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Choose where you stand

My friends and I built an online advertising platform that used machine learning techniques to select and place ads. We took a load of funding to help grow the company.

From the start, our core principle was to be privacy-safe and not track visitors.

At the time, this was unheard of – retargeting was the thing (where you search for some shoes and then ads for those shoes follow you). But we chose to say “no”. Today many share our concern, back then few people cared.

Our investor agreed – he liked that we were taking a stand. It scared him, but we believed in something and that’s why he chose us.

My inspiration for starting my own business was 37Signals (now Basecamp). They stood for building a company culture that put the people doing the work first and building sustainable profits. Silicon Valley tech companies were all about long hours, sleeping under your desk and getting users now, profit later.

37Signals made me start my own business because their principles shone through. And DHH now drives a $2m Zonda, so he’s done OK from it too.

You don’t have to do things the same way as everyone else. You don’t have to chase every dollar.

Choose where you stand.

It will be noticed and the right people will come to you.

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So your priorities have changed?

You don’t want to do that kind of work any more?

You don’t enjoy that type of work any more?

That’s great. That’s why we work for ourselves, so we can change course as and when we feel like it.

I have a load of work on my plate that I really don’t want to do. It’s paying the bills and I’ve made promises to people so I can’t just turn it down.

But I’m also putting steps in place so I don’t need to do it forever. So, once these projects are done, I can focus on work that makes a huge impact on people.

Flexibility, freedom and, yes, a bit more money. Those are the reasons most of us started our own businesses.

So if you’re feeling locked in and 2020 has changed everything for you emotionally, then take advantage of that flexibility and draw up your plans to change direction.

Do it carefully, do it profitably but make sure you do it.

It’s why you started your business in the first place.