There are a multitude of reasons why they fail, ranging from poor planning to outright bad decisions made at various stages of the enterprise. I will not delve into the mechanics of such failures as these are being constantly researched and there is never a single overarching reason for failure.
When a startup succeeds, it propels the people behind the idea to great heights. They are looked up to as role models and their process and principles are often talked about with great interest in various medium. We try to extract ideas that we can replicate or try and mirror them within own processes in the hope that may give us an edge or at least a decent chance of success in our own venture. We have heard inspiring stories of founders facing astronomical hardships and coming out at the top with sheer hard work and perseverance. We are in awe at their ability to have seamlessly disrupted a whole industry or the brilliance of taking a simple concept and building a whole eco system around it.
Somewhere within our own self, we feel we are capable of possessing every single attribute that successful founders have.
What do we believe in?
At the core of every human being is a deeply in-grained belief system. It is what each of us believes is the right path forward. All actions we take are pretty much based on these beliefs. Often times it is these set of beliefs that drive us to take actions which conflict with or are simply disconnected with our immediate surroundings. While it is absolutely necessary for startup founders to totally believe in their ideas and work towards it, sometimes, this does not translate into success. There is always an inner conflict between accepting the beliefs of successful people versus our own that prove to be a detriment in achieving success. I often wonder if there is a way I can learn to accept the beliefs of successful people. The key question to ask ourselves I guess is, what do I believe in and how is it helping or hurting my journey towards my goal.
What do your goals mean to you?
At some point in our lives we learn to set goals in our life and work towards achieving them. Goals may simply define your success criteria. For some, the goal is to build the “next big thing”. For others, it could be completing a certain task within a certain amount of time or just to make a certain amount of money. We may share our goal of building a multi-million dollar business with friends, family or colleagues at work. We may often hear conflicting feedback from them. Friends and family may encourage you and try to motivate you towards achieving your goals, however unattainable they may seem. Your peers however may offer a more balanced view of your goals or sometimes discourage you out of genuine concern for your well- being. Ultimately, it is you who set these goals and you who decides to either go for it or drop it. If you consistently accomplish your goals, you can sit back and enjoy that feeling of contentment that it brings. But having goals can also be the cause for disappointment if you are unable to accomplish them.
What am I capable of?
The quest to build the next big thing takes us on a journey full of interesting. You are constantly learning new skills and are forced to wear different hats.
If it was your first time on such a journey, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much you as an individual are able to accomplish.
You now have the knowledge of the different corporate entity types, and have successfully formed a corporation for your venture.
You have realized the importance of a clear business plan, effective financial planning and establishing business processes.
You are now educated about all the different ways to raise money for a venture, and maybe even tried some of them.
If you are well versed with software development, you have designed, architected and prototyped your solution. Or if your primary expertise is on the business side of things, you have managed to get your idea to product by hiring developers.
You may have done all of the above by yourself or built a team to do it for you.
You may have already achieved all of this and gone to the market with your product or are in still somewhere along the way in getting to your goal.
You have acquired other skills required to help you along your journey like communication, social and leadership skills. These could potentially get you a nice job in any organization of your choice. But that probably is not your goal!
You still have a long way to go before you achieve that goal you have set for yourself. Getting to this point in itself should give you the feeling of having risen above most others you encounter in your life.
Life gets in the way. It does!
There are folks who have dedicated themselves to this pursuit and only work on their dreams. This is probably a very small percentage who can afford to do it in monetary terms. The vast majority have the burden of everyday life including having to take care of their family. So, you have a job that pays your bills, puts food on the table. When that happens, the tasks to achieve your dream generally get prioritized lower down the list of your larger life project.
It does not matter if your day job involves manual labor or requires you to use your brain as a knowledge worker. If you have put in your customary 8 hours a day at work and hopefully have a comfortable commute back, you are most probably exhausted by the time you get home. Not to forget, you need to spend time with your family as well. You effectively have very little time during a work week. Your body needs to rest and re-charge during the weekends as well. So, how much time does that leave you to pursue your larger goals?
This often leads to a much slower progress and procrastination in most cases.
While this may deter most folks from adding to the already full schedule, it takes a special kind of person that still manages to find time to work on their goals, albeit at a slower pace. It requires utmost dedication and perseverance to continue working towards a larger goal.
Dealing with setbacks
This topic could very well have been called “Dealing with failure”. You may have heard of the quote “The fastest road to success is Failing Fast and Often”. Thomas Edison is famously attributed to having failed thousands of times before eventually succeeding with inventing the light bulb. There are active proponents of this as well as labelling it as hype on the other side of the spectrum.
But being perpetual optimists, Founders always look at failures as temporary setbacks. You may hit obstacles that make it impossible to achieve your goal. It often leads to re-visiting the route to your goal. You may end up having to re-start your whole process again from scratch. But you are wiser the next time around and hopefully plan on avoiding such obstacles in your next venture that could make you succeed eventually.
Why do I do it?
I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur in the technology industry. It has been exciting to see all the progress in the industry over the years. My first exposure to computers was back in the late 80s when computers were still not capable of multi-tasking and no internet access. I am amazed at the constant innovation over the years. After a few years of working as a software engineer where I felt I was there just solving a small piece of a larger puzzle. During this time, I have worked as an employee in large enterprises and small startups alike. I never got the satisfaction of achieving any meaningful objective and sometimes felt I was not destined for this. The thought never left my mind that I needed to do something bigger. I set myself a goal to build a successful venture in the technology arena.
While I have been quite successful as an engineer working for startups and enterprises, I still have not found success as an entrepreneur. I have tried and failed multiple times. But never have I ever hesitated to plunge into the next venture after one fails. My belief system does not allow me to just settle down in a job and call it a day.
I may have glossed over quite a bit of information that is key to understanding the mindset of the perpetual startup founder.
My personal experiences have only made me wiser. I have gained a vast amount of knowledge and skills in this relentless pursuit. I take pride in the fact that I can take up any challenge in the technology arena without any fear or hesitation. I mentioned in the beginning of this article that only 10% of startups have some degree of success. I am glad to be part of the other 90% that did not make it.
In my mind, I believe that one day, I will be successful in the pursuit of this fascinating goal of building something that millions of people will find useful in their day to day life. This journey of mine has lasted more than 20 years! I do not carry around the regret of not having tried to work on any of the ambitious goals I set for myself.
I am sure there are thousands of other hard working folks tirelessly working on their dream projects. If you are one of them, I would love to hear from you. Please drop a comment and let me know how many years you have been at it and if you have been successful, please share with me how that made you feel as well.