To startup or not to startup

The startup trend that United States started to experience back in late 90s, that led to the dotcom bubble, was taken to a new level by Israel with Yozma. This is driving few years old technology companies to overthrow long living ones, since the most valuable ones have taken over the world. But the key question still stands, are startups for everyone?

First let us understand what is a startup. A startup is an entrepreneurial venture, which typically is a newly emerged, fast-growing business that aims to meet a marketplace need by developing or offering an innovative product, process or service. A startup is usually a company designed to rapidly develop a scalable business model.

Most, if not all, startup companies are following a lean methodology for developing businesses and products. This methodology aims to shorten product development cycles by adopting a combination of business hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning. The central hypothesis is that if startup companies invest their time into building products or services iteratively, in order to meet the needs of early customers, they can reduce the market risks and sidestep the need for large amounts of initial project funding, expensive product launches and failures.

So a startup entrepreneur should not only have an idea that will disrupt a business, a process, a market or will create a new need; she will also have to do this in short sprints that will prove her hypothesis with the minimal cost. This is not an easy thing to do and is not meant for everyone.

In order to succeed as a startup entrepreneur you need to have three virtues:

  1. You need to have a passion and a dream, this is what keeps you awake at night and this is what fuels you to continue. If what your startup is doing or going to do is not you, then I am sorry but you are not going to make it. If you do not want to change the world or take over the world, any of the two goes regardless if the first is better than the latter, then you will not be able to aspire your team, your investors or your customers to trust you or work with you. Whenever someone is willing to take the risk of working with a startup she is willing to take the service/product risk, however she is not willing to take multiple risk at the time, including founders commitment to the idea.
  2. You need to have the stomach to endure the pressure, the ups and downs and the rejections. You will be pressed by your co-founders in many crossroads, your employees will want to know if their vesting is for a reason or why they are not paid on time. Your investors will want to know why your product is not getting a hockey stick traction or why the roadmap is delayer and you customers will constantly ask for more for less and so on. These are not nice situations and you have to be really mentally strong to endure this for a long period of time, i.e. your startup life until your exit.
  3. You need to listen, this is extremely important. True believers, i.e. all of us in the startup industry, have the tendency to act like we know everything. Unfortunately, we do not, but there are a number of people out there that are willing to help us on that. These people ranging from customers, mentors, investors to our close friends and family are constantly giving us feedback, not only on what to build but also on what we should do. The closer we listen the faster we will get out of our bubble and we will be able to grow our business and realize our dreams, all these people are on our side.

It is common that each one of us will say that she can do it, but this not given. It is best that each and everyone who wants to follow the entrepreneurship path to do her inner search and find out if she is willing to ride this roller coaster, if she has tolerance or appetite to such risk and if she is willing to sacrifice time from other activities, loved ones included, for the cause; her startup cause. There are many of us that are proceeding down that path because we are committed to our cause, we are pursuing a dream and we are willing to go all in. If you are not it is ok, we still need you, you are future business associate, investor, customer etc. everyone has a role in this world!

There a number of people that can help you during this journey and also assist you in making up your mind, whether you want to do it or not and in case you do, they would be willing to follow you down that path. First of all there are your loved ones, your family or other half, which will act as your ultimate cheerleader or last resort, depending on the situation. Then there are all these people that have tried, failed and ultimately succeeded, who are willing to give back to the startup community as mentors and can guide you through all the phases of your journey. Your co-founder(s) is one more ally, because having someone to share all of your good moments and, particularly, the bad is unmatched.

There are also a number of tools that you can leverage in order to test yourself. There are so many incubators, accelerators, business idea competitions, hackathlons, startup events etc. where you can test your case. In all these places you will not only test your idea, but also yourself, within a safe environment so as to make your mind. These places are so well organized that sooner or later might even replace MBAs, so it is worth to give it a try.

Entrepreneurship and startups should not be considered a hype or a lifestyle choice, it should be well thought decisions. It is an amazing ride, with unlimited lessons to teach, moments to build memories and shape characters, as well a chance to get to know great people from all over the world. So get to know yourself, measure your strengths, weaknesses and limitations, sleeves up and get to work… The choice is yours!

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