Becoming a startup founder seems to be a very cool thing to do these days. Everyone wants to be a CEO, which is why you see so many incubators, accelerators, mentors and coaches who are happy to help you start your startup. Another huge influx is of potential entrepreneurs is going to come from all the engineers who have been laid off from companies like Infosys and Cognizant.
They have corporate experience and because they understand how the business world works, many of them are going to get the itch to become founders, because there aren’t enough corporate jobs available.
It’s good for the country if we have lots of entrepreneurs, because startups can potentially add a lot of value to the economy. They create jobs and improve the quality of life by solving pain points for consumers.
However, the problem is that the idea of becoming an entrepreneur has been made out to be far sexier than what it really is. Reading hagiographies about successful founders who’ve created unicorns and become rich quickly can be very inspiring. All aspiring entrepreneurs think of themselves as being the Steve Jobs, but they are completely clueless about the sacrifices which founders need to make to reach their goal.
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No one talks about the emotional stress which entrepreneurs have to deal with on a daily basis. They are forced to listen to a never-ending stream of No from everyone they talk to. Family members are usually not supportive, and they think your idea about starting up on your own is terrible. They would rather you found a safe and secure job which pays well, at least until you are “settled.” Your friends back out at the last minute and refuse to join you as co-founders because they don’t want to take the risk and employees prefer joining a large established corporate, rather than hitch their future to a startup whose future is completely uncertain. Finally, investors refuse to back you, because they don’t think you’re going to be able to pull it off.
All these rejections are a constant assault on your self-esteem and confidence, and you spend sleepless nights wondering whether you’re going to be able to pull it off. You need a lot of emotional resilience, and this is not easy to acquire when there are so many people trying to tell you why you’re not going to be successful. You pay a price for deciding to march to your own tune – and this is both personal and social. Entrepreneurship can be a thankless and lonely journey, and you need to be prepared for this.
You feel especially guilty when you can’t spend enough time with your children. Your family pays a price too, and because you’re so obsessed with your startup, you don’t pay enough attention to your spouse, who feels neglected and unloved.
There is no free lunch and entrepreneurs need to be aware of the downsides of launching their own startup. It’s a risk worth taking, but please do this with your eyes wide open!
[This post by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]