Your heart is pounding. Beads of sweat are rolling down your face. Your muscles feel like they are turning into jelly. Your breath gets shorter and, before you know it, it’s all over. You’ve done it.
The startup journey isn’t for the faint-hearted. You need stamina, determination and a genuine desire to go to any lengths to turn your startup into a business that kicks ass. I’ve interviewed many startup entrepreneurs and, now that I’ve recently co-founded SocialCallout.com, I’m back in the heady days of excitement and bliss, where the road ahead may be long – but it seems full of new experiences and adventures.
Fortunately, I’m not a startup virgin. As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve founded a few businesses in my time. And the adventure goes something like this …
You can feel it in your body. That itch. The stirring that drives you to an entrepreneurial epiphany. Whether you’ve had a lightbulb moment about an app that’s going to make you millions, or a website that’s going to be the next Facebook, you just know that you have to act on it. To repress it would be dangerous. So you start to explore, talk about what you want to do until, one day, you know there is no going back.
Once you’ve made the decision to head into the uncertain startup world, you look for like-minded people. You need to find your tribe so that you feel safe and can learn from people who’ve done it before. After all, this space practically has it’s own language, code, etiquette and emerging archetypes – you need a community to help you make sense of it all.
There are the co-working spaces, the incubators who are kicking goals, the incubators who are just having fun (with lots of beer and pizza), and the incubators so inherently arrogant, so far up themselves, they can’t see daylight. You need to find the right fit for you.
So you search, you have coffees, beers, pizzas, go to meetups, seminars and Silicon Beach drinks. You survey the scene until you are finally ready to talk to people about your stirring (your entrepreneurial idea).
Then one day it clicks. There’s chemistry. There’s a connection. It might be with an angel investor or a coder who gets your vision and wants to go on the ride with you. Or perhaps you’ve found your startup soulmate – you might not collaborate in business but you become besties and go on your respective startup journeys together.
Startups were never meant to be easy. And because most startups are forging new ground – creating ideas or producing offerings that have never been served up before – there are no benchmarks. There’s no yardstick against which you can decide what’s “normal”. So you end up determining your tolerance for risk, how much of your company you’re willing to give away to investors and who you will (and will not) answer to. Sometimes, it’s a lesson in self-discovery more than it is a lesson in business.
Along with the lessons comes the sheer hard work. All-nighters, hours spent talking about usability, integration, pivoting and term sheets. And the stress to please everyone – not just your customers but the investors who are looking for a return on their investment. The pressure can be palpable.
Then one day you find the winning formula. Maybe you experience the tipping point where your startup finally gets traction and customers begin flooding in. Or you finally convince the right venture capitalists to believe in your vision. Or your startup becomes the focus of a best-selling book or Oscar-winning movie. You’ve arrived.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s all over. You may have ridden the crest of a successful wave and found some temporary relief. But the ebbs and flows of business are never-ending. So brace yourself. The ride is far from over.
Stay tuned for the sequel: 50 Shades of a Fast-Growth Tech Company