These days everyone wants to be an entrepreneur and launch a startup. It’s cool to be your own boss, wear the same clothes to work every day, have a ping-pong table in the fun room, and brainstorm with your team over pizza at 3 in the morning.
Still, there is a huge gap between the way people picture the startup life and the actual reality. In fact, the gap is so big, you can easily call it a chasm. Multiple factors have created it and continue to widen it every day:
- The media that glorifies highly successful founders, yet says little about the rest of them, which in fact represents the majority
- The pot full of gold that people dream of finding at the end of the rainbow, i.e. a startup turned unicorn
- Blockbusters that make you want it even more
Let’s take all these urban legends out of the way, even if it’s just for a second. The picture is not so bright anymore, right?
In over 17 years of entrepreneurship, I’ve seen many stories starting off on the right foot, yet going awry due to this huge gap. Here are five of the myths I’ve encountered most frequently. Keeping them at bay will take you one step closer to making your dream come true and building a successful startup.
Myth 1: My idea is amazing, it will change everything
Many ideas are fabulous and could change the world, yet very few do. The long path from idea to result is called implementation. It’s what makes the difference between a success story and yet another flop. The best products were not built because those who created them wanted to change the world; they simply wanted to find a very practical solution to a particular problem.
This myth has another component, and even Wikipedia contributes to its spread:
“A startup company (startup or start-up) is an entrepreneurial venture which is typically a newly emerged, fast-growing business that aims to meet a marketplace need by developing or offering an innovative product, process or service. A startup is usually a company such as a small business, a partnership or an organization designed to rapidly develop a scalable business model.” – Wikipedia
“An innovative product,” they say. Do you really think that the people who build products are on a quest for innovation? With many startups, the product is not even new, not in the slightest. Most often, it’s a mashup of existing things/technologies that, up to that point, were used in a completely different way.
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As the famous entrepreneur now turned VC, Marc Andreessen recalled from his Netscape days, this is how you eventually make money:
“Gentlemen, there’s only two ways I know of to make money: bundling and unbundling.” – Jim Barksdale, CEO of Netscape
Bundling and unbundling of existing ideas turn into new ideas deemed impossible. It takes vision and courage to do it and they’ll call you crazy in the process. But do it anyways!
Myth 2: I am my own boss and have everything under control
You don’t create a startup to amuse yourself, but hopefully to solve a problem. In the process, you will need others to help you build and deliver your solution.
When you start sharing your dream with one or several co-founders and then with your core team, you’re no longer alone. These people have families to support and mortgages to pay. Shocking, I know Even if you have convinced them to believe in your dream, you’ll still have to pay them at some point.
Of course, you might continue to be your own boss. However, you will have to:
- Provide for your team
- Make sure they do what they have to do so that your dream comes true
- At some point, even get some investors on board
So, no, you are no longer immune to external factors. Choose your team wisely, because they can make or break your dream. The same holds for investors, but that’s another story.
Myth 3: My startup is the Uber of mumbo jumbo
Uber is valued at about $70 Billion on private markets and had a whooping loss of $2.8 Billion in 2016 (without counting its Chinese business being sold last year). The company is facing many legal issues and quite a few scandals over its culture. The co-founder and by now former CEO, Travis Kalanick, has constantly been under fire for the company culture he created and the way he ran the business. So, besides the billions and the constant drama, why in the world would you want to become an Uber of?!
If the only way to explain your idea is by using someone else’s model, then there is something wrong with your idea. You need to come up with your own definition, independent of others. And from my experience, the best way is to begin from the problem it solves and go from there.
Myth 4: Startup life is a walk in the park
Now, how should I put this?! No, no, no!
Actually, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a difficult, bumpy ride. You will have a lot on your plate as you will carry the burden of success on your shoulders, along with the responsibility of paying the people who depend on and believe in you. All this and much more, while giving up on many things that normal people do, like:
- Enjoying free time with your family and friends. Of course, you won’t work 24x7x365. However, you will keep to this startup mood for a long time.
- Normal vacations. At some point, even taking a short break will feel like abandoning your dream.
- The ability of completely decoupling your mind from the business. This is nice-to-have for any entrepreneur, however your startup will stick with you no matter what you do, even if it quietly runs in the background
Few people possess the resilience needed to go through such a long, tedious process. It takes patience, focus and extraordinary willpower. Yet, the reward of seeing your dream come true is totally worth it.
Myth 5: I am doing this to save the world
There, you said it! You want to be the next Superman or Wonder Woman. Sure, you start your economic endeavor — read that startup — not for obtaining profit. No way! You want to become a fictional character wearing spandex and being worshiped by mortals. You and the pink unicorns.
Let’s be honest, any business is after the hard, cold cash. You can save the world as much as you want, but at the end of the day, those who put their faith and money in you want to recover their investment and earn profits. Else, you are not running a business, but a very expensive dream house.
Such ideas are so widely spread they’ve almost shaped a mentality, and most people are adopting it without asking questions. Consequently, it’s fairly easy to lose touch with reality. Yet, it’s up to you to distinguish between the truth and the fiction induced by word of mouthand experts.
If you want to build your own startup, first ask yourself why you want to do it and then try to sell the idea to yourself. Whether you swept yourself off your feet or not, pitch it to someone else too
If you pass this simple test and still feel up for the startup life, then you might stand a chance.
This article was originally published on New Startups.