Sunday, August 14, 2011

Being an Entrepreneur is Hard (or is it?)

I recently met a friend for lunch who is interested in launching a new technology business. He is finishing up his MBA and works as a middle manager in a medium-size division of a large company. He is itching to try out his new-found business and management skills within a startup environment. He plans to partner with a technologist who has been part of a successful startup. His would-be partner helped launch a company that grew to $12 million revenue in 3 short years and achieved liquidity through acquisition. My friend plans to work nights and weekends to get their new company launched and then quit his day job when the company achieves some level of cash flow through revenues or government grants.

Looking back on it now, I regret offering my opinion. Instead of being supportive and encouraging of my friend, I found myself cautioning him about the hardships and burdens ahead. I am not sure what I was thinking, but I told him that he better be prepared to work tirelessly every single day, deplete his savings, and do everything and more to get his new company launched. I told him that it would be tremendously hard and that he had better be "all-in", or he would quit under the strain of financial and emotional pressures.

I am most bothered by my response because I strongly believe that we need more entrepreneurs. Startups will create the next wave of innovative goods and services. Some of these startups will fuel the rewarding jobs and economic prosperity of our future. Private company innovation is the best solution to our long-term fiscal problems.

My knee-jerk response was not consistent with my core belief in the entrepreneurial spirit. Unfortunately, I was caught off guard by how simple he made it sound: find a technologist, apply some smart MBA techniques and, presto, you are on your way to millions in revenues. Just because that is not how it worked out for me and the many entrepreneurs that I know, why should I rain on his parade? Just because the typical startup has to struggle to build a great team, establish a brand, and often just to make payroll, why should that be the norm?

Did I do him a service by helping him face reality, or a disservice by quelling his dreams? Can a startup be easy if you do it the "right" way? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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