Adapted from an article originally published by the author in Inc. Magazine.
Entrepreneurs, let’s be honest: nothing inspires gratitude in the heart of an investor quite like a good, timely exit. Exit liquidity, after all, is the necessary force that makes our collective world go round. But that doesn’t mean angels don’t appreciate all the other quirky, sometimes fleeting, but always satisfying benefits of working with you along the way. Fact is, we are nothing without you.
“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” W. Clement Stone
“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” W.J. Cameron
“On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence.” William Jennings Bryan
So during this season of thankfulness, let’s take a moment to consider what angels are thankful to you for. We are thankful for:
Your unstoppable energy and optimism. You are nuts, and we dig that about you. “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently … they change things … they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs
The things you teach us. We learn from your ideas and insights. Who you think your competitors are, how you plan to go to market, how your product works, what new technologies matter and how they can be used to change our world, what your inspiration is, why you are certain the world will care. You constantly teach and inspire us to think bigger. “I have learned that, although I am a good teacher, I am a much better student. I was blessed to learn valuable lessons from my students on a daily basis.” Erin Gruwell
The places you drag us. If we are going to learn from you and help you, we have to come see you. You drag us out of our comfortable and familiar environments and rhythms into sketchy yet impossibly hip neighborhoods, to warehouses, lofts, meet-ups, tweet-ups, coffee shops, incubators and demo days. We try act cool about it, but we are secretly thrilled to be a part of it all. “Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won.” Dr. Seuss
The chance to give back. The greatest gift you can be given is the satisfaction that comes from helping others. Most of us know we got where we are with some luck and lots of help from others, and we feel an obligation to pay it back. It feels so good to be able to give back by helping others and making ourselves useful. Who doesn’t like to share what they have learned? You gracefully and patiently give us that opportunity. “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar
Your culture of respect, tolerance, openness to different views, healthy debate, constructive feedback, honesty, curiosity and willingness to learn from each other. It keeps us honest and humble; it forces us to be open to listening and learning. “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.” Voltaire
The chance to be part of a collective wisdom. Most everybody is good at something, but no one is good at everything. By coming together with us into ad hoc teams with a diversity of experiences and perspectives you allow us to harness the power of collective wisdom. Not only are the results better, but the process itself is more satisfying. “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford
The chance to be part of renewal. You live in a world of “What’s new? What’s next? How can the status quo be improved?” The work you do is about growth, rejuvenation, figuring out how to delight customers and make the miracle of growth happen. Compared to a backdrop of decay in public institutions and strife in public discourse, mature industries, corporate lay-offs and downsizing, your sandbox is much more fun. Thank you for sharing it with us. “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney. “As part of our renewal, we need to fight problems, not just wait for them to take place.” Nong Duc Manh
The standards you hold us to. It is a privilege for us to be involved in your life’s work. You make us earn that right by keeping us honest and making us work hard for you. If we don’t help and support you along the way, we don’t deserve to be in the game. We need to be great mentors as well as great angels, and you rightly keep our feet to the fire. “Raise your quality standards as high as you can live with, avoid wasting your time on routine problems, and always try to work as closely as possible at the boundary of your abilities. Do this, because it is the only way of discovering how that boundary should be moved forward.” Edsger W. Dijkstra
The opportunity to participate in your success. And finally, coming full circle, we are grateful for the opportunity to participate in your success. With luck its bounty will provide the foundation for us to come together and do it all over again.