OnStartups

Dear Friend: Sorry. My heart says yes, but my schedule says no.

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on July 21, 2011 in personal 65 Comments

The following started out as a late night email I was going to write to someone that reached out for some guidance and advice.  Expanded version posted here in a somewhat desperate attempt at garnering sympathy and understanding.  Thanks for your patience. -Dharmesh

Dear Friend,

Thanks for reaching out and connecting.

It is likely that you, your idea, your company, or your proposition is awesome. Unfortunately, my schedule is totally not awesome.

One of my biggest weaknesses in life is that I too often say yes. I'm passionate about startups. I get excited about new ideas. I love making new friends online. And, it's so much easier to say yes than it is to say no. “Yes” is more fun and carries less guilt (in the short term).

However, I've learned the lesson that every time that I say yes to something new, I am effectively saying no to something else. And, I've already said yes to too many things, and so have to say “no” to you. No, I can't accept a request for a call, a meeting or some time to review your startup or your business opportunity.  Embarrassingly, I'm unlikely to be able to respond to your email (though I do read just about all of them).sorry

Although my heart says yes, I must say no.

I know you feel like you're asking for so little (“I just need 15 minutes for a quick call…”), and you are. But, there are just not enough hours in the day, or days in the week (I work all 7) to review or respond to all those that reach out. I confess that I am overwhelmed. My sincere apologies. I wish I could bend the laws of space and time, but unfortunately, my past efforts at doing this have proven futile.

Here's a bit more detail on my professional priorities:

My #1 priority, by a long shot, is my company, HubSpot. I am emotionally, financially and morally committed to HubSpot. I want HubSpot to be successful. By my definition, success is making those who believed in you look brilliant. So, I work very hard to make HubSpot customers, employees and investors look brilliant. If you have your own startup, I think you can likely appreciate what an all-consuming activity it is. There is precious little time for anything else.

What little time there is left, I mostly spend on OnStartups.com. I write blog articles. I do some tweeting. I do some public speaking. I make some angel investments. The way I choose how I spend this time is very simple: I'm looking for leverage. I'm looking to positively impact the most number of people with the limited time/energy I have available. This is why, although I have invested in over 20 great startups as an angel investor — I spend very little time with any of them individually (I make this clear before I invest).

And, as it turns out, I have a bit of a personal life too (though some might argue that point). So, when I'm not “working” (I use the term loosely), I like to spend it with my wife Kirsten, and my new baby boy, Sohan.

Abandon all hope all ye who enter my inbox. -Dharmesh

If you're not saying HELL YEAH! about something, say no. ~Derek Sivers 

To prevent this entire article from being a self-indulgent pile of poo, I'd like to share some useful resources.

Some Useful Links and Information

1. If you're raising angel money for an early-stage startup, I highly recommend AngelList. It's an easy, efficient way to get in front of some great angel investors. There's nothing like it anywhere else. I do many of my angel investments through there now.

2. Already in negotiations with investors? Have a term sheet? You MUST read Venture Hacks. A super-practical guide to some of the ins and outs of what you should look out for. (Interestingly, Venture Hacks and AngelList are run by the same two awesome guys: Naval and Nivi).

3. If you have a specific question about startups, try posting to http://answers.onstartups.com — Powered by the StackExchange platform (same software that runs the fantastic Stack Overflow). Nothing gets my attention more than if you build authority and credibility there. (Because I like to help folks that like to help others). And, there are a bunch of cool people that jump in and answer questions (including Joel Spolsky himself).

4. If you're a super-awesome developer (and I mean really, really awesome) and looking to join a startup that is equally awesome, you can proceed directly to GO, and just reach out to me via email. I can connect you to HubSpot, or one of 20+ startups that I am invested in who are almost all looking for great people.

My email (in simple Python code): 'hahsd'[::-1] + 'moc.sputratsno@'[::-1]

5. If you're new to the startup scene (i.e. just getting going), I highly recommend Guy Kawasaki's “Art Of The Start”. It's an easy read and super-helpful.

6. If you're looking for great blogs about startups, you can do no better than the awesome list here: Top Blogs On Startups

7. And, if you're on twitter, here are some of the great startup peeps that I've learned a bunch from: @jasonlbaptiste, @davemcclure, @hnshah, @danmartell, @ericries, @randfish, @asmartbear, @dcancel, @sarahprevette, @andrewwarner, @msuster, @sivers, @jasonfried (and many more…)

Finally, I want to close with a hat-tip to folks like Dave McClure, Chris Brogan, Andrew Warner and others that work so freakin' hard and despite their celebrity status and crazy schedules, manage to make time in their busy schedules to help a bunch of people. They succeed where I fail. I am humbled.

Wish you the best in all of your efforts.  Thanks for your support and understanding.

Sincerely,

Dharmesh