Starting Something New? Be Safe Out There.

Why Shouldn’t Startupping be as Safe as The Appalachian Trail?

Parul Singh
May 15, 2020 · 4 min read
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Photo by Stefan Lehner on Unsplash

My retired mom took up hiking a few years ago. She’s actually in great shape and does these daily four hour hikes with ten pound weights in her pockets, just to up the ante. But she’s closer to 70 than 40, and I got a little nervous when she started talking about hiking the Appalachian trail or going for multi-day hikes in Canada. Luckily, she knows the ground rules of hiking safely: don’t go it alone, be prepared, turn back under certain conditions, etc.

Founding a company, like hiking, has gotten a lot more popular in the last twenty years. Unlike hiking, where there are well-known rules for newcomers to get started and essentially not get themselves into life threatening situations, the same guidelines do not exist for founders.

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I know the perils of this personally. Luckily, I didn’t get my ankle stuck in a rock crevice and need to saw it off with a pocket knife, but on the other hand, my experience was not so different either. My first founding experience was not financially lucrative for me (I ended up with quite a bit of debt) and almost broke my marriage. It’s tough to admit that it went so badly, but I figure the transparency might help other founders. One of the biggest problems (in life and business) is not admitting when you have a problem…

Every so often, I’ll have a conversation with a founder who reveals that they’re selling their car to make payroll, or that they’ve got $50K in credit card debt. Or, more pernicious as well as more common: that they have spent half-year(s) chasing an idea without any traction whatsoever. I myself have bought into the go big or go home startup founder myths we carry around as a culture — but wish I had taken more seriously some of the warning signs around how to build without losing a leg. For example, there is no way you should be leveraging borrowed money on an enterprise that doesn’t have solid evidence of product/market fit.

Those who are least likely to have strong startup founder networks — underrepresented founders — are also more likely to go it alone or miss the warning signs, and this is a problem too. Founders who end catastrophically not only hurt themselves but also the startup ecosystem as a whole.

If you’re starting something new, here are some ground rules.

  • Don’t get into personal debt: only invest the money you can afford to lose. There are other ways to build besides risking your financial future.

Founding a company is the best, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, and also the hardest. It’s why I love supporting my founders and why I can’t wait to do it again soon. My wish for you: keep building and stay safe out there! 🌲🐻🌲

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Parul Singh

Written by

forever founder, early stage VC @fcollective. proud investor @pillpack @embarkvet @asklorem @adhawk @smallsforsmalls. lover of startups, UX+ product management

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +771K people. Follow to join our community.

Parul Singh

Written by

forever founder, early stage VC @fcollective. proud investor @pillpack @embarkvet @asklorem @adhawk @smallsforsmalls. lover of startups, UX+ product management

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +771K people. Follow to join our community.

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