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Entrepreneurship is Not a Popularity Contest

Written by Jeevan Gnanam

“If you don’t have the fight; you should not be here.”

I believe a lot of people want to be entrepreneurs as they have a misguided sense that it’s going to make them popular among their peers or their family. In fact, social validation and dopamine hits are one of the levers ecosystem builders use to attract people to take a chance on entrepreneurism. It’s enough to get you started, but it’s not really enough to keep you in the long game.

The funny thing is; if you’re not causing enough of fire and being that amicable person at startup social events, you probably have to question whether you’re really building something worthy. If you are building something that’s disruptive, you probably don’t have time to be Mr Nice Guy or your competition is speaking ill of you. As an entrepreneur/angel investor myself, I’m growing to sort the wheat from the chaff and I’m slightly more wary of the self-advocates, those that think they are unique fluff and can’t stop talking about themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating stubborn introverted founders. There is a subtle context one has to understand.

As a startup founder, there is a time to do the talking and there is a time to let the product/brand do the talking. Some entrepreneurs fail to understand the difference and fail to handle the transition. If a startup is a significant number of years into its journey and the brand/product is not creating the pull and the entrepreneur still has to promote it, I would consider that a failure of the founder. The startup becomes ego-centric and has very low chances of scaling, not a great place to be.

Probably much like parenthood in the early days you are all your startup has. You have to nurture it and yes in true lean startup methodology as the founder you need to do shameless promotion especially to find your first paying customer, product/market fit, etc. This could be the loneliest time for a startup, zero to one. In this phase I try and keep my favourite quote from a Clint Eastwood movie handy “Opinions are like Arse holes, everyone has one”. This is counterintuitive for startups; it’s great to be open and share your idea but if you are truly past the phase of formulating the idea and now it’s a business, be selective to who you listen too. Listen to people who will invest in your idea or clients. The rest of them are just arse holes with an opinion, nice to listen to occasionally but completely ignorable and cloud your judgment when you’re vulnerable.

When I say entrepreneurship is not a popularity contest, it’s because there are going to be very lonely times. Times when people (including your friends and family) cast doubt and ask “Is he/she taking on too much?”, “He/she should have never quit their stable job”, “What has he/she really achieved?”, it is likely that they care for you, but don’t get them to understand your passion, you are alone in that. You are the only person who is going to fight it out for your businesses future. If you don’t have the fight; you should not be here.

A lot of businesses including ours went through this after 4/21. I’m glad we did cause some to come back a bit more resilient and support a few that took bigger hits along the way. Hatch’s many services for startups including the mentorship program came out of that fire. It made us push harder on our focus of helping startups grow and re-imagine what we want to do with startups. And now our acceleration program is beginning, I am super excited. Maybe the journey doesn’t have to be so lonely when you start and you can get the right advice in a community that cares but we can’t keep fighting for you, that’s all you.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily represented by organizations that I may represent. This is an opinion(single data point) and should not be taken to represent more than that. My opinion can be subject to change in light of new information and I really could care less if you have an opinion on my opinion.

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