If you do not have the passion and if you cannot put in the effort, then you should NOT be an entrepreneur
Watching the movie The Social network left a deep impression on me, inspiring me to be an entrepreneur as a career choice. The opportunity came during my final year in university, when a project of mine was gaining some traction and I saw the opportunity to commercialize it, and the rest was history.
As a serial entrepreneur who has started 2 companies in different locations (Kenya, UK) and currently working as a Venture Capitalist, I can attest to the conventional narrative of entrepreneurship as a path not for the faint-hearted. However, the point of how tough it is to be an entrepreneur wasn’t communicated succinctly to the wider audience. It certainly didn’t occur to me the challenges that a start-up founder would face when I started my first company 6 years ago.
Entrepreneurship is gradually being accepted as an alternative career path for new graduates as well as mid-career professionals. The narrative of entrepreneurship allows one to change the world, impact others and empower the wider community are some of the ideological pull factors for many.
Along with those ideological factors, the following are some common reasons that aspiring entrepreneurs gave when quizzed on their motivation to be an entrepreneur.
- I’m able to be my own boss;
- A quick way to get rich;
- Autonomy in work;
- Work-life balance;
- Passion and more fulfillment at work.
While they are valid reasons, and true to a certain extent, there are more to it than what it seems to be.
Being a first-time founder working on my business plan/pitching to investors for seed-funding, while liaising with corporate partners to tie up partnership deals and had to prepare for my final university exams in a month’s time isn’t the best way to end my final school term. In reality, starting a business takes way more hard work, time and effort than many would have imagined, and the only drive remaining to pull you through the toughest time would be the passion you possess for your idea.
The vision to see your idea being executed and bring value to your users, impacting their lives one way or another is an extremely rewarding experience. That extreme belief of an entrepreneur in his/her idea is critical to the success of a company, as innovative business ideas challenge conventional wisdom, entrepreneurs will be the one converting doubters to believers, turning rejections to acceptance and skepticism to faithful followers.
Founders of early-stage companies are synonymous to a juggling act, wearing multiple hats at the same time. Speaking to customers for feedback, product development to implement the insights from feedbacks, fundraising, hiring, etc. There is essentially no work-life balance as a start-up founder with wide-ranging issues from customer complaints, product development, investors’ due diligence requests, forming partnership deals, etc, would all require founders attention and are likely to consume 24/7/365 of their time.
A VC whom I spoke to recently gave the comment that he would drop by the office on a Saturday afternoon, and companies that are around are the ones more likely to succeed. Although this comment comes off rather simplistic it brings home the point that you’ll probably work longer hours as a founder than you were as an employee.
There’s this mantra going around Silicon Valley which encourages founders to always be raising funds. After the closing each round of fundraising, founders should be laying the groundwork (networking) for the next round of funding. As a company raises funds, investors would make up a company’s board of directors, and founders are answerable to them.
Directors play a unique role in the company where they act as advisors to the founders, providing them with the necessary experience and network to grow their company. However, investors bring onboard their own set of experiences, playbook, and perspective towards your business. This is a double-edged sword, as it may add value to founders, but at the same time could be distracting to them.
Innovative business models are forward-looking, with investors tapping on their past experiences and applying the same playbook to these business models may not be the best advice to give founders. Founders must make the right judgment on what advice to take on board and to handle the board meetings professionally can be a challenging task (especially when you have a room full of big egos).
Prior to starting a company, aspiring entrepreneurs must be clear of his/her underlying motivation, and to be aware if there is a genuine problem that they seek to solve. The passion they have for the business idea is crucial and possessing the relentless drive to solve that particular problem. Starting a company may not be the easiest way to get rich, despite the success stories that were widely written the majority of startups fail. If you’re in it for the money and fame, it is very likely that your company will fail, as the late nights and personal sacrifices that entrepreneurs have to put in to make the company work are far more than what monetary incentives can compensate for at its initial stage.
Genuine passion will shine through during challenging times and it is this attribute that enables entrepreneurs to navigate through those challenges. Monetary incentive, job fulfillment, autonomy at work all be achieved through easier means. For instance, an early employee of Twitter would have more autonomy at work with huge responsibilities and monetary incentive than the majority of the entrepreneurs.
Being an entrepreneur is not a trend, but a calling to solve a particular problem. It isn’t any cooler than being a software developer, a salesperson or an investment banker — this is the narrative that the media has been playing about entrepreneur taps on the audience’s ‘feel good’ emotion which they seek in every story.
If you’re still reading this article, after all has been written, and you have that burning passion to solve that ONE problem, you SHOULD be an entrepreneur.
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