Cebo Campbell

Thoughts on Being a Startup Guy

I ran into a high school friend at lunch and among the obliging questions we volleyed back and forth, he asked me what I do. I told him about the business I own, about the different businesses I have started and some of the new business ideas I would pursue in the near future. He laughed and said, “Oh, so, you’re one of those ‘start-up guys’, huh?”

That question stayed with me all day.

I’d never thought of myself as a “StartUp Guy” before. In fact, I have always thought of the Startup Guy as an utterly fearless young entrepreneur who makes money by the bucketload. He is the guy who can come up with a business idea out of thin air and has the fortitude and courage to make that idea a success. You know him, he is the nice-blazer-wearing, fohawk-rocking, cappuccino-drinking smooth-talker who can walk into a room of Fortune 500’s and disintegrate their hairpieces with his ideas. I am not, don’t want to be and will never be that guy.

From day one of “starting-up”, I was absolutely terrified. I had no idea what I was doing, no concept of what success was or wasn’t and I even had to have my vanilla sidekick walk me through incorporation. Don’t tell the IRS, but it took me almost a year to get my first accountant. There was nothing magical or smart about my venture into starting a business.

But, even now, as I really think about it, my definition of a StartUp Guy was quixotic: it was too romantic. No one is that guy, or at least not really. At some point, every StartUp is scared and clueless, praying all the time that a potential client or investor will understand their vision. The truth is, what drove me to create my own business is the same substance burning at the core of every StartUp: Passion.

I love what I do. Love it like a dog loves smelling butts. I’ve worked for big and small companies, worked for crappy bosses, took jobs I hated to get by and quit jobs I liked, yet, in the middle of a recession, 90% passion, 5% courage, 4% naivety and 1% luck, pushed me to do whatever I wanted to do. I knew what I wanted to do and made the decision to just do that. That decision is why I am able to write this post, why I wake up every morning excited about my day. Every business I start, fail or succeed, makes me a better person, a contributor to society and builds my courage to continue pursuing what I want. I created my own job. I created my opportunities. I can create whatever I want, because my passion is stronger than my fear. That idea, creating with passion, is what makes the StartUp Guy. In creating with passion, the StartUp Guy is changing the face of business, creating his own options in an environment that encourages the yielding of passions.

What I would tell anyone who has a deep passion, something they think about in quiet moments and wish they were doing, is to go and do it. Go big, no, go huge and go stupid. You’ll be scared, you’ll have no idea what you’re doing, but it will be fun. If you are reading this and thinking, ‘but I have to pay my bills and take care of my family,’ then this is the perfect time. You will always have to pay bills and will always have to take care of your family. This won’t change. But you can create your own change–your own chance.

Go be a StartUp Guy. Don’t grow old wondering about it.

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4 responses on “Thoughts on Being a Startup Guy

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  • ” Love it like a dog loves smelling butts.” Hilarious. Great post! Hey man, I have a team working on a web app in ATL. We have no definitive release dates yet, but maybe within a year we’ll need some rails developers to keep systems going and new ideas generating (backend and frontend). I’m the dude that hit you up on facebook. I’d like to keep in touch. Your work is awesome. JWW

  • January 3, 2012 by cebo

    Thanks Jason. Yeah, please keep me in mind. I will send you a link to the app I am working on now. Stay tuned.

  • you are an awesome young man keep pressing there’s gold at the end of the you

  • Hey Cebo,
    Just wanted to let you that reading this post gave me the warm fuzzes. Oh, I like rockin fresh-to-def blazers; so that makes me that guy( 🙂 ).

    Keep up the good thoughts that brought this piece to life my friend.


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I am an author and a Creative Director.

As a full-time creative (VP of Creative Services at Spherical), I spend most days writing in the nooks and crannies of my available time. I wake up at 5:30am just to get in a few hours putting words on paper. I write on the train. I write on planes. I write waiting in lines. I feel I have to write. The reason is simple: representation.

I often tell the story of Ferris Bueller; a kid who decides to skip school and, on charm alone, steals a car, impersonates a cop, drinks underage, tampers with computers, and at every step exposes his best friends to peril, only to go home and fall asleep with his mother to kiss him into sweet dreams. I asked myself if Ferris were Trayvon Martin, how might that story end? I know the answer. So do you. And this is why representation is so important. I aim to contribute more stories into the world that diversely feature regular (but beautiful) lives made extraordinary. Art, I believe, is the only way to accomplish this. All my creative work is inspired by and aims to add to all the great work in the world.