Some of Wellington’s leading tech company founders fronted at Unlimited Potential’s ‘Tech Founders Blast Talks’ in mid-February with some extremely frank and honest comments about the challenges facing start-ups. Dave ten Have is onto his second internet-based start-up, with Wellington-originated, globally-operating Ponoko being a bit of poster child for mass customisation/personal manufacturing. It describes itself as ‘the world’s easiest making system’.
He describes the start-up (and follow through) stage as being where “fear of failure is a constant”. Those reading and observing of others’ success in the venture capital and start-up space “hear a lot of stories that are embellished,” he says. That is, people hear many of the successful bits, the how it all happened narrative. The downsides, hard times, unsuccessful moves get short shrift. Equally, hindsight provides tremendous clarity. As it currently stands for himself and Ponoko, “I can’t tell you where I am, but I can tell you how fast I’m going,” he says.
“It is like being chased in a confined space with a bunch of other nutters,” explains the ten Have. For all that, he clearly relishes the excitement, the challenge, the unknowns that go with starting with a metaphoric blank piece of paper. “It allows you to look into the abyss,” he says. “But do it for the journey, for the learning, not for the dollars.” For someone who in the first two years of his original start up began his morning by throwing up the breakfast he’d just eaten, ten Have’s frankness was a tonic in an environment where kicking off a new idea is often seen and spoken of as a walk in the park.
At times, it is anything but easy. “You need to turn around and conquer the fear,” says ten Have.
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This article was adapted with permission from Peter Kerr’s SticK Blog