There comes a point when sometimes the corporate job just stops making sense, and you start wondering if you are contributing anything at all to the world. Or are you just a drone doing someone else’s bidding? Wouldn’t it be great if you quit your un-rewarding job and started something on your own? At least you’ll have a chance of making it big… If all this sounds familiar to you, read on…
Thinking of starting up can be a great move, and it is easy to get carried away in your dreams and aspirations. Once that is done, however, please do a reality check before you take the plunge.
1) You will likely not succeed the first time
It is very rare for a first-time founder to succeed. Don’t go by what you read about on the internet or the hype (“But Zuckerberg did it!”). Research into startups has shown that chances of success the first time are quite low, but on the bright side, every successive startup you do increases your odds of success dramatically. In a widely cited study by Harvard, they found that first-time entrepreneurs are less likely to succeed than those that have a previous startup. Serial entrepreneurs are the most likely to succeed.
2) There will be conflict
Behind all the glamour of doing your own startup, there is always a lot of conflict. You’ll find your personal and professional relationships get increasingly strained. At every corner, there will be big challenges, both internal and external. You will fight with your co-founders. You’ll end up annoying a few customers, who’ll start yelling at you.
One of the major reasons why startups fail is because of internal conflict. If you are to improve your chances of success, you’ll need to know (or quickly figure out) how to handle conflict and ensure it doesn’t get out of hand!
3) It will take longer than you expect
When you’re planning for your startup, you’ll give yourself some deadline to prove yourself. Maybe you’ve planned for 12 months to see some traction. Then you think to yourself, maybe you should give yourself some extra buffer time, just in case, so you add another 6 months. While this is a good idea, you must remember that it will take longer than that.
The worst-case scenario of this is that you’re eternally trapped in your startup. Paul Graham calls this the “Ramen Startup“, where your startup is just enough successful so that you don’t have to shut it down, but you’re always waiting for the next 6 months for your startup to take off. Therefore, it is very important that you get your finances and any other personal matters in shape before you take the plunge.
It’s one of those weird laws of startups that no matter how long you plan for your startup, it will very likely take longer than you planned. So it’s best to plan for the best case, but also make room for adapting as you go along!
4) It will be very confusing
Doing a startup will be one hell of an emotional roller coaster. One evening, everything will be going great, and you’ll be sitting on the next big thing. By morning, everything will have fallen apart and you’ll be staring at a huge failure, and there’ll be no good reason for why things changed so much overnight. It’s best not to over think this, but to just go along and adapt to the situation as you go along, because by evening, things will be looking great again (until the next unforeseen disaster strikes)
And this confusion will not be limited to just your own prospects. Customers will behave irrationally, and so will your investors sometimes. Someone that you thought was a great mentor of yours will suddenly get peeved at you, and previously dead deals will magically resurrect. The best way to deal with the confusion, ironically, is to accept it and just go along with it.
5) It’ll be a great learning experience
However your startup turns out, there is no denying that it’ll be the greatest learning experience of your life. There’s no better way to live and learn “the real world”, than to be in a startup, fully exposed to the vagaries and irrationalities of the market in which you operate. Being apart from the cushy corporate job and away from the protected environment itself is a big learning experience, and you’ll come out of your startup experience a better person.
That alone, is a good reason to take that plunge into your startup.