Doing startups is cool. It’s chic. It’s fearsome. It’s badass, especially when you tell people how you are living on ramen in order to keep your cost low. It looks great on a resume, even if you fail because it shows some initiatives. It’s even OK- applauded really- to admit that one of your startups has failed because it is somehow an indication that you have “learned something from failure”. And you get to be your own boss. Really, who wouldn’t want to do startups?
All the reasons above are the wrong reasons for starting your own company. All of them tip the startup towards the red, and none of them gives you the strength to persevere through the challenges, the frustration, and the pressure to make profit and impact. Perseverance becomes even more difficult when you already have loans to pay off (the majority of Americans) and your loved ones would prefer you getting a “real” job and think of the startup as your “pet project” that has the same addiction level and consequences as those of drugs.
Through my work with g.Maarifa and through talking with other entrepreneurs, the ones who are happiest and succeed more often are those who firmly believe in the mission of their companies. They start the businesses because they, first and foremost, want to tackle a problem that has been bugging them for months. Creating a business, they believe, is the most efficient and effective way to solve that problem. Likewise, other people join the businesses because they firmly believe in the mission. Loyalty towards a mission is the key to persevering.
One of my fellow entrepreneurs recorded his mood when he was going through funding series A (he also writes a terrific blog about funding at http://paulstamatiou.com/startup-fundraising-time-sink):
Doing a startup is the hardest thing in the world. When you are your own boss, you feel guilty whenever you are not working since in the back of your head, you know how long your to-do list is. Your personal life gets shoved to the back burner, especially during funding series. You become bipolar (see chart above and personally experienced). In short, you become obsessed and chained to the startup.
So do yourself a favor and make sure that before you do a startup, it is not because it’s chic to do so. It is because you believe in the mission and the product. And you would do anything to have it succeed.