My company is running out of money again. Well, really, it already happened. But it's happened so many times that I am sort of used to it. It’s a routine. You may recall that part of the routine is not paying my electric bill. But there is more.

1. Focus on something you can control.
You might have noticed that my blog posts are very frequent right now. It's a way to cope with the funding drama. I have so much control over my blog. And if I obsess over the traffic statistics then I have that crack-head feeling of immediate feedback, and it feels good, and even if half the people are telling me how much they hate me: Traffic is traffic.

Another part of the out-of-funding routine is fighting with Ryan. When I am totally focused on running the company, and I'm not worried about payroll, then things go smoothly and Ryan and I have great conversations about the future of social media and the future of resumes and where we fit.

When we run out of money, Ryan and I focus on our cycle of miscommunication: I say something rude that I don't know is rude. Ryan gets defensive because he isn't able to say, “That's rude. Please don't talk like that.” I have no idea why he is defensive, he just sounds like he's up in arms about nothing to me, because if I knew I had been rude in the first place, I would not have been, so of course I don't know. And when he is up in arms, I yell back. And then he says that I am impossible to deal with because I'm rude and I yell.

So we did that fight routine last week at least twice. I lost count. But I know that the first time, Ryan said, “You know what? Sometimes I hate you so much I have to restrain myself from punching you.”

My jaw dropped. I did not expect him to say that. And then I said, “I feel the same way about you.”

The second time, Ryan Paugh yelled out from his office, “Shut up! Both of you shut up!” And we did. (Though I think Ryan Paugh felt like it was hopeless that we might actually stop, so he took a walk to the coffee shop.)

2. Take time to talk about what’s still going well.
So today I sort of kept to myself except that I had to go meet a board member to talk about the funding. The board member, Erik, is so fun to visit because he has this huge, stable company, and this gorgeous lair where he has an office and a secretary and a shiny deep-brown meeting table that my papers slide across while we figure out how to keep my company running. Erik is a great board member for a lot of reasons, but maybe the most important is that he's so stable. Brazen Careerist needs a lot of things, but really, it needs stability.

But before I go into the board meeting, I remember that I have been named one of the top 30 women running Internet companies.

I call Ryan Healy. He says, “What is that site? I've never heard of them.”

I have not heard of them either. But the women on the list are amazing. Arianna Huffington, Caterina Fake, Michelle Malkin. I am happy to be there.

There is one more good thing about today. Flowers. Another bouquet. From a blog reader. I think he might be in love with me. But whatever. He leaves great comments, and now he sent flowers, and the flowers make me happy. They make me want to sit at my desk and write one more blog post.

3. Accept help, but continue to exhibit your strengths.
After my meeting, it's 2:30 p.m. — Violin time. I leave to do school pickup, and Business Week calls. It's a conundrum. Should I talk to Business Week and be late? Or should I risk that Business Week uses a different source because I was unavailable?

I take the call. I try to summarize all my ideas about intergenerational offices in five minutes, and I try to hide sort of out of the way of my son's view, but he sees me. The rest of the call is about me getting off the call.

I buy my son his favorite after-school snack: Gatorade and KitKats. I tell myself it's an example of optimistic spending that only a top-30 entrepreneur would do.

We go to the violin lesson and I want to tell you I love violin, but I don't. I love the idea of the Suzuki program for violin. It teaches self-discipline, and perseverance, and working well in a group. I love that my son is getting all this, and he's so proud and works so hard, and I love the teacher.

But look. I'm out of money in my company and that's really all I have to think about for the half-hour they practice for his group recital. I am getting anxious about maybe not getting funding and I'm biting my nails.

Not biting sort-of-casually biting. But biting like I would imagine a serial killer does when he is trying to distract himself from thinking about the badness. Like, biting with way too much enthusiasm. And on top of this, I really really like my son's violin teacher and I worry that she is going to see me biting like a crazy person and not want to be my son's teacher.

And then I don't have to worry about the biting anymore, because he is unfocused and too squirmy, so I scream at him: “Put the violin under your arm and take a bow!”

Has that ever been yelled at a child? It's not normal. I know. And I know he is just anxious for his recital. The violin teacher gets very nice after that. To compensate for me being a psycho: This is how we are a team.

There is an hour break before the dress rehearsal. We go to the bagel shop for a snack. I have already prepared myself mentally for this snack. Normally, if I am having a bad day, I will have four bagels. But then I would be fat. Really. Four bagels can do that to you. They are like sponges in your stomach. So I told myself no bagels. Not even one, which would be okay, if I could actually eat only one.

To cope, I check my email. There is a note about me talking to CBS. I call them while my son is in the bathroom. They want to do a story about how Gen Y and Gen X don't get along.

I tell the guy from CBS that I manage five people in their 20s and they would all be happy to talk about why I'm annoying. The CBS guy is shocked. I give him Ryan Healy's phone number. Things go very well, of course. I know what I can count on Ryan for.

4. Hold things together, of course. But be okay if you can’t.
After my son has eaten two bagels, he is not chatty. So I look through my purse for something to do. I find the form for signing him up for classes to help him stay organized. By the time I am done filling it out we are late for the rehearsal and he tells me that I am unorganized.

I help him get his recital clothes on in the bagel bathroom, and we are not the last people to arrive. We wait. I take my son to get his violin tuned and his teacher says, “Black bottom.”

I say, “Huh?” Then I say, “Oh. Shit. I can't believe it.”

There are 100 kids ready to play their violins and only one of those kids is wearing khaki bottoms: My son.

Luckily, the violin teacher reads my blog, so this is not a huge surprise to her. And we acknowledge that I do have a second chance to get it right since this is only the dress rehearsal.

I almost cry. But I tell myself that if I'm not going to cry about running out of money in two days, then I’m not going to cry about khaki pants. I tell myself to focus on being a top-30 entrepreneur: Success does not come in a linear fashion.

My son and I wait for the teacher to call his group. And I am trying hard to not get blood on his shirt. Because his shirt is actually the proper shirt to be wearing, and my fingers are actually bleeding from aggressive bites.

So I am really overwhelmed now, between the violins and the fashion faux-pas and the blood, and then an investor calls. Yes. In the middle of violin even though I am certain that every investor I talk to knows that I am with the kids in the afternoon because they all bitch about it in a subtle way like, “Oh, that's great,” with body language like, “She is fucked.”

So I ignore the investor’s call because on my death bed I don't want to remember the day I took a call during my kid's dress rehearsal.

The teacher calls groups to the stage by the piece of music they are playing: “Allegro! Gavotte! Song of the Wind!” It looks like The Price is Right for the cultural elite, and the kids are walking up, nodding to their teacher as they go.

Each kid has a teacher there, except for my son, who has two. Because this program is really about the parent teaching the child and the teacher teaching the parent and the child and parent bonding through music. And that ended for us the time I got so frustrated that I broke my son's bow. Well, actually, the fourth time. So now we have two teachers. And when investors want to know why my salary is not the same as all those god-forsaken 22-year-old guys that Y Combinator funds, I want to say, “You try running a startup and teaching your kid violin. Violin lessons cost way more when you are running a startup.”

Okay. So there are 100 kids together on the stage playing. And it's stunning to see.

For a minute I forget that I am running a company that is running out of money.

All the parents in the audience are motionless; those tiny violins all together sound like a chorus of angels.

My son comes back to me in the audience when he's done. I say, “I'm so proud of you for working so hard.”

He says, “Are you proud of me for playing perfect notes?”

I say, “No. You don't need to be perfect. You need to just keep trying every day to be your best. And you are doing that. You should be happy for yourself.”

And he says, “You are trying to be your best every day, too, Mommy. You don't need to have everything be right. You should be happy for yourself.”

I cry.


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  1. Matt Conner
    Matt Conner says:

    Thanks Penelope. Its so good to read something like this. I’ve had the same sort of problems myself – good to get someone else’s perspective.

  2. Jason Hushagen
    Jason Hushagen says:

    Ouch. You have pretty much hit the nail on the head. My wife and I go through alot of those emotions when we are running out of money aslo.

    Thanks for letting me know I am not the only one.

  3. Laser Specialist
    Laser Specialist says:

    I am a laser resurfacing physician and started some sites designed around delivering accurate information to patients regarding some of the most popular cosmetic treatments. Everything was going great, until I ran out of money. It is apparent that this is one of most trying things to deal with in this struggling economy. I have a young daughter and found solace in just spending time with her and my beautiful wife. My family would not say that running out of money was the worst that could happen because it has most certainly kept me home more.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Reanna
    Reanna says:

    Thanks for Tips for coping when your startup is out of cash. I am trying to start a business, finish college, hoping I am saying all the right things and saying the right things is something I find so hard. I want to be a project manager and I think I was going to have an opputuniy but I did not step to the plate because it was a lot of money at steak what if I fell. I wish I could find someone that will let me start out small. so I can work my way up. WOW what to do for courage I do not know. Thanks once again.

  5. Sally
    Sally says:

    I needed a 20-something to tell me about your blog; just last week. And so, since we are running out of money, I found myself reading this post. It made me cry. So honest and real. My son is in college now, but your post reminded me of his Suzuki piano period, and I have a dented pot testifying to my frustrations. No, I did not bash him in the head, but walked into the kitchen and smacked a pot a little too vigorously before I turned to put it on the stove for dinner. I finally came to my senses and realized the teacher was too serious and could not cut back on practice demands. We still have the piano, and sometimes he sits there and plays a little, and he still loves music. So a concert pianist he is not, and I finally stopped trying to please his teacher for him.

    Back to the money. It’s stressful. But since my son is home now, yes, I try to hold it together. I’m thankful he’s around for a few weeks and thankful for FAFSA, even though they make you pay through the nose on interest and make a living hell out of an entire week to fill out forms. Thanks for your reminder of what is important.

  6. Roselyn Ponayo
    Roselyn Ponayo says:

    Your post made me almost cry. You are a great writer and I run out of great words to describe how your articles connects to my nerves and senses. Looking forward for more reality posts. :))

  7. Meenakshi
    Meenakshi says:

    I had tears by the time I reached the end of this blog :) u r blessed to have made the choices that give u joy n challenge and to have a young one with such values.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

  8. Emily Rose
    Emily Rose says:

    I found your blog yesterday on a google search that was totally random in a focused sort of way. I am struggling alot with trying to build a start-up business and I really feel the way you do when you talk about how everything piles on top of eachother and you just need to take and focus on one thing at a time.

    Your a real inspiration for me.
    Thank You!
    Emily Rose

  9. Uli
    Uli says:

    Dear penelope!

    Great post!

    Touching, personal, authentic

    So your son learned a lot from this.
    To work hard is quite more than to work for the result!

    * And I take this lesson too *

    Hopefully your financial situation is better now.
    But I like the idea of the Paypal donate button!

    Keep on blogging, please.

  10. Dave
    Dave says:

    Nice post. Being a musician, and a violin teacher, I couldn’t help wondering if you are also playing the violin as the Suzuki program is designed. It may help you relieve some of that stress. Seems that it’s working for your son. Enjoy!

  11. miss facebook
    miss facebook says:

    Howdy are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own. Do you require any html coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  12. Quit Weed
    Quit Weed says:

    With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright violation? My site has a lot of exclusive content I’ve either authored myself or outsourced but it appears a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any ways to help stop content from being ripped off? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  13. All Clad
    All Clad says:

    So, I cashed out options at what once was considered a "startup". In retrospect it was the worst mistake I ever could have made. I should have just kept them until I vested (I left a month after vesting) and then sold them, because they would have had full value at a higher rate and the company would have definitely cashed them out at that time. Unfortunately I was a bit younger and not quite as savvy about such things.

  14. Roxanne Tsui
    Roxanne Tsui says:

    Great blog and great entry!

    Came across this via. BNET. Trust me – I know the emotions that you go through because it’s happening to me. It’s hard to forget at times that I am “running a business that is running out of money…”, in fact, “I am running a business is not bringing in the money” is probably a more accurate fact.

    Here’s to a recent entry I made to release my negative thoughts:

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