Saturday, November 29, 2008

Giving Thanks that October is Over

Although I am a couple of days late, and am not typically susceptible to gooey holidays, this year I have much to be thankful for, and I am extremely grateful that October 2008 is over and done with. October 2008 was the most stressful period of time in my adult life, at least as far as I can recall. Here is how it all went down:

Stock market - while the stock market slump began in September, it did not truly turn into a massive, gut churning route until early October. Yes, we all lived through that, and to be honest, while I disliked the drop I wasn't terribly concerned by losses to our portfolio. What scared me was the knowledge that the financial system was on the very brink of complete collapse. For a while there, I was seriously contemplating pulling a few thousand dollars out of our bank account, just in case the banks shut down and we needed cash for our basic needs (we do have some cash reserves available at home, but nowhere near sufficient to live off of for several weeks). OK, but we all lived through this, and I was in no way unique.

Employment - as I have previously written, in late September my wife decided to quit her job. She had the big conversation with her boss just a day or two before the economic turmoil started in earnest. And while I completely supported my wife's decision to walk away, the timing we found ourselves caught in was truly nasty. All at once the hiring environment turned from difficult to practically impossible. However, since I have a well paying job that still would have been OK but...

Fund Raising - my company is a start-up and we were about to run out of money in the middle of November. As the executive responsible for the fund raising effort, I realized that our prospects for raising a new investment round in this type of financial climate were not encouraging. In fact, although I had to put on an optimistic spin and talk-up our chances to the rest of the executive team and the employees, I was truly worried that we would go out of business, which would leave my wife and I both unemployed in the worst hiring environment in decades. Moreover, I felt the heavy weight of 30 families' livelihoods rest on my shoulders. If I couldn't raise the money, I wasn't the only one who would be out of a job, my friends and colleagues, many of which are probably worse off than me, would be unemployed as well. Talk about stress. BUT, as they say in the infomercials, "wait, there's more!"

Sick as a Dog - for almost the entire month of October I was as sick as a dog (where does this saying come from?). I had a constant fever. Not high - hovering around 99F most of the time - but it was there and I felt like crap. I had batteries of blood tests performed ($10K worth, according to the doctor), urine tests, eye exam, even... a brain MRI. Nothing. The Dr. was planning to send me to do a full body CT Scan - which I seriously fought against. What can I tell you. It was pretty bad. Normally, I would probably take a few days off and hide in bed until I got better, but I couldn't do that. Not with our funding round so close to failure and the company so close to going out of business. So during that entire time, I had three meetings a day with venture capital funds, and countless other phone calls and follow-ups. Incidentally, the illness itself was bad, but the fact that the doctors couldn't figure out what the problem was for over three weeks was the really scary bit.

October was a really, REALLY bad month, BUT it is over and here is how it all turned out so far:

I am healthy - one of the many blood tests showed up some faint traces of infection. Ten days and one aggressive course of Cipro later and I am as good as new. 

Wife employed - it's contracting work, and it's only part time, but it pays the bills and my wife is happy and so am I. She is out looking for a new full time position, but we are realistic. It's probably going to take several months to find the next gig. Fine with us.

Money in the Bank - last week we closed a $12 million dollar investment round with two new venture capital funds. This means that we have enough money at least until April 2010. My CEO gave me a lot of credit for the fund raising and praised me to our board of directors. This is a major achievement for me and my reward is that I get to have a steady pay-check in this economy, and so do my colleagues.

The stock market? Well, that's still in the pits, and probably will be for a while, but that's OK. As long as the system itself continues to function (and it looks like it may be stable for now), we can ride it out.

I am extremely thankful that October is gone. While it has been the most stressful month in my adult life, I think I can honestly say that I am better for having gone through it and thrived. Things have worked out as well as could have been expected. 

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