In my line of work, I come across 100’s, if not thousands of startup founders every single month.
A vast majority of them happen to be based out of San Francisco and are running some type of venture-backed tech startup, or some type of healthcare tech startup.
For many entrepreneurs, “Tech Startup Founder” is a job title they have been dreaming of putting in their Facebook and Linkedin profile since the day they learned what the word “entrepreneurship” means.
I mean, what is there not to like about being a startup founder? — be your own boss, network with influencers, raise money, work in a cool office, and get super rich, ultimately.
What people think they do
And, there is a lot of entertainment value that can be derived from these types of stories.
For example, the TV show, Shark Tank, has earned millions of dollars and has one of the largest viewership of any show on CNBC.
The Social Network, a movie that shed some light on Facebook’s beginnings, shows the fun side of entrepreneurship, by depicting a group of friends partying late into the night in a nice house in California, challenging their hustling skills through coding competitions, and getting girls by showing off their money.
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Consequently, the entertainment value of these high-end tech entrepreneur stories have encouraged many tech wizards to the idea of building their own startup companies or develop their cool app, as opposed to joining an an already-established company as an IT engineer or software developer.
What they actually do
While there is obviously a lot of truth to some of the perks mentioned above, the hardships of entrepreneurship are often not highlighted by the media.
Being a startup CEO can be extremely rewarding, but it’s not easy by any means.
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There are some hard costs that come with the perks: low pay, long hours, monetary risk, and high stress are some of the most common complaints of founders that I regularly come across.
The euphoria of building a tech company with your buddies comes with its own sense of torment.
Most startups begin with some sort of idea, either from a problem the founder himself is facing or a common problem many people in her industry are facing.
The biggest “high” that founders experience is knowing that they are chasing their dreams and building their own company in their own way.
The thought that, “I can do this, and I can do this better than anyone else out there who is trying”, is often a very strong catalyst for starting a company.
However, that same thought can literally eat you alive from the inside out, eating up every bit of CPU in your daily thought process.
The time you should spend with friends and family, playing sports, or participating in other extra curriculars can easily start to be seen as time “wasted”.
You will begin to feel like if you are not working on your startup during those hours, you are falling behind.
You will feel this false sense of guilt every time you say “Yes” to a friend go out and and do something.
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You will begin feeling guilty every time you tell your family that you can join them for dinner somewhere.
When you are starting out as an entrepreneur, one of the first things to consider is to make sure that your idea is good.
You need to make sure that what you build is something people will want and will pay for.
You do not want to get stuck in the train as so many other startup founders who build something that no one wants…
Some to-be-entrepreneurs make the bad decision of being convinced that their idea is definitely going to work, without doing research on their potential customers, studying the market they are about to launch in, looking at existing businesses who are doing the same thing, and they end up failing hard.
You got to be able to solve a pain-point and build something that people not only want, but something that people need, if you want your startup to be a success.
Unless you have a co-founder in the company, for the most part, no one else cares as much about your company as you do.
You become terrified at this thought and begin to think that it’s all on you to make this happen.
As the founder, you are the one who is dealing with the potential of a lawsuit, personal attacks on yourself, hiring and firing employees, and paving the way for your brand to claim its individuality and place in the market,.
However, for a true entrepreneurial spirit, all of this can be extremely liberating.
“It’s a rollercoaster ride, to be frank. Sometimes you have a good time and sometimes it’s more of survival mode. We are the people driven by outcomes, not by what means they are achieved…It’s all about surviving, yet pushing development,” says Mahesh Galgalikar, CEO & co-founder of Misceo.io, a startup that is building a connected healthcare solution to decentralize the health care infrastructure and coordinate patient care services between clinics at remote locations and hospitals.
But, the reality is that you can be prepared, have a brilliant idea, and have customers, but you still need more than just an idea and dream to get a startup off the ground.
You need money — investment.
And this usually means securing angel investment or getting access to venture capitalists.
On T.V., angel investments are shown off as people in fancy suits passing off cash left and right as if they are running for office.
But, in reality, VC fundraising is really hard.
Also, taking money from angel investors comes with a complete new set of issues and losses which you have to deal with, sooner or later.
The famous saying had it switched up.
It’s more like, “the more earn, the more you learn” – about the strings attached to that money.
The amount of stress which comes from VC raising is just way too much stress for a lot of new entrepreneurs.
Investments come with a series of strings attached
The whole process of fundraising is hectic in itself, as is.
It’s a long process, you are likely to get rejected by many, and it certainly is a huge distraction to you working on your company.
Because, ultimately, as a startup founder, your job is to build your company, not raise money…
The good news is that starting a company and raising money to scale it, might be much easier today than it was a few decades ago.
But, it is, by no means, easy and headache-free.
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“It’s still hard for the average person to raise money,” says Dave McClure, the founding partner of 500 Startups.
“That process usually takes a lot more time than they think and they usually have to go through some relatively unfamiliar processes to raise capital — particularly for folks who are more technically-oriented and not used to selling.”
But the money is not free.
As soon as you raise capital, you are now in a partnership with someone else who wants to see their money grow into more money — lots more money.
But, the good news is that most investors invest in startups because they have faith in the team behind it.
The investors usually come with an abundance of knowledge, wealth, and expertise, which will help you tremendously in getting your startup to the next level.
“It’s a journey. Building a startup is nothing but building a story behind it. The momentum that you build with every small milestone you achieve gives your company true value. You learn from your failures — people even con you!”
“But you learn from your mistakes. You learn from mistakes done by your competitor. It’s the most exciting life anyone can live — always on the edge. Because no one knows what tomorrow is about to bring for you.”