Over the past five years, since I founded Omnis Labs Company, I've had the privilege of witnessing the incredible journeys of some truly inspiring founders. Today, I want to share a few anecdotes that highlight their unwavering strength and determination. Although I won't reveal their identities, these are individuals with whom I've maintained contact, and their stories have left a profound impact on me.
The Three-Month Runway.
One CEO I know had been running his company for nine years, steadily growing his company along the way. However, in the early stage, he faced a daunting challenge—a mere three months of operating budget. Faced with the possibility of failure, he also thought about selling hotdogs in a local park if his business fails.
However, he remained resolute and worked tirelessly to attract funding. Miraculously, within those three months, he secured a significant investment. Although it required a larger equity stake than usual, it enabled him to grow the company, stabilize cash flow, and avoid the need for additional funding rounds.
I found myself in a similarly desperate situation, with only three months of runway left. During my own struggles and moments of doubt, he offered me invaluable advice: "Even if you're caught in a tiger's den,keep your head up and you’ll find a way to escape." Although an encounter with a tiger can be deadly, I have learned that, sometimes, you can survive through focus, hope, and hard work.
Thanks to his encouragement, I pushed myself harder and came out from the crisis with renewed strength.
A Family of Bad Credit.
This is a story of another CEO that I respect. In the early days of his business, now the CEO of a large privately held company, faced significant challenges. The business model he and his brother pursued resulted in financial losses. As Korea's venture capital and investment ecosystem was underdeveloped at the time, entrepreneurs had to rely on debt to raise funds.
Due to their inability to repay their debts, his older brother, him, and younger sister went bankrupt. Meanwhile, the company continued to lose money even as it grew in size. Undeterred, he took an extraordinary risk. He sold his small apartment, and put his money again into the company. He slept in the unheated office, worked tirelessly throughout the day, and stayed behind after everyone else had left, sleeping there to keep the company afloat.
His perseverance paid off, and he eventually changed the company, generating hundreds of billions of won in revenue these days. Reflecting on this experience, he shared, "The goal I aimed for was far way. So, even if I had to sacrifice my house and put everything on the line for the company, I did not feel unhappy or uncomfortable. It only thought about the future, and I was able to get through the hard times."
In my own life, I was quite lucky to know a unicorn startup co-founder and CEOs of successful companies. What binds them all together is their unwavering determination and strength. The most successful companies I've observed did not experience rapid growth or explosive success as often portrayed by venture capitalists and the media. Instead, they were built by persevering through adversity, enduring for long periods, and confronting a severe pain.
Behind these successful companies stood remarkable founders who exhibited tremendous inner strength and willpower. Today, I aspire to be as resilient as those leaders I admire. Everyday, I strive to overcome the minor crises of laziness, fatigue, loneliness, and stress, to gain the strength I saw in these exceptional individuals.
By reflecting on the challenges that the CEOs I admire have overcome and the strength they have gained through those experiences, I see my own small pains, crises, and stresses as building blocks for personal and professional growth. Fortunately, I feel stronger as time goes by. I know that life is not solely determined by hard work, but I believe that taking practical steps in the real world, enduring every challenge that comes my way, and never giving up are the important things that I can do as a founder.
Today, I find myself enjoying my life in the desert more than before. I wish my fellow entrepreneurs the very best on their respective journeys. May hope and determination guide you through the challenges, allowing you to emerge stronger, just as the remarkable leaders I've encountered have done.