I don’t mean ‘you never forget how’. Although technically I do, because you can’t forget what you don’t know. Although you can forget the fact that you don’t know something. (And that may be a prerequisite for starting).

What I meant to say is that it’s like learning to ride a bicycle. Once you’re up you’re up, but it’s hard to get started and the falls are unexpected and painful.

I wept hot tears when my parents put me on a bike, I threw the bike down, I swore never to ride it, I explained that it was impossible, I quoted lear.

Practice and tough love got me through all that, but starting a company is unlike riding a bicycle in that nobody can help you. The best of tough love in the startup space often sounds like ‘don’t do this to yourself’. If you’re lucky enough to have cofounders to share your vision / probabilistic delusion / other burdens I suspect that helps a lot, but I have yet to find mine.

I haven’t gotten yet to the feeling of the bike balancing itself at speed.

Blame and consequences

One time I begged permission from my grandmother to let me ride up and down the driveway. Go ye not out onto the main road, of course she said, lest ye die.

Later, she mistakenly suggested that I turn around and do a second run. Acting on her advice, I skidded and fell on the turn, and cut myself wide open, a terrible scrape that stung for days and required the large kneecap-sized bandaid, and the only good thing about the whole exercise is that I had been ordered to exceed my parameters and therefore I knew who to blame, and could rail against grandma and fate and deliver a speech about trust and consequences as the blood leaked out of me.

I can’t imagine any of this bothered her and it helped me a lot, so win-win. I’m still looking for a grandmother-figure I can blame for tricking me into starting my company. I would settle for someone to get me the large-size bandaid.

Other even worse consequences of bike riding

The last time I was on a bike was in the middle of an acquihire. Without naming any names I’ll say that the bike was decorated with garish primary colors and that the side roads and charging stations which I coursed to reach my meetings were bordered by plentiful, lush lawns (I swear this part is relevant to the story).

I chose a bike which rattled a bit but had working brakes, and at the point where I was relaxed enough to trust it, I hit a weird speed bump and dumped myself over the handlebars. Bruised palms, no witnesses, and best of all it didn’t affect the deal.

I tested positive for explosives on my flight back and was pulled aside for a form of enhanced interrogation which was described to me as ‘private room crotch rub’. And which, given that I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and couldn’t possibly have been concealing a weapon, I declined.

The bomb squad was, of course, called. As we waited for them, my traveling companion, the director of our mobile team, talked about her kids with the airport cop as a subtle way of keeping me out of jail. When they arrived, I changed my legal strategy from begging to enter the airport to begging to leave it, but the bomb guy stopped me and asked if I’d been around any lush or plentiful lawns. Apparently that triggers false positives for their spectrometer i.e no further testing would be needed and we could all go about our respective travels.

(This is my third-worst airport police encounter).

I attribute various root causes to this experience, including working at a young company, getting on a bike, and falling off it. If you don’t want a private room crotch rub at the airport, steer clear of these activities and you should be okay.

I was okay. Years later, long after leaving the acquihirer, I got a check for almost a thousand dollars (despite being 2 weeks shy of my cliff). Biking sometimes pays.

Training wheels don’t help

It’s not me saying it, it’s a thousand frustrated parents and toddlers every day learning that it’s not the same as riding a real bike. Apparently the balance bike, a sort of pedal-less mini BMX for young kids, is a smoother way to learn .

I still favor training wheels. The real lesson is that the easy version of a hard thing doesn’t prepare you fully. Every kid deserves to know this.

Oh and I started one

Let this post also serve as an announcement that I started a company! Cloud Progress does something with progress bars and ETA for headless tasks & batch jobs. update 3/20 soshcal does something with group planning update 9/20 wait.chat is the opposite of slack for async teams.

I haven’t gotten yet to the feeling of the bike having momentum and sharing some of the work. I don’t know if it exists, I’m not sure if my product is bicycle-shaped enough to have its own momentum, but the idea of this feeling is what keeps my momentum towards a legitimate launch, users, growth, revenue, branded marketing swag, and health insurance (in that order).

I saw that movie magnolia in the 90s at exactly the right age to like it and (spoiler alert sorry) I really liked it during the second rain of frogs when the quiz-show boy genius concluded ‘this is something that happens’ (contrary to established wisdom). Also I identified with the frogs. If the bicycle-momentum stage of a developer tools startup is something that happens, I will let you know.