‘Facing your fears’ the unspoken part of a start-up — Dave ten Have

By Peter Kerr 06/03/2012

Ponoko co-founder Dave ten Have fronted up to Unlimited Potential’s ‘Tech Founders Blast Talks’ in mid-February with some extremely frank and honest comments.

It’s ten Have’s second internet-based start-up, with Wellington-originated, globally-operating Ponoko being a bit of poster child for mass customisation/personal manufacturing. It describes itself as ‘the world’s easiest making system’.

ten Have described being in the start-up (and follow through) stage as being where ‘fear of failure is a constant’.

And those reading and observing of others’ success in the venture capital and start-up space ‘hear a lot of stories that are embellished,’ he says.

That is, people hear many of the successful bits, the how it all happened narrative. The downsides, hard times, unsuccessful moves get short shrift. Equally, hindsight provides tremendous clarity.

As it currently stands for himself and Ponoko, ‘I can’t tell you where I am, but I can tell you how fast I’m going,’ he says.

‘It is like being chased in a confined space with a bunch of other nutters.’

For all that, ten Have clearly relishes the excitement, the challenge, the unknowns that go with starting with a metaphoric blank piece of paper.

‘It allows you to look into the abyss,’ he says.

‘Do it for the journey, for the learning, not for the dollars.’

For someone who in the first two years of his original start up began his morning by throwing up the breakfast he’d just eaten, ten Have’s frankness was a tonic in an environment where kicking off a new idea is often seen and spoken of as a walk in the park.

At times, it is anything but.

‘You need to turn around and conquer the fear,’ says ten Have.