I think deep down I’ve been meaning to write this for a while, but it wasn’t until I read Mukund Mohan‘s post today that I was inspired to just get it out there. Definitely read Mukund’s post too, by the way — Great read!
Friends have been asking me for a few years now what my startup is going to be (a dozen or so — is that even considered a lot or am I just kidding myself?) Either way, it’s very kind of them to insinuate I should start my own startup. I’m reading into this the assumption that they think I would be a successful founder. So here are the reasons I haven’t had a go at it yet:
1.) I don’t have the right idea yet. It’s not only about finding a pain point or completely new idea. It’s also about having the instinct for product development, the connections, and the passion to devote several stressful years of your life to making this dream a reality. One great piece of advice I recently heard is that entrepreneurs should always be asking themselves “Am I the right person to be doing this at this time?” Until I find the intersection where something I’m truly passionate about, my strengths and the correct timing meet, it just doesn’t make sense for me to take the plunge.
2.) It takes A LOT of blood, sweat and tears. I’ve been working with entrepreneurs pretty closely the last 3 years, and I’ve seen what it can do to some very intelligent, even-keeled, all-around wonderful people. The stresses of entrepreneurship are often compared to manic depression. One day, it looks like you’re on the right path and things are lining up like it was meant to be, the next, you’re losing traction, faith in yourself, and feel depressed that you spent years of your life on a baby that will ultimately fail.
3.) I’m not sure I have what it takes. It takes a very special and talented person to be successful at founding startups. Why else would there be such a high failure rate? You need to listen to advisors, but also have enough conviction to know when to follow your gut. You need to be stubborn and not give up, but be flexible enough to pivot if your original idea just isn’t resonating with your target market. You need to be very good at sales, marketing and product development (or develop those skills quickly!) since you’ll be wearing all of these hats and more in the beginning. And that’s just scratching the surface.
3 b.) Women lack self-confidence. According to loads of articles on why there are so few female entrepreneurs (a real explosion of those articles in the last 1-2years!), this may also be simply because I am a woman. We are socialized and probably have natural tendencies not to put ourselves out there or just run with it as much as men do. While I’m aware of this and compensate as best I can, it still feels like something that’s holding me back. Either way, if I ever do find an idea I feel strongly enough about to go for it and found a startup, I’ll be very grateful for all the encouragement friends and family gave me along the way!
What I’m really trying to get at here is that entrepreneurship is hip and cool right now, but the media glorify the fulfilling, glamorous aspects of the job to the detriment of a comprehensive understanding of all its realities. While I love the feeling of having a big impact I can see (never mind the celebrity if you strike it Uber famous), I have little illusions about just how hard it’s going to be: years of 70-80 hour weeks, sleepless nights, and despair when it looks like things aren’t going to work, hopefully followed by periods of elation when things look up again… Rinse, wash and repeat.
At a panel at RocketSpace just a few weeks ago the founder of Eventbrite said that if she’d known ahead of time just how difficult and stressful starting her own company would be, she might not have gone through with it. It’s not to say I haven’t learned a lot from everyone I’ve worked with and the hundreds of startup events I’ve attended. I’ve been fortunate to get that much advice before even starting. For better or worse, I know just what I’d be getting myself into.