So you have big plans to start a company once you’re out of school. I’m sure you have an amazing, world-changing idea that will be the vehicle to realizing all of your hopes and dreams. But before you embark on the entrepreneur’s journey, here are five things you really should know:
1. The first step is not going out and raising money from investors
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation with friends, or friends of friends, who asked to be introduced. It goes a bit something like this:
Friend: “Hey Travis! So I have this incredible idea, and I want to raise venture capital to make it happen. Can you introduce me to your investors?”
Me: “Interesting… Have you validated this idea at all?”
Friend: “Oh yeah, definitely! I told so-and-so (someone they clearly deem smart), and she said it’s amazing.”
Me: “So you haven’t actually done anything to validate it?”
Friend: “Well no, I’m gonna build it after I raise money. I don’t really have the time or money to do it right now while working full-time.”
Me: “Honestly, I wish I could help, but everyone I know would want to see at least a functioning product and revenue before considering an investment.”
In 99.9% of all startups there is a ton of hard work and validation that goes into things before ever raising money. Work nights and weekends, save money to invest in your idea, and do what it takes. Then consider quitting your job and raising money.
2. The highs will never be as high as you’d imagine, and the lows will always be lower
This is a simple, hard truth. When you realize success building your company, large or small, it will never feel as big as you imagined it would. There will always be new goals to achieve and things to get done that will both prevent your mentality from reaching the stratosphere and pull you back down to reality.
Conversely, when you fail it will feel worse than you ever thought imaginable. Entrepreneurship is a constant emotional roller coaster built for the truly sadistic.
3. There are few things more terrifying than hiring your first 1-3 employees
When I think back on the things that kept me awake at night the most, they were potentially running out of money and failing and hiring our first few employees.
It is rare that you will ever be able to find employees that care about your company as much as you do. That’s terrifying. You will have to learn how to give up control, trust someone else to take over vital tasks, manage people, and hire and fire them.
The learning curve is steep and constant. But once you get over the hump of the first few employees, it’s truly magical the way things start to click.
4. You will constantly be striving for the next level of stupidity
I remember reading (or hearing?) something somewhere about how you never actually become wealthy, you simply reach a new level of poverty.
You’re now a millionaire? Congrats… But man doesn’t it suck you can’t afford the things that the folks with $10MM can afford? Whew, you made it to $10MM! But ugh… look at all the things the people with $100MM have! Etcetera, etcetera.
When it comes to starting a company, the same concept applies to knowledge/wisdom. You’re always learning, but you never know enough.
The scariest part is after a couple cycles of being able to reflect and realize how much knowledge you’ve gained since a year ago, you actually realize, “Yikes, if I knew so little then when I thought I knew so much… how little do I actually know now?!?!”
See how that loops back to point #1? ;-)
5. There is nothing more rewarding than building something from nothing
Everything so far sounds pretty dismal, I know. Hopefully you are well discouraged from going out and starting a startup at this point. Most people are simply not cut out for it.
Those that are will find it can be one of the most rewarding things in your life. I absolutely love going to work nearly every day. How many people do you know that can say the same?
Building a product, having customers that pay you because they realize benefit from it, and literally creating jobs (including your own) is an incredible feeling.
It’s just too bad there’s not more time to sit back and bathe in it. Back to work! :-)