Five Questions For … Nick Kennedy, Founder of Dallas-Based Rise

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I didn’t have any money and I thought that was what I wanted to do. Don’t ever do it for the money. It sounds so trite, but do what you love and the money will follow. It doesn’t mean money will flow … But know why you’re doing it, have a passion, and make sure you make money to stay in business.

By focusing on a quick exit, and focusing on money, we had an opportunity to do something great, and we didn’t.

X: You’ve completed an Ironman. How is building a startup like training for a triathalon?

NK: It’s almost the exactly the same. Every founder should do an Ironman. It took me 15 hours to do it; I was 12 hours into the day when I came up to the first loop of the marathon and I was delirious. I started thinking, I’m about to be an Ironman. I didn’t realize I had another lap to go. It was just starting to be dark; I was lost in a swampland. There were signs saying, Don’t get off of the road. There are alligators. I equate that to the startup world. You have to turn around by yourself into the dark and just keep taking steps, one foot in front of the other.

I think in general, very few people can really do a good job talking about how painful startups are. And I think an Ironman is the same way. You mainly just want it to be over. Only after the fact do you realize what you’ve done, when every part of your body is in pain. When you’ve completed a couple of startups, you recognize you can do it again.

X: What did you want to be when you were a kid?

NK: Oh, that’s easy. I wanted to be a catcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. My dad grew up in LA; I was born in Colorado and there was no baseball team so I became a Dodgers fan. Dad and I were at the San Diego Padres game, and Mike Scioscia—he’s now manager of the [Los Angeles] Angels—hit a foul ball. Dad and I were on the first-base side and the ball came right to me. It landed on the ground in a chilli dog and my dad dove to the ground and handed it to me. I still have it with chilli-dog stains still on it.

I thought that was a sign from God that I was going to be a catcher for the LA Dodgers.

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