The World of Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is one of the best career paths for those looking to make a difference.
Throughout this essay, I look at how entrepreneurship relates to life and love. I ponder what it means to perform greatly and experience the worst as a founder. I examine how passion, purpose, and gratitude are essential ingredients.
What is Entrepreneurship?
“Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled” – Howard Stevenson, Harvard Prof.
Entrepreneurs make the world a better place. They see a problem, figure it out, and take action. According to Eric Reis, “starting up” can be learned, because success is engineered through following the a set of lean, agile procedures.
Entrepreneurship and the Adventure of Discovery
“I’ll tell you now: bad shit is coming. It always is in a startup. The odds of getting from launch to liquidity without some kind of disaster happening are one in a thousand. So don’t get demoralized.” – Paul Graham’s address to a graduating class of the Y-Combinator accelerator.
Entrepreneurs are constantly searching for something that works. Asking questions, tweaking solutions. Blank says questions like “If you have three major problems to solve (in this area) in the year ahead, what are they?” help to stimulate the discussion and get you on the path to developing something worthwhile.
Entrepreneurship as a Creative and Entertaining Output
I like entrepreneurship because it is a creative avenue for lifestyle alignment of work and play. Every artist needs their canvas and for some that may be known as the business canvas.
Like most artwork, the original concept is not what the finished product looks like. This concept is known as pivoting. Similar to a painter, who’s working in layers. Startups that pivot have much greater success. For example, they often raise 2.5x more money, have 3.6x better user growth, and are 52% less likely to scale prematurely than startups that stick to the original concept and refuse to change according to Max Marmer, Bjoern Lasse Herrmann and Ron Berman.
“Steve Jobs Pointed out that “Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.” Design is not just about how it works, it’s about the process of how you get it to work. And that’s what founding a company, what entrepreneurship, is all about” wrote Jessica for Wired.
Engagement as a Key Ingredient to Entrepreneurship
Let me mention some things not to do. The number one thing not to do is other things. In particular, don’t go to graduate school, and don’t start other projects. Distraction is fatal to startups. – Paul Graham
Dan Grover said “When you take a job, you’re really renting out a chunk of your brain. It’s still being rented even when you’re not on the job (in the same way that you’re still paying for your apartment even when you’re not in it)” therefore, trying to do anything besides working on a startup if one desires to be an entrepreneur can be fatal.
Education as a Leading Role in Developing Great Companies and Entrepreneurs
According to Startup Genome Report, Startups that have helpful mentors, track metrics effectively, and learn from startup thought leaders raise 7x more money and have 3.5x better user growth.
So, college… is it the right move? Graham argues that one benefit is that if you’re in college and thinking about entrepreneurship, you’ve got an amazing opportunity to just build things. Yet, he argues in “How to Start a Startup” that you’re better off learning how to hack than getting an MBA. Reasons why? Curriculum, even in the best schools, is outdated. Top schools were designed to produce individuals for consulting firms. They don’t teach google analytics, marketing automation, and A/B Testing wrote Sunji Rajaraman.
What to do then? Teach yourself a skill that startups value and learn it inside and out. Something like coding or SEO/SEM would make anyone a valuable asset to many startups.
Entrepreneurship and Lifestyle.
A little personal note here… I want a lifestyle business. I have no desire at this point to spearhead a leaping gazelle (fast growth company). I much rather build a long lasting brand that is expressive and allows me to connect with an audience and positively influence the world.
The Romantic Side of Entrepreneurship
FounderDating, wooing early evangelists and courting VC’s are all part of the game. Starting a company is like having a child. Working with partners is like entering a marriage.
“Looking for a co-founder without being open to alterations in the original idea is extremely difficult. Like all other forms of capital, one should be ready to put one’s idea on the negotiation table.” – Franck Nouyrigat and Marc Nager
When looking for potential team mates, it is essential that you as the original founder are well aware of what you already bring to the table and where you need help. “The fundamental question is: what competencies am I looking for?” The human element is far more powerful than the details of the company itself. What type of questions should you be asking?
Examples of Founder’s Questions:
- If you had a great co-founder and a great idea, how soon could you quit your full-time job?
- Is your significant other or closest friends supportive of you living with the uncertainty of a startup?
- Can you live without a paycheck for up to a year?
- How much of your own money are you willing to invest into a startup?
- Imagine we crash and burn in 6 months, what would you do next?
- What hobbies do you have to take your mind off of work?
- Do you consider yourself punctual or tardy?
- What are your biggest professional weaknesses?
Brad Feld recommends to be careful and not jump into something too soon. Be sure to work on something together with your potential co-founder. Better yet, fail at something together. See how the two of you deal with conflict. Struggle uncovers true character and through this scenario you’ll have the intuition to decide if this is a good co-founder or not.
My professor in college taught that a team should be comprised of people with the following skillsets;
- someone who has the idea
- someone who has the knowledge of management and legal issues related to running a business
- someone who can design and build the interface
- someone who can sell the product.
Going it alone can be detrimental. According to the Startup Genome Report, Solo founders take 3.6x longer to reach scale stage compared to a founding team of 2 and they are 2.3x less likely to pivot.
Performance measurements for Entrepreneurs
How well can a founder take a dream and move it from concept to reality?
In established companies, the processes of product or software development often follow a model known as “waterfall” development. Steve Blank recommends that startups do not follow this method. Instead, startups should follow as process known as “agile development”; A/B testing, web based testing awareness, acquisition and conversion between cohorts are keys to making sure resources aren’t spent in areas that don’t make sense.
Paul Graham’s definition of a startup is related to growth. He tries to shoot for 5-7%. I’m sure that would be wonderful to achieve such results but isn’t it more important to focus on the inputs? Andrew Chen came back with a counter argument saying that coming up with growth percentages is unrealistic. You don’t control that. What you do control is the input. The outputs are just what happens when everything goes according to plan.
Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone with Entrepreneurship
Failure and adversity breeds success. Benjamin Franklin couldn’t afford to stay in school past the age of ten. That didn’t stop his appetite for learning! Richard Branson, an incredibly well known entrepreneur, has dyslexia. Still, he used his ability to connect with and inspire others to build one of the greatest corporations in the world. Edison famously said “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” As you can see, failure is just a part of the journey. It is important to not give up and shy away. Sometimes success is just one step away.
I’m left wondering about when is it time to throw in the towel?
How do you know when you’re idea is no longer valid?
Entrepreneurship and Giving Back
The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.” At YC we call ideas that grow naturally out of the founders’ own experiences “organic” startup ideas. The most successful startups almost all begin this way. When something annoys you, it could be because you’re living in the future.
Neither Apple nor Yahoo or Google or Facebook were even supposed to be companies at first. They grew out of things their founders built because there seemed a gap in the world.
Try talking to everyone you can about the gaps they find in the world. What’s missing? What would they like to do that they can’t? What’s tedious or annoying, particularly in their work? Let the conversation get general; don’t be trying too hard to find startup ideas. You’re just looking for something to spark a thought.
Give the world something cool. Working on things that could be dismissed as “toys” often produces good [products]. When something is described as a toy, that means it has everything an idea needs except being important. It’s cool; users love it; it just doesn’t matter. But if you’re living in the future and you build something cool that users love, it may matter more than outsiders think.
For a while, I may be working for other startups until I have the experience to start my own. Wait, what? Working for others? Hmm, that’s not really my ideal situation. But, I could see it happening if I can’t get going with a supportive product in the first few months out of school. [which has now happened by the way!]
I really don’t want to venture down this road, but if need be, I found the words of Anand Rajamaran to be comforting. He spoke about finding companies to help out with, “Target your search, spend time introspectively about what you’re interested in, assess your risk tolerance, and target companies you’re passionate about.”
The Passionate Approach and the Purpose Economy
One of the greatest things about being an entrepreneur is you can create a company that acts like an oreo or celery. In other words, founders have the ability to say what type of message and image an organization will spread. As time goes on, people who pass the ‘celery test’ as Simon Sinek would say will gather in masses once they see a small cohort of people who think what you’re up to is cool!
At the time of writing this, there was quite the buzz about the purpose economy. For the first time, young people entering the workforce are much more concerned with the quality and purpose behind their jobs than the amount of money they make. Burn out, and or lack of passion, is the reason 8-9% of startups fail according to CB Insights.
Entrepreneur Aaron Hurst says that loving what you do and making an impact in line with your beliefs will define the next generation. Apparently, people are no longer happy just working for a paycheck. They want to do work that matters.
Entrepreneurship is an excellent route to such a goal. There was an excellent article I read throughout the last semester about career regrets. “I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money” was by far the biggest regret of all. Research proves that compensation is a “hygiene” factor, not a true motivator.
Some questions I found myself asking that really helped give me some direction are:
- I know I will have made a difference when…?
- The world will be a better place if I used my talents to…?
Susan Cramm wrote an article about building teams with top talent. There was a list of questions in the article that I found to be very interesting. Here they are:
- What are your proudest accomplishments and biggest disappointments? Why?
- What activities energize you and drain you?
- How would you force rank the following rewards: financial gain, power and influence, lifestyle, autonomy, affiliation, intellectual challenge, competence, recognition, other?
- If you died tomorrow, what would you want your legacy to be?
- What is your five-year career goal?
- If you don’t have one, what’s your “best guess”?
I can see how the answers to the questions would make a huge difference in the pursuit of building a strong team connection. I’ve never had a boss sit down and ask these or any related questions for the sake of developing a deeper relationship.
The Role of Gratitude and Confidence for Entrepreneurs
Starting a business is risky. Luck and the right strategies need to blend in order for a team to achieve success. It’s a long road between where I currently am (looking at the amazing opportunities) and exiting a company for a large sum of money.
Oprah said “intention creates reality” which in my eyes is profoundly meaningful for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is literally the art of manifesting your vision.
I once read “My biggest regret is that I’m a ‘wantrepreneur.’ I never got to prove myself by starting something from scratch.”
It does take a lot of confidence and a high risk level to do something that is so uncertain. That is why it is admirable. But, as Jessica Alter wrote “most entrepreneurs, in contrast, are actually not amazing at any one thing. People may see them that way, especially given the media narrative of how we depict entrepreneurs and startups, but founders are typically just “good enough” at a slew of things: fundraising, product, partnerships, etc. Good Enough to get things rolling and faking it until they make it — that is, can hire people that are better than them in most areas.”
Our work is not done until the customer is, in fact, delighted says Sarah Rainone.
Throughout the past few years and especially the last semester (this was written my last year of school), I have been exposed to the world of entrepreneurship and the many great things it has to offer. There are so many creative individuals who are looking to make the world a better place to live in. I’ve experienced that entrepreneurs are a community of people who are willing to share and help out.
- My Story as an Entrepreneur > Click Here