Early Stage Startups as Classic Car Restoration

I have an early stage startup and a classic car. I got both at the same time, and in both cases, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I underestimated the demands of both as well. While the startup has dominated my time for the past year, the two have remained highly analogous.

As we start to talk more about the pressure on founders these days, it’s important for new entrepreneurs to truly understand what’s required here. I was lucky to have mentors who repeatedly told me of the stress yet to come. Their persistence in discussing that helped me greatly even if it didn’t truly sink until the third or fourth time. So I thought it would helpful to talk about some of my experiences with both.

Your mileage may vary, but here’s a good starting point for what to expect with either:

  • They require an infinite amount of tinkering to keep running. There is never a time when everything is running perfectly.
  • They take your time, your sweat, and even your blood. Some days they’ll take all three.
  • They take a great deal of capital to do right. You’ll overextend yourself countless times to get “parts money.”
  • Markets changes and rarely do so for the better. In tech especially, today’s hot rod is tomorrow’s junker.
  • You probably don’t want to build a restomod (?) such as AirBnb for Motorcycles or Uber for Omelettes for example.
  • You need to build something original and, with luck, timeless, such as a factory fresh ’67 Mustang. Make it sustainable.

However, I will also say that when everything is running right, even if just for a brief moment, when the engine is firing on all cylinders and the compression is strong, when your marketing is converting and your charts are bending up, when the paint is fresh and and every little dent knocked out, and when the press is cheering, and investors salivatingwell there’s just nothing cooler and absolutely no better feeling. Enjoy those moments if you get them, but know they’re likely fleeting.

In the end, if I had to pick one over the other, I would keep the startup. So if you want to buy a somewhat restored 1962 Thunderbird, please let me know. Having a cool car is great, but it’s more important where you go than how you get there.

Happy cruising.

Sean Percival

Sean Percival is an American author, investor and entrepreneur.