Entrepreneurial Street Survival: The Essential AC/DC Songlist


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landlords – lawyers — corporate partners, spouses. I like the song’s title for evoking the relative contribution dialogues a founder is always having. I also enjoy the “Ain’t nobody taught you?” Don’t you get it? If it wasn’t for me, or us, or our fund, or facility, or customer endorsement, you’d be nothing! That’s why they deserve what they’re asking for!

Hell’s Bells

Won’t take no prisoners, won’t spare no life: Hell’s bells, hear them comin’ for you; Hell’s bells, they’re draggin’ you under“… A certain bravery pervades companies that have just been founded, or after the first couple of financing rounds. We all pretend they have more solidity than they really do. Many different blows that glance off older, bigger companies can do new ones in, bringing to mind the mournful bell that sounds in this song. The slightly playful grimness is a useful reminder: Anyone working in the entrepreneurial world will encounter the finality of failure.

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Contracts, cyanide, TNT…. DONE DIRT CHEAP! People do funny things under pressure. I’ve seen founders abuse substances, issue absurd ultimatums, strike illegal loyalty oaths with fellow directors, and do other things, but they’re certainly not alone. In these downround times, institutional investors also come to mind: the bloodless coup d’etat with the founder suddenly out; the compounding, exponential gross-up dilution hits imposed on desperate companies with no remaining alternatives, presented with sympathy and openness, and sometimes perceived by founders to be not unlike the cyanide – colorless, oderless, and lethal(!)

Shoot to Thrill

Shoot to thrill, play to kill, can’t get enough, can’t get my fill.” Another key marker of founderhood is the inexorable transformation of a mild-mannered smart guy into a walking, talking non-stop Billy Mays infomercial. (Academics can be hilarious.) No matter how you slice it, investor-backed startups have to credibly come off as having best-in-world potential – at something. How, as a founder group of one, or two, do you possibly suspend investors’ disbelief that you could fit this bill? By manifestly believing yourself, and having all the reasons poised on the tip of your tongue. If the founders don’t believe, who will?

Back in Black

Yes I’m let loose, from the noose, that’s kept me hangin’ about; I’m livin’ like a star cause it’s gettin’ me high; forget the hearse ’cause I never die!” I had one client who would put the autoteller on speakerphone: Your…account…has…thirty …million…dollars. The big event still happens every once in awhile. You’ll never die. You have your life back. Researchers tell us that what really happens at times like these often isn’t more happiness – and in my anecdotal experience there is nothing like a liquidity event to bring divorce actions and patent infringement suits (you finally have a valuation). But like the athlete said – the rich have problems and the poor have problems; I’d rather have problems of the rich(!)

It’s a Long Way to the Top if You Wanna Rock n’ Roll

Gettin; ‘old, getting’ gray, getting ripped off, underpaid; getting’ sold, second hand, that’s what it’s like playin in a band – It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n roll!” I think many entrepreneurs, even at young ages, eventually feel gray, old, ripped off, and probably underpaid. I do. Don’t you? Nothing really worth achieving is ever easy. But it’s this reality that creates a fellowship among entrepreneurs too; it becomes more obvious the older I get. This, more than the isolated home runs, is what really draws us together. If one song says it all, it’s this one. AC/DC at its teleological summit(!)

For Those About To Rock:

What does entrepreneurship have to do with knife-fights, break-ins, brothels, bar rooms, and bad luck? I might argue, everything! We need startups: In the popular phrase, being an entrepreneur may in some respects be simple but, as the songlist suggests, it is certainly not easy. So, for those about to rock (entrepreneurially speaking), yes, we DO salute you!

BONUS FEATURE: AC/DC rolling down the road, doing what they love, bitching about how hard their lives are. Sound familiar? Check this video, and see if you spot the pterodactyls.

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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”.