Why "Marred by Dust"?
When I was little, I would often stay with my grandparents during school holidays.
My grandad, Pop, made a living fabricating homemade transistor radios and I spent much time in his work shed watching him tinker away.
Pop was a quiet and serious man. He didn’t speak much, and when he did, it was usually with an objective of imparting some life lesson. I remember he would often recite a Teddy Roosevelt quote:
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." (Teddy Roosevelt 1910)
I didn’t understand the message then, but it began to sink in as time passed.
Years later, I found myself getting involved in tech and was fortunate to spend a decade of my life on two great startup journeys - OurDeal (a “Groupon for Australia and New Zealand”, exited to News Corp in 2011) and Kanopy (a “Netflix for libraries”, exited to L2 in 2018).
When I reflect on entrepreneurship and what it takes to be on the founding team of a startup, Pop’s (Teddy’s) words ring very loud.
The act of founding a company is tantamount to jumping straight into the arena - accepting huge risks, embracing significant failures, and valiantly chasing a worthy cause with great enthusiasm.
Being an operator for so long, I also know how hard and taxing the experience is. More often than not, you feel “marred by dust”.
This blog and newsletter is intended to share stories, hands-on operational insights, and playbooks that I hope may be of some use to founders in the arena.
At a minimum, I hope to pay absolute respect to what you do… the “doer of deeds”.