3 March 2015

The Dark Side of Entrepreneurship

"We will have more than a million clients and our company will be top leader in the industry over the next year". This is what every first time entrepreneur says at some point in time.

We often hear stories about young entrepreneurs who dropped school at a very young age and had a huge success. We look at these very few success stories and, as entrepreneurs, we lie to ourselves that one day we will be like them...

You normally recognise entrepreneurs as those who change jobs very frequently. They try a bit of everything and, in the end, they don’t get deep into any of the topics. They like to taste a bit of everything. They change countries, jobs and friends and it seems that, everywhere they land, they find something to do. They are proactive and extremely curious. They just don’t find their place in any of the traditional companies. They are dreamers and born sellers, even if they have to sell things not even they can imagine.

How it feels like for the first time

At the beginning it is just you... You continuously think about your business idea and become annoying for others. You could talk for hours about your business, until your friends just get sick of you. Surprised by your confidence and too sick to keep on hearing about this business idea, your friends start joining and you start to believe that you will conquer the world. You sell things that don’t exist yet and you start promising things that you do not even see as feasible.

You hear nothing else but good things about your company. When someone criticises your idea, you just don’t listen to them. You assume they must be jealous on your success.
You think that you were the only one with this idea and you believe you have a real chance. Jealous people are sending you, from time to time, information about similar companies but your endeavour is different to them because you use a different colour or because you have a new feature.

You start stalking your competitors and become absolutely obsessed about them. You think that every move they make is a threat to you.

Instead of talking to your customers, you go in front of investors and start selling them your project, without even a prototype. You ask them to imagine your product and they just laugh in your face but, no worries, investors are mean, what can you expect from them?

You start becoming arrogant to your team and acting like a boss. You are so stubborn that you start ignoring the warnings and listen only to positive feedback.

You now have the product! You feel so good seeing it online. The only problem is that bad feedback comes and comes and comes. And no one is paying... You start telling yourself you had bad luck. Your team starts doubting about you. You start doubting about yourself. They smell your fear and go away.

You suddenly have a finished product, wasted 6 months in developing it and it is perfect only to your eyes. You get frustrated and think that business is just not for you. You knock at the doors of some big corporations and, after a few job interviews, you realise your place is not there...

And yet you start another company...

You might think that this is not going to be your story! I am going to have millions of clients and get rich from the first time. But few are the cases when you are successful from the first time.

No matter what time you ask an entrepreneur how his or her business is going, you always get the same answer: Amazing! We have this new feature, bla bla bla... And he or she starts talking and talking about how well things are going without having even a single client.

If you want to check the other side of the story and ask investors about their investments, they will always start with the very few ones that were successful. They never tend to talk about "the others", as they call the biggest failures.

In societies where entrepreneurship seems to be cool and where everyone’s dream is to have a business, at which point do we have to stop expecting it to be perfect? When are we going to stop seeing failure as defeat instead of as a part of the learning process? When are we going to stop lying to ourselves that first time entrepreneurs have to succeed?

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