Entrepreneurs need to understand and accept the reality that realising their dream is the outcome of hard work
By Robin Alex Panicker
Entrepreneurship is tough as a career option. In fact, it is one of the most stressful engagements one can get into. Many think doing a startup is about “being one’s own boss”. Wrong. Entrepreneurs are answerable to everyone around them. Disagree? Ask someone who is struggling to pay their employees on time. “Being one’s own boss” is just a myth. It has been weeks now after the unfortunate death of CCD founder V G Siddhartha. It shook the confidence of the entrepreneurial community in general and the startup community in particular. Almost all of the startup founders I spoke to after the incident had some good memories about their meetings at Cafe Coffee Day with clients, investors, advisors, co-founders, early employees and such. Their pain is real, given that the incident exposed the reality of entrepreneurship. People became more aware of the mental trauma that entrepreneurs have to go through.
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If entrepreneurship is so challenging, why do people become entrepreneurs? Well, the fact is, doing anything constructive in this world comes with its set of tough challenges. If you are a positive person and want to do something that will positively impact the people around you, then you should also be ready to face the challenges. Real entrepreneurs fit in that category.
A thumb-rule suggests that 90% of ventures don’t succeed. So if you bet against my startup succeeding, you have more than 90% probability of winning. Why do people start ventures then? Because it’s a dream. A dream about solving a problem, and in that process, creating wealth for themselves, employees, customers, vendors, shareholders and for the nation.
Entrepreneurs need to understand and accept the reality that realising their dream is the outcome of hard work, smart work and lots of struggle. Yes, it’s stressful. That is why it’s important for them to support each other as a community. Peer support is the core of any entrepreneurial ecosystem. More so for startup entrepreneurs. Here are some of my thoughts on various support mechanisms that may help startup entrepreneurs. The list is in no particular order of importance.
Entrepreneurship Development through Peer Support Mechanisms
1. One of the successful peer support activity among entrepreneurs in developed ecosystems is no-agenda small size meet-ups of max 20 people. This is a perfect platform for meeting people and building friendships. People tend to open up more in such meetups. Such meet-ups may work well in co-working spaces, neighbourhood localities and such. Take leadership in forming such groupings.
2. Attend non-startup, non-tech meet-ups. Spending an hour or two for music meet-ups, movie review meet-ups, book reviews on a Friday evening or on weekends helps us to meet people who are outside our normal network and also to get different perspectives on various topics. This will greatly help us to come out of the silos and echo chambers in which we might have got trapped.
3. It’s important to have a core team within our organisation that consists of not just us and our co-founders, but some of our core employees too. Hang out with them. This will help us capture some of the early signs of trouble in our organisations, and thus save us from much stress later on. As founders, we might think we know everything about our startup, but the reality is often otherwise. So having a close relationship with our core team members is important. But be careful that other employees are not put into difficult situations or into situations of unfair disadvantage.
4. Having a supportive family will help us a lot. Our parents, spouse, kids, siblings, all are important catalysts for the success of our venture. I have heard people ‘proudly’ talking about how less they spent time with family as if it proves how hardworking they are. A big blunder, in my opinion. Make sure we spend quality time with our family and we are there when they need us. They will be with us when our moment of stress comes.
5. Use social media in a positive way. Social platforms should be used to connect and meet people. Avoid doing senseless debates and fruitless arguments there. Learn to ignore posts that talk negatively about others. This will improve our BP problem and will help us identify time for the above-mentioned activities.
Keep this in mind. Our ventures may or may not fail. But entrepreneurs should never fail. We have to rise up after every fall. And for that, we need to create the right support ecosystem around us. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the system is in place.
(The author is a Software Engineer and Technology Entrepreneur, currently building Finotes – an auto-bug detection platform for mobile apps. He is a keen observer of the startup ecosystem and works closely with the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Kerala. Views expressed are the author’s own.)