After more than 20 years of bringing ideas and companies to life, Austin Veith knows a thing or two about success and failure. He has dreamed big and achieved some impressive feats with his ambitious business plans and fundraising; he has also fallen hard, losing the confidence of coworkers and board members. But if there’s one thing that the First Light founder has learned, it’s that there’s no substitute for hard work in business.
The Boulder, Colorado Techstars graduate has chosen to face some of the most highly regulated industries head-on, including airlines, hotel chains, credit card companies, and music labels. Always facing an uphill battle in earning trust and building partnerships, Austin Veith has had to fall back on hard work and groundbreaking technology in order to see his concepts come to life.
“To be very candid, I’ve found that nearly every time I’ve taken a shortcut it comes back to bite me in the ass,” Veith says. “When you have the feeling that you should probably do this or that, but choose the easy way, or even worse, choose the lazy way, it ends up taking way more effort than doing it the hard way the first time around.
Pulling an idea from the ether and making it a physical reality that people depend on to solve a real problem (or as a means to make a living), takes nothing less than a titanic amount of hard work over a long period of time.”
Luckily for Austin Veith, his work ethic was built from a young age. He grew up on a farm in Iowa, where he spent his summers baling and bucking hay and detasseling corn. He later became a wildland firefighter, which is an extremely physically taxing job. All of this manual labor helped to prepare him for the experience of founding high-level startups, which often require 12-16 hour days for months on end. For Austin Veith, 7-day work weeks are commonplace.
Of course, hard work isn’t enough to create success; Veith has learned that your concept must be unique and of value, and there will be times that you must persevere even when it looks like you might be reaching a dead end.
“The one characteristic that has led to some of my failures, could also maybe be attributed to some of my successes,” he says. “For better or worse, I tend to never give up on a project, no matter how close to death it is.
In fact, I seem to be drawn to projects that are incredibly challenging or complicated with little chance of success, while being less interested in projects that are going well. I had a project that launched in 2007/08 just as the great recession kicked off and the venture markets imploded. The company almost died at birth, but I still stuck with it for years after. Eventually, I was able to resuscitate it and bring it back to life.”
Austin Veith’s persistence is a character trait he’s had his entire life. Now based in Denver, he loves the mountains and downhill skiing. However, growing up in Iowa, he was not exposed to skiing; the terrain was flat and none of his friends or family had any interest in the sport. But after developing an interest in learning to ski, Veith’s persistence took hold. He convinced a family-owned ski shop to hire him, learned everything he could about ski equipment and the sport, and earned a season pass to the local ski hill. Veith skied more than 100 days on that hill between his junior and senior years of high school, teaching himself the basic skills. During his freshman year of college at The University of Iowa, he began driving to Colorado on the weekends to ski the Rockies – a 26-hour round trip.
In addition to honing his skills and cementing his love of the sport, Veith’s skiing obsession also built his self-confidence. He looks back on his years of effort spent learning and sees it as a lesson in what focus, determination, and passion can accomplish.
After the obvious prioritization of hard work to achieve success, Austin Veith lists his next key elements to starting a new company as:
- Strong Concept or Business Model
- Great Corporate Legal Counsel
After years of developing his own concepts and bringing them to life, Austin Veith now brings his determination and drive to other founders. First Light is a small startup factory that builds technology and entire company infrastructure for startup founders in complex or highly regulated industries. First Light handles everything from business formation and legal, to hiring and partnership development, often acting as the entire C-level of a company.
Although he may not be solving his own problems or inconveniences anymore, Austin Veith is finding great satisfaction in solving problems for other founders, helping them to avoid some of the mistakes he made in business. And with Austin Veith’s hard work and perseverance to guide the way, First Light has found success since its inception.