Startups are exciting and are pathways to riches and glory. The news of a 17-year old selling his company for millions of dollars, articles on celebrity entrepreneurs and lifestyle of billionaire tech entrepreneurs inspire thousands of talented people to take the plunge. In all the glitter and glory often new entrepreneurs don’t realize what they are signing up for when they start a company. My love affair with startups has brought me to my third startup. I have been fortunate to work with some great co-founders, teammates and investors. A few years’ of an entrepreneur’s life gave me plenty opportunity to see it up, close, and personal. Here are a few things that I learned on the way and thought every new entrepreneur ought to know before jumping into the startup world.
1. Emotional roller coaster – You have already heard that a startup is an emotional rollercoaster ride. How bad is it? There are days when you go on the coaster a dozen times! A great email from a user can pump you up and then slow traffic on your service can quickly dampen the spirits. I must admit that downs are more frequent than ups. You will be tested everyday for mental and emotional resilience.
2. Long waiting game – The stories of successful exits are inspiring but often hide years of struggle, pivots, and sacrifices to be an overnight success. A startup on an average takes 5-7 years for exit and 10 years to go public. Of course this works only for less than 1% of successful startups. A serious entrepreneur is looking to plough through months, if not years of slow growth, failed experiments, and be ready to discard all the hard work and start again.
3. Stay motivated in the face of failure – It is probably the most well-guarded secret of startups. Since an entrepreneur is the biggest cheerleader of his startup, he will probably never admit to it openly. There are days when you are almost ready to shutting shop. However, the same night you would be working till 3 AM to release the next important feature that nobody might get a chance to use. Yes, it is the passion that got you started on this journey but is it deep enough to carry you through those times when skepticism runs deep and nothing seems to be working?
4. Ability to take a No – You are talented, smart and at the top of your game. You aced your school and then your job. Nothing seemed impossible and you were always applauded and supported for your new initiatives by your friends, colleagues and family. Start a business and things turn upside down quickly. Your admirers turn skeptics and question the idea, your ability to pull it through and the decision to quit that well-paying job. Most successful professionals are not good at taking a “No” and that makes startups even harder.
5. Fight your own self – Most tech entrepreneurs leave their cushioned jobs to start fascinating companies. However, when things don’t click or while going through that long waiting period, you will question yourself a million times if quitting the job was the right decision. What if I do it on the side or what’s wrong with getting a hefty paycheck every second week? At times those thoughts overpower you and that is the time when you have to fight back and decide to stay in the game.
My goal is not to demoralize entrepreneurs but to give them a real glimpse into what they are signing up for by starting their companies. I strongly believe in following your passion and taking chances in life. Nobody becomes great by playing safe and not working hard. However, it is always prudent to know upfront what you are getting into.
Hey Entrepreneur, take a plunge, but with your eyes open!