Letter To a Young Entrepreneur #1: Calling

Dear N.,

Thanks for your email.

You’re saying that you’re tired of your career as manager in a telco, and wondering whether a career as entrepreneur would not be a better fit for you.

You’re showing as evidence the example of your friend Z. (from your B-School class) who launched his startup barely three years ago, and sold it already to Verizon, and seems all fine and well.

My gut feeling:

I could very well be that you’re showing early symptoms of entrepreneurial fever.

Watch out: there is a broad variety of variants of this disease.

Some intense bouts run wild for a few days or weeks, but cool down with the first cold shower.

Some other individuals seem to have been on the entrepreneurial track for the past 20 years, and still show a fever that brings them above and beyond themselves.

Talking about track, be aware that we don’t speak about “career” in entrepreneurship.

If you are bored with your career as mid-manager, keep in mind that launching a startup will likely mean going off the beaten path, and it won’t be punchclock work, but rather a rollercoaster life of Disneyland size!

We owe Reid Hoffmann this famous metaphor:

Being an entrepreneur is like jumping off a cliff, and building a plane on the way down…

My advice is to take some time to sit down, and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  • If you don’t launch your venture, will it take sleep away from you?
  • In what type of environment do you want to work ; or better: what customers do you want to serve?
  • Do you only want to be “your own boss”… just to be a cool boss with yourself? Or do you realize that the boss in you will need to be even more demanding with the human resource that you also are?
  • Do you mostly want to have “CEO” on your business card because it sounds cool (bitch!), without understanding that in a startup it mostly means “Chief Everything Officer”?
  • People seldom launch alone: whose support can you count on? What impact will your entrepreneurial vocation have on your close relationships and family?

The flame of entrepreneurship is a very noble thing.

If I did dare to blow to blow on yours, I meant to check whether it almost blew the flame off, or whether it made it brighter.