: “I don’t care about what you think. I don’t even think about you at all.”

Being misunderstood is not a short term problem; it’s the beginning of a lifetime journey, where you constantly strive to prove your vision and your worth.

If this is you, if these words resonate, you’re not alone. You’re part of a small community that sees the world not for what it is but for what it could be. Hold onto that vision with unbreakable faith because when you’re misunderstood, you might just be on the path to something extraordinary.

Set the world ablaze.

— James

(LinkedIn | Twitter | Tiktok)

The Founder’s Dilemma: The Business Of Hard Choices Next: StartUp Arrogance: Brand Beats Product. Every Single Day.
Join us in inspiring 🚀

StartUp To ScaleUp Newsletter

Where 140k+ founders read my weekly newsletter offering tactical insights to start, scale, and fund their startup. Real advice from a 3x exited founder.