I wish I had taken my own advice more regularly over the last decade.
A group of co-founders and investors created my last company, HealthCentral.com, based on direct personal experience. I lost a family member to cancer and a dear friend to bipolar disorder. There was a cacophony of health information online, highly clinical and near impossible to navigate. But in the midst of it, I found small communities of people who were going through exactly what I was.
Not "cancer communities," but families of a loved one with adenocarcinoma, which metastasized to the brain.
Not "depression communities," but "how you can best be a friend of someone with bipolar disorder."
They made me much more effective in helping those I loved. We never met, never knew each other, but they were the most effective resources I had.
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Our start-up idea was unleashed by technology impossible even a few years before. As co-founders, we asked, What if we built a platform of such communities of people, match them to each other and the best information, not only to help people in clinical need but to guide them in their daily lives? Couldn't this expand to any areas of interest? In fact, wouldn't it also be a superb business for marketers, who could target messages to those who would most value it?
It sounds wonderful, but the process to put it in motion was brutal. The experts told us to remake existing platforms like WebMD. They were wrong.
We convinced ourselves we understood our communities and customers better because we made a platform that was good for them. We were often wrong.
We lived it all — the near-death experiences, the self-doubt, the mistakes in hiring and firing, the feeling of impact when things work and the success of mentoring others to be their own entrepreneurs. But we listened, we argued the data, we pivoted more than once significantly, and we also trusted our core instincts, experiences and desire to solve a big problem we cared about.
Five years in, we sold the company.
— By Christopher Schroeder, venture investor and former CEO of three technology/media enterprises. Schroeder is also a member of the CNBC-YPO Chief Executive Network. Schroeder is now focusing on emerging growth markets and is the author of "Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East."
CNBC and YPO have formed an exclusive editorial partnership consisting of regional "Chief Executive Networks" in the Americas, EMEA and Asia-Pacific. These Chief Executive Networks are made up of a sample of YPO's global network of 24,000 top executives from 120 countries who are on the front lines of the economy and run companies that collectively generate $6 trillion in annual revenue.