How To Embrace The Uncertainty Of Entrepreneurship
A startup creates a torrent of emotions when it’s born.
There’s the excitement, fulfilment and joy of building an idea from scratch. There’s also the stress and uncertainty that comes with making sure this idea becomes profitable.
I spoke with Harry Coburn and Josh Phillips, the co-founders of GoGetters, on how to deal with these emotions and ensure you’re left with a winning startup.
What is GoGetters and how did you get the idea for it?
Harry: We are trying to create a community where people can help push each other out of their comfort zones and achieve all the things they want. People get stuck in their lives and we want to give people a space to see what’s out there and break down their mental constraints.
I’ve been in and around startups for a while. After the last one died at the end of 2016, I knew it was time to go ‘all in’ and do my own thing.
When Josh and I discussed the idea for GoGetters, it was so obvious. I looked back at my own thoughts and reflections of the last ten years and they all pointed to this. The biggest thing is to trust your gut. For me, there’s no other way.
On my 19th birthday, I was rushed to hospital and told I had half a day to live. That’s when you realise how short life is and start doing the things you really want to do. A lot of people don’t have that wake-up call. Maybe that’s how we can make a big impact.
How did the possibility of quitting your job to focus full-time on GoGetters arise?
Josh: I was in a full-time job at a social innovation company for about 18 months. I was happy at first, but soon became a bit disillusioned on what I was doing there. I was wondering ‘what more can i do, what kind of people can i help, how can I contribute and make more of a social impact?’
I had a chance to build a company within the company, like an ‘intrapreneur’, but it became evident there wasn’t the time or space throughout the company to make this work. I knew I had to leave and build something I could put my heart and soul into.
I was introduced to Harry and we there were a lot of overlaps with our goals. We had a brainstorm about the type of projects we wanted to work on and within a week I made the decision to work with him.
It felt like the right moment for me. I knew if I didn’t face that uncertainty and take the plunge now, I probably never would and I’d always be wondering what could have happened.
What due diligence would you recommend that entrepreneurs take to ensure their idea is likely to work?
Josh: The first thing to do is test it. It can be a small test, but you need to prove your concept. If you’ve got an idea to run with, try it out. The beautiful thing about the market is that it’s going to tell you how right or wrong you are. ‘The Lean Startup’ is a book that talks about this process. It can really help erase a lot of uncertainty.
Harry: Exactly. I invited ten people to my house and asked them ‘what’s something you’ve always wanted to do but held back from’. I told them ‘you’ve got three weeks to do it, or you have to give £200 to charity.’ People loved the idea. It inspired one guy to travel across the world. Another guy fulfilled his ambition of driving a train within a week. The project was more to see people’s reactions though. Everyone was excited. Everyone told their friends. We created a Whatsapp group for this challenge and it doubled in size. That’s how we knew we might be on to a winner.
Is there a type of person you’d advise against launching a startup?
Harry: You need to be ready to sacrifice everything. We’ve sacrificed a good salary, a comfortable lifestyle, our reputations. You have to be ready to live and breathe your idea. You have to believe so much in it, otherwise so many of these things fail. You need to be ready for stick from friends and family too. The number one thing is to trust yourself.
Josh: Having that confidence in your vision is super-important. Also, being able to adopt a flexible problem-solving approach. I don’t think that’s for everyone. Some people look at entrepreneurship as a quick fix or glamorous path to get rich. Maybe it will be, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. You’ve got to enjoy the process of fulfilling your vision and solving problems. Engagement and fulfilment are the rewards for us at this stage. If you feel like you’ll be engaged and fulfilled by your startup, I say go for it.
Is it necessary to have a passion for your business idea?
Harry: I don’t think so. I have a friend who is selling coconut oil online. He can sit back and have a business that will take a few hours a week to run. He’s fulfilling his goal of financial freedom. There are loads of successful businesses that are based around selling shitty products. I can’t build a shitty product, it’s not in my fabric. I have to do something I’m passionate about. I don’t think you need passion, but if you’re doing something mission-led you can go much further and provide more value.
What are your goals for GoGetters this year?
Josh: We have GoGetters Live — our first big event. It’s going to be earmarked for 24 February in Camden, London. We’re going to challenge people to crowdfund, crowdsource and execute an idea in one day. The motivation for that event is to get great people to do things they wouldn’t normally do in a creative fun engaging space. Other than that, the first quarter is all about building a community and product testing. The second quarter is all about learning from Q1 and anchoring towards profitability, crowdfunding and investment.
Do you think this approach will surprise people?
Harry: We’re basically a people-first kind of startup. The community is our product at this stage. It’s surprising to some people in the same way it’s surprising we’re not doing normal jobs.
Josh: We want to build this network of amazing people, so it makes sense that the first bit is to just build a community. There are few companies that have succeeded by building an audience first and then monetising it. Look at YouTube or social media companies. If you don’t have a community, our idea doesn’t make sense.
Need a little push to help you achieve what you really want? Click here to join the GoGetters waiting list and receive an invite to their community.