Back in 2014, I decided to be an entrepreneur. I left my comfortable corporate job, and found my first startup. I had no idea what I was getting into! Here are some hard truths about startups that no one told me back then.
1. There’s No Playbook
Normal jobs have onboarding procedures, and "welcome buddies". In the first week you get to read a bunch of documents, and you have colleagues who show you who is who and what is what.
As an entrepreneur, I just had to figure things out myself. I tried, failed and learned. Then did it again and again before I succeeded.
2. There’s No Schedule
I got myself free from the 9-5 rat race. But in return, I found myself picking which time of the week to allocate the very long hours I needed to put in.
Indeed, I committed to work 24/7 for myself, so I didn't have to work 9-5 for a boss. I was actually OK with this, but it gets tiring.
3. There’s Significant Financial Risk
There's usually upfront investment and a long time without any salary. On top of that, there are nasty clauses in VC term sheets, penalties in agreements with vendors and partners. Plus, the risk of denting your reputation.
In fact, I learned some hard lessons on being lean, and about investing only in things that move the needle for the business.
4. There’s a Huge Emotional Toll
I wasn't prepared to face the decision fatigue and hard knocks I got. I felt like I was always losing, but I needed to constantly act to avoid bigger losses.
It took me years to thicken my skin and adapt to the crazy pace and huge pressure an entrepreneur faces while growing a company from scratch.
5. It Is Incredibly Lonely
Many decisions are made alone, many travels and meetings are taken alone. There are a bunch of confidential topics I can't simply discuss openly with others.
There's heat from upward stakeholders that I need to shield the team from, and that makes even meetings/calls with them somewhat lonely at times.
6. There’s No Easy Way Out
As soon as I had clients, or partners, or employees, or investors, there will be stakeholders who depended on me.
Most times, contractually. These are hard commitments one cannot simply walk away from. I found myself increasingly aware of these contractual clauses that would tie me. In any case, as a founder, there's simply no way to escape commitment.
7. Seek Mentors
No to look at the billionaire founders of famous unicorn companies. Those are out of reach, and using them as an example would simply fill me with a huge survivorship bias.
Instead of billionaires, seek help from peers. Founders who are 2-3 years ahead of you. Mentors who have just exited a company in your space. People love to share the lessons they learned. Leverage that.
If you're thinking of starting a new project soon, and I just got you scared, I'm sorry. Don't be discouraged! Because it's better to know the height of the jump rather than just fall.
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