Entrepreneurial Street Survival: The Essential AC/DC Songlist


This may give away my age and musical tastes, but I’ve noticed how entrepreneurs nearly always end up sounding like AC/DC. It’s hard. It takes a long time. Capital raising is brutal. It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Wanna Rock and Roll.

Over the years, I’ve mentioned some of the following. It takes a bit of license, but when the realities do hit home, this other group of very resilient, very successful survivors actually becomes strangely relevant. They “teach” what everyone seems to end up learning about surviving on the entrepreneurial street.

Ain’t no Fun Waitin’ Round to Be a Millionaire

I got holes in my shoes I got holes in my teeth; I got holes in my pockets I can’t get no relief: I’m tryin’ to make a million.” Founders must be able to hang on and endure. It nearly always seems to surprise them how much of their job description, and how demanding, the hanging on part turns out to be. Vision and dynamism have their place, but they rarely accomplish much without herculean powers of deferral and endurance.

Highway to Hell

Ain’t Got no reason, ain’t got no rhyme; there ain’t nothin’ I would rather do“… I’m always interested as I meet a new founders group: How sane are they? Too sane, or off their rockers a little, a little intense like the CIA tough guy, hand over the flame, flesh smoking? Founding companies is an inherently unfair, disproportionate activity. If someone is too reasonable, I worry about implosions when the unfairness starts happening five minutes after inception. Don’t found a company unless there ain’t nothin’ you would rather do because, where you’re headed (Hell), that is the only thing that will sustain you(!)

Downpayment Blues

Hidin’ from the rent man, lord it make me wanna cry; sheriff knockin’ on my door, ain’t it funny how the time flies.” My most-repeated AC/DC lyric. In twenty-five years, capital raising has happened easily for clients perhaps once or twice, yet the assumption always seems to be that this will be okay and relatively crisp. Then the investors don’t show, the finders fail, and the recoil always seems to happen: Oh no, there’s the rent man — a lot of times it’s me, with my clockwork monthly invoices.

Money Talks

The pain is on you, the sights are on me, so what do you do that’s guaranteed?” AC/DC frequently focuses on the world’s oldest form of entrepreneurial venture, where cash is king and love has nothing to do with it. Founders can still be so attached to the promise of an opportunity that they can be strangely magical in their thinking about cash. On the other hand, investors, customers and corporate partners know that cash is king and love has absolutely nothing to do with it. If you need cash, you’ll pay. If you really need it, you’ll really pay. As the song says, Money talks talks talks!

Who Made Who?

Who made you? Who picked up the bill and who made who? Ain’t nobody taught you?” Founders are non-stop negotiators, with investors, employees, … Next Page »

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Keith Cochran is principal of The Cochran Group, a Kirkland, WA-based boutique transactional law firm serving companies, investors and entrepreneurs. Follow @

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8 responses to “Entrepreneurial Street Survival: The Essential AC/DC Songlist”

  1. Jerry Jeff says:

    Funniest xconomy post ever. I suppose an IPO is the “Jailbreak” moment?

  2. W.Watt says:

    Excellent work, and very timely. Might I also suggest Motorhead: Cradle to the Grave?

  3. Dave Hadley says:

    The beauty of start-ups is actually the naivety – if entrepreneurs actually knew what they were up against, most wouldn’t do it. And, not knowing they can’t do it, allows them to find the way others didn’t believe was possible. I’ve often reflected that if I knew then what I know now, probably wouldn’t have done it! Always gives me pause when I think about a new start-up. But, tell my friends that you really haven’t lived until you’ve stared into the chasm of payroll and wondered how you would make it.

  4. Wade says:

    Well done.

  5. Wade says:

    P.S. The list could use the inclusion of “Dog Eat Dog” and “Back in Business”.

  6. Way to go, Keith! Somebody asked me yesterday if it was a hard decision to start our company. I said no, but maybe a foolish one except, after twenty-some odd years, we’re being an overnight success :)

    “Money talks and bull**** walks.” R. Pryor Car Wash

  7. Brian says:

    Another road show, another we’ll get back to you, another over caffeinated Investor conference, another delayed flight, another flavor of investor feedback, another potential partner changing direction after months of advancement…and I’m gonna Ride On.

    “Ride On”.