Graeme Thickins on Tech

Reflections & analysis about innovation, technology & startups, with a focus on Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes

Category: Freelancers

Our Times Call for Multiple Careers

I believed it then, and  believe it even more now. It was a poster I first saw in my early working years in the advertising and marketing business, and it hit me hard. I thought, yeah, that totally makes sense — I don’t want to be tied down to one thing for my whole working life, one aspect of this exciting, crazy business. I had already improved my lot quite a bit by moving on to a couple of better-paying jobs after I left college, and I was feeling pretty good about that… buying a house, buying nice cars. I figured I was just getting started! I had way too many interests, too many things I wanted to do, to be tied down to one kind of marketing job, or (God forbid) one company. I had a whole world of options in front of me.

About this time, I had become really interested in design, too (not just writing). I was learning a ton from some smart colleagues I worked closely with, and I loved everything about design. Bought books, read a lot, studied it in my spare time. Wasn’t out to become a designer — just built a really good appreciation for it.

This poster (which I still have hanging in my office) was designed by Milt Glaser, an uber-famous graphic designer in New York whom I had come to admire. (Seriously, click on that link — this guy earned true rockstar-designer status!)  His poster struck me then as having an important message, and it’s continued to inspire me over the years. As in… don’t be pigeon-holed, resist being narrowly defined, always keep learning, keep doing, keep trying new things. And, yes, as the illustration shows, juggle all those options, as many skills as you can acquire, and learn all the tools you can to make yourself invaluable to employers or clients.

Unlike the prevailing wisdom at the time, I could see early in my career that working for the same company one’s whole career was a ticket to nowhere. I knew it wasn’t for me. I learned the only job security was what was between one’s ears. I worked about two years average for a company or agency, then moved on to a bigger challenge and more money. A dozen years into my career, I made the big jump to being a self-employed consultant and never looked back. And that, let me tell you, became the ultimate “multiple-career”… 🙂

The  philosophy encompassed in this simple poster has proven to be right for me, as it has for many others, I’m sure. For me, it’s been about multiple careers within a single discipline (marketing), but for some it can even mean switching disciplines. I’ve managed to keep reinventing myself over and over, in varying degrees. Part of that has been a result of getting myself involved in so many new fields of technology, as I’ve been lucky enough to be out in front of innovation in my chosen field of self-employment — as a consultant to early-stage tech startups. Never a dull moment in this business! Always something new to learn, some new milestone to reach. Never sitting still, forever juggling, constantly reading, always having fun, constantly surfing new waves — and, most importantly, moving the ball, to use another sports analogy (I played football, too!). Net-net: making things happen. It’s a great way to go through life.

How many “careers” have you had? How many will you have? I wish you many!



Raising Money You Don’t Need: MN Startup Trend?

I Dont Want Your Money[UPDATE 9/28/15: At the bottom of this post, I include some great comments I got from a leading VC over the weekend.]

This thing about profitable startups raising money they don’t need is getting deafening around here. A few years ago, Code42 shocked us by taking their first VC money (a huge $52M round), which confused people because they knew they were doing fine without it. [UPDATE: days after I wrote this post, it announced an $85M Series B.] Then LeadPages raises a surprise A round in late 2013 that it soon was openly bragging it hadn’t touched — didn’t need it. Only months later, it takes yet more — another $27M. It’s growing crazy fast, so we wonder… do they not need that either?  How about SportNgin, raising something close to $40M over four rounds going back to 2011? With the continuous growth they’re experiencing, why do they need all that cash and can they even spend it?

Now we learn about another rapidly growing Minnesota startup, Field Nation, which began as a young college grad’s idea more than a decade ago and now claims a $100M gross revenue run-rate, grabbing a huge (for this town, FieldNation-logo-horizanyway) Series A round of $30M. Reading the recent news in the StarTribune and the MSP Business Journal, you had to be impressed. Another homegrown startup raises a huge initial round. Wow, yes, we say to ourselves, beaming with pride, the Minnesota startup community really is rockin’! But what’s going on here with this latest winner in the local VC stakes?  Continue reading