A Startup Filter

I had just sold the business I started in college. It was the only place I’d worked in my adult life. As if that was emotional enough, my wife gave birth to our son just three days later. And then, a few whirlwind weeks later, it hit me: I didn’t know what I wanted to do next.

Today, I’m about a year and a half into building Powderhook, the business that has become my second entrepreneurial leap and my great passion. It’s the perfect combination of what I love to do and the talents I’ve been given. We’re solving a meaningful and hard problem in a space I really care about. But how did I get here? Why should I get to build something I love every day? Today I was speaking to a class of graduate students when these questions came up. So, I thought I’d look back at the filter I created before Powderhook started and share it, just in case you’re thinking about starting something of your own. And, for what it’s worth, I believe the same filter could apply if you’re looking to make a career change.

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The Memory Farm


On a crisp November morning I rolled out of bed, early enough to beat the sunrise but not the serenity of cool, Nebraska darkness, and layered on warm clothes.  My dad and I then piled into his ‘92 blue Chevy truck and head to the Gas N’ Shop, the only spot open in our small town before dawn.  After loading up with the necessary day’s supply of chocolate mini donuts and Diet Mountain Dew to go along with the bag of goodies packed by my mom the night before, we headed north out of town on the dark, lonely highway.  This wasn’t just another early morning, this was the beginning of deer season.

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