Entrepreneurship seems to have become very glamorous today. There is a lot of hype about startups; and founders are wined and dined. Award ceremonies have become a dime a dozen; and it’s seen to be cool to be working for a startup. The perception is that entrepreneurs are going to change the world for the better, and youngsters are being encouraged to go out and pursue their dreams. Success stories get a lot of airtime, and the fact that young kids who are less than 25 are now making millions in a few years by following their passions and coming up with innovative new ideas is quite inspiring. After all, who can argue with this kind of success?
This is why lots of young graduates want to join startups and become entrepreneurs. However, the problem is that all these one-sided stories do is paint an extremely rosy picture , because they feature only the successes. The way these success stories are painted is that it appears that all one needs to do is have a clever idea, work hard and you will definitely achieve your goals.
The truth is very different. By distorting reality – by presenting only one side of the story – I think everyone is doing a disservice to potential entrepreneurs. Because when they found a startup and then run into problems ( as they invariably will), they will often give up. Many feel bitter that they were misled, and they wasted so many years chasing a mirage. I think we need to present a complete story , with warts and all, which explains all the heartaches and disappointments which are part of a founder’s life.
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The problem with success stories is that it’s often the founder who is given all the credit for his successes. Because he is painted as being larger than life , the story gets distorted. Though these stories are inspirational, they tell us very little about what concrete steps others can follow in order to achieve the same kind of success. This is because a lot of the ingredients for success are circumstantial, opportunistic and involve a lot of luck. This is something which few successful founders are mature enough to acknowledge publicly. This is why many youngsters naively believe that if they are equally smart and hard working, they will achieve success too.
I think this is why it’s so important to feature the failure stories – where you have equally smart founders, who are as hardworking and yet never manage to be successful. Out of 10 startups, only 1 founder achieves success and the other 9 don’t. We can learn far more from the failures, because if we know what not to do, then our ability to then achieve success is far better. While we will make new mistakes, at least we won’t repeat the old ones, as we are more aware of the hazards and pitfalls we are likely to encounter. These are expensive lessons, but give smart entrepreneurs to demonstrate that they are resilient and can bounce back.
It’s easier to learn from other peoples’ mistakes , most of which have a common denominator, rather than try to copy their successes, which are often idiosyncratic. Of course , you need a brave founder to do this – someone who’s willing to be frank and forthright and share the truth about their failures.