The Cons of Living the Startup Life

So people have been seeing successful startup’s stories, entrepreneurs that worth billion of dollars, the unicorns, huge valuation, big acquisition, and all the fancy things. But you then rarely heard bad stories, obviously because they aren’t published by the ones who didn’t make it. And so people think this is a pink sky where the citizens that live under it thrive and prosper. But as somebody who’s living under that sky, I’m seeing a grey one.

So I’m going to tell you what it’s, as someone who’s walking the path. I will try my best to discourage you (those who are thinking of stepping into it), with no mercy, so my warning is not to read it if you’re starting a startup, if you’re having a bad time and not ready to take more punches in the face. It’s a dark read, but if you have the courage to walk through it, you may (with a small chance) find some values out of it.


So I was once in a startup’s event organized by AIESEC (an international young student organization), standing at the back of the workshop listening to all the answers from the younger fellows directed to a question asked by one of the speaker that day stimulated me.

The question was some sort of “What do you think about when you think entrepreneurship?”. And you know the answers were like:
- Freedom
- Be your own boss
- Millions of dollar
- Travel the world
- Networking with awesome people
- etc.

And I was on the back of the room coming up with all these opposite answers in my head with a dark giggle:
- Doing things you hate
- Financial risk
- Stressful
- Insecurity
- Failure
- Broken relationships

I picture the entrepreneur as a growing up boy about to climb a wall with his crippled leg.

Doing things you hate:

You gotta do things you weren’t qualified for or not liking to do. I had to design the first version of our web app when I’m not a designer by any means, starting to learn Sketch from scratch. A real designer would have done my work in 2 weeks but indeed it took me 2 months. I had to raise fund and I hated it. I rarely take $ from other, unless I’m starving. But I had to, to keep the company running and the team paid, since they’re more important than myself.

That’s to name a few. There are a lot more I can mention even though everyone is different. My weaknesses maybe your strength. The point I’m trying to make is starting a startup is a like being a handyman. Not by choice. You gotta do everything, included things you hate with a high chance of 50/50. And you’ll have to embrace it, live with it, and it’ll surely keep you awake at night. Why? Why do you have to take this? Is it worth it?

Financial risk:

You can have absolute trust in your startup, and yes that’s awesome. But things will not (I’m not using may not) go well as planned. That’s when trouble comes in, and it’ll kick your a**. You may believe you’re going to be profitable tomorrow, so did I with my first company. And it was, just that its profitability wasn’t able to keep me and my team fed. You may have a decent amount of saving in the bank waiting to be spent on this project, or knowing some rich friends who can back you up when needed; you still can go bankrupt before you realize.

I told a story that the number of day when I don’t have money and the number of day when I have some to spend are almost equal. And that’s the true. Are you willing to live in a $100 room for 4 years? I wasn’t, but I did.

Stress:

You will have to deal with a lot of uncertainty that creates stress. You have a good team you saying? You have domain expertise in what you’re doing? Doesn’t matter. Sh*t gonna happen. And it happens in way you can’t imagine. It’ll stress you out, and frustrate you. You may start smoking, drinking, or do whatever you feel that’ll calm your nerve and stress. But it will keep growing.

There were point my eyebrows started falling off because of stress, I swear it’s true. There was time I wake up in the morning thought my motorbike was stolen, only to find out I left it on the street over night (now that’s a thing you never do in Nam). I forgot the day and so on, those small details. Trust me, stress is a real devil and it will grab you, in the…

Are you ready for that? A corporate life is much more stable, buddy. Think again. I’m jealous with you.

Insecurity:

Have you ever been in situation when you struggle for months or even a year not sure where you’re heading, try to break through and nothing happen? You feel all doors are closed and God has abandoned you? You try to kill time by bad habits, hoping the time will flip away faster. You keep pushing toward, hoping thing will change, but it doesn’t? You’re confused and questioned everyone and everything around you in doubt. You even doubt in yourself, thinking you’re not good enough, that you’re just a useless piece of sh*t. And then you start hating yourself, wishing you could have been better.

I was there, and I walked that path, more than once. It’s no fun. But that’s what an entrepreneur will surely go through. Ask yourself if you’re willing to inhale that?

Failure:

Now these above are not yet the worst. As you still can keep pushing for a break through. If you’re tough enough. But like I said, it’s not the worst. Your life only goes to the bottom when all the hard works you put in, all the struggles you broke through, all the challenges you beat down, all the barriers you surpassed; all of that goes in vain, vanish right in front of you like it never was there. You’re feeling like you’ve lost everything. Everything. Back to zero. Where you’ve tried hard to escape. But once again, you’re trapped. Beaten to your core. Defeated.

All you have. Emptiness. Hatress. And regret. Feel me?

Many tough men I know were beaten down like this. My dad was an example. I was there myself. Only then I wished I had a simple job, working in an office. Live a normal life. Just like anyone else.

Broken relationships:

Because it will sure take away your freedom to love your loved ones the way you used to. Why? Simply because your startup may become your first priority. And when your priorities change, EVERYTHING change. Have you thought of that?

I was having the advantage of not having any family around, and very few friends. Now as it’s a lonely journey. I broke up with my ex 6 months before I dumped everything and started Innaway, so it has nothing to do with it. But I’m pretty sure if we’re still together at this point, thing would be really bad. It’s hard for someone to love you when they’re not their priority. It’s unfair.


CONCLUSION:

So if you’re telling you’re starting a startup when you’re a student or considering quitting your job for it — I meant I’m not a successful entrepreneur, yet; but only if you would listen to a guy like me who’s spent a couple years of his life doing it — I would say DON’T DO IT. Yes you heard it right. Don’t even think about it. Go work for a big corporate. Go work for the Government. Or an NGO. Just don’t start a startup. It’s not worth it. You’re going to fail. You’re heading nowhere. You’re going to stress out till the point you’ll be a bald man/woman. Yeah. A. Bald. Woman. That’s not fun. Okay? So go do something else. My friends. I urge you. Thank you!


P/S: Now as you read through the whole thing and you’re still here swearing at me, and your eagerness of going out there to build something great hasn’t been changed; I will say you’re stupid. BUT that’s what it takes to be a good entrepreneur. Yes. It’s. STUPIDITY. A major player in our successfulness. Not the stupidity of not knowing things, but of knowing it’s hard but still getting in. That’s how those big entrepreneurs succeed. They go head in knowing it’s tough. And at this point I would say you’re the right person for that. So keep it up, my friends. There are not many like you in this world. Everybody choose easiness. But not us.

And if you’re a successful entrepreneur happened to be reading this. I urge you to help out the young kids out there who are trying hard for a break through. I’m sure someone helped you once. And kindly leave some kind words here for them to see, if possible.