Note: Entrepreneurship is not just about starting a company. It's the result of creativity and passion. Painting because you love painting and don't care about the financial implications of such an action can be defined as entrepreneurial.
I still feel like a bit of an impostor when I label myself as an entrepreneur, but I think this is a phase most people go through when looking to reach certain goals. One thing I am certain of is that I am entrepreneurial in nature - or phrased differently, that I will find creative solutions to problems in whatever domain I am in.
With that said, here are some thoughts on my current journey to become a business entrepreneur.
Naivete is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it permits you to attempt things you would have never done had you grasped the sheer difficulty of the task at hand. Conversely, naivete leaves you stranded once you've reached the cusp of your understanding, at which point you're faced with loneliness and complexity beyond what you could have ever imagined.
There's an immediate desire to return to predefined things (perhaps a career) once you're staring straight at the void and have no guidance. The only way around this issue is to embrace the void and start becoming comfortable with difficult things.
Without this ability, you won't be doing unique or rewarding things very often.
A typical thought that runs through most people's heads (including my own) is, "Why hasn't company X with infinite resources solved problem Y?"
The answer is not at all intuitive. Most of the time, the companies most capable of solving a certain problem never get around to solve the issue due to bureaucracy, capital structure incentives, and other phenomena.
If you want something done, do it yourself.
Do not think for one second that because you don't know a certain core concept (i.e. computer programming) that you are impeded from succeeding. In fact, this view can be seen as an advantage as you come in with a totally different view on the world and on a current problem (this ties back to naiveté helping you out).
Burning Your Boats
The markets are decently healthy and the risk of entrepreneurship is relatively low (just look at all the different entrepreneurship programs widely available at schools and other institutions, as well as the swaths of capital available up for grabs).
But I see this increase in entrepreneurship as facetious. I even question my desire to do high-risk endeavours. Is it just because everyone else is doing it? Or do I truly like the autonomy and additional perks that come with entrepreneurship?
I think a good indication of whether you're serious or just pretending is whether you've got exit plans already in line in case things go awry. To me, that's a massive red flag.
If you're truly serious about a high risk endeavour, you've already done a thorough assessment of the risks involved and have come to terms with the subsequent implications - in which case you're so focused on succeeding that you don't have time to plan some sort of safety net. The opportunity costs of not thinking about your entrepreneurial endeavor are way too high.
I suggest then that you burn your boats. Ensure that either you give it your all and win, or you give it your all and end up in a disagreeable situation (hint: things will be alright either way).
Do work with potential cofounders, then assess compatibility. The most important thing is a person's ability to learn and get along with others, not what they currently know.
NDA's are pretentious. Don't start acting as though a thought (ideas are just fading thoughts, remember) is so important that you're willing to bind people legally to that thought. I'm not a lawyer but I presume fading thoughts can't be legally protected - regardless of whether there's a piece of paper (business plan) related to that thought.
I'd argue most NDA's are a hindrance to society and exist mainly for the sake of self perpetuating the thing that issued the NDA. The net benefit to society is thus negative. Think of the whole rather than just a part of the whole. Obviously there are useful cases for NDA's but not as often as one would think.
One of the reasons California is so efficient at cultivating amazing companies is that the culture is both sincere and open, something I think other places lack in varying degrees.
I regret not having joined a fast growing company initially. My lack of startup experience significantly reduced my chances of succeeding in something that already comes with a relatively low chance of success. Joining a fast-growing company is one of the best learning experiences a hopeful entrepreneur could have.
It's actually quite absurd how much pressure young people face these days to defeat multinational companies or create revolutionary products.
It's often been said that starting a company in your twenties (or at least while you're still in college) is a mistake.
On Ulterior Motives
Brainstorming sessions of any kind, regardless of how productive they may seem, will never yield truths worthy of creating massively successful companies. This is because massively successful companies are so out of the ordinary that they're the very first ideas to get tossed in the can.
Massively successful companies also start in such a small market that they come off as simple hobbies or lifestyle businesses.
Great companies start off from humble beginnings, and the founders are almost never seeking to become CEO's - it's just an inadvertent consequence of intellectual curiosity in its purest form. I think the best example of this is Larry Page's endeavour to see if current page ranking algorithms were outputting good search results. The rest is history.
But to think that you'd be able to conjure an idea and then proceed to write out a business plan outlining your step-by-step process to an IPO is simply an exercise in pointing out your ignorance of the world's complexity. You must be willing to adapt to an ever changing business environment.
This also applies to the lean startup methodology - which bears some merit mainly if your goal is incremental progress.
Most consumers don't know what they want, so iterating on their own feedback is simply giving them an improved version of something that already exists. Consumers aren't good at conjuring effective business ideas from non-existence.
Real learning can be felt at every point when you feel truly uncomfortable with the task at hand. This pertains to any situation, whether it be while reading a book or in a social situation that puts you way out of your comfort zone.
So if you feel discomfort, embrace it and know that this is the sort of feeling you should be experiencing on a daily basis.
You're simply learning.
If you seize to feel discomfort, you've essentially stopped living life at its fullest.
Labels prevent creativity. By calling yourself the X of company Y you've given yourself a certain role that may prevent you from doing necessary things that are outside of the scope of your current role. Sometimes technical people need to do non-technical things, and vice versa.
In the same vein, studying entrepreneurship and defining it using some framework or mental model prevents outside-the-box thinking. And that's where the magic truly happens.
That's not to say mental models aren't useful.
The most important thing is that you maintain your courage, curiosity, and honesty. The rest will follow.
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