Entrepreneurship in the true sense of the word is an act of creation and innovation. An act of providing something of value to the world which is so good that people choose it over other available alternatives and pay for bringing it into their life be it personal or professional. While we believe that everyone can become an entrepreneur, creating a startup is hard. As Elon Musk put it once “Starting a company is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.” It is that hard. Yet, a lot of people are brave enough to be entrepreneurs because that brings them meaning, joy and great fulfillment.
Once you have achieved success as an entrepreneur you typically gain a lot of respect. Before that (strangely enough!) you typically don’t. I believe that this is wrong, counterproductive and has to be changed. Instead we should celebrate every early or aspiring entrepreneur! Let me share why.
A Story About a Job Interview
A couple of years ago I was contacted by a recruiter in one of the “Big 4” software companies. I was invited to an interview which I accepted. Here are some aspects of the interview process relevant to this article:
- Based on your CV we believe that you are suitable for that position.
- We are recruiting for the company and not for a specific team.
- The interview process consists of 6 interviews that are on A, B, C, D, etc.
- The process can take between 1 and 12 months depending on your personal preference.
So far so good! But there was one more point that fascinated me:
- … and by the way - here is a set of resources that if you decide to cover, you will be perfectly ready to pass successfully all the interviews.
Oh, wow! Really? At this second I had an epiphany. I realized that typically, when you go to an interview, the idea of the interviewers is to filter you by practically poking holes in your knowledge. This “Big 4” company was doing something completely different - they were giving me “the exam subjects” as well as the respective “textbooks”! They were not just filtering. They were developing.
“OK Vesko! A nice little story! But how does it relate to early and aspiring entrepreneurs?” you might be thinking. Fair enough. Here is how.
The Filtering-out in Entrepreneurship
Here is how it typically goes. One day you come up with a startup idea that you want to pursue as an entrepreneur. You are excited and you decide to share it with somebody. And there you go - 500 reasons why it cannot be done or why you cannot do it. And God forbid the idea to be ambitious… the energy of all these naysayers quadruples.
Next, if you haven’t already given up, you start working on the idea. You do some research and down the road you come up with the plan to build a pitch deck and present your idea in front of early stage investors (VCs, Angels). You go there, you present, it is your first time. You get the feeling that out of these 10-20 people in the audience only one or two actually pay any attention after the first 30 seconds. At the end of the pitch some of the investors from the audience start poking holes in your idea. They destroy the idea and with it a great deal of your ambition and enthusiasm. And the funny thing is that all these people are doing it with perfectly good intentions to ensure you don’t waste your time. Just go and do something else.
Remember the story about the job interview? And this is just the surface. I can continue, but I think you got the point.
That Needs to Stop Now
I think that while everyone is well intentioned, the current state is a result of a few wrong beliefs:
- Entrepreneurs are born and not made - that is a typical, wrong belief that we’ve already discussed at length. If you present and the audience doesn’t see what they are looking for today, that equals “don’t waste your time with entrepreneurship and go better do something else”.
- Investors are always right - good investors poke holes in ideas to make sure you don’t waste your time. Great investors use all of their imagination to imagine the best possible outcome of your idea and try to pitch it back to you. If they cannot imagine it, they will give you advice on how you can move forward, but instead of saying “this cannot be done”, they say “I’m not the right investor for this idea”.
- The startup idea is the final idea - Wrong. It is the initial idea and if you follow a structured approach to entrepreneurship your idea will evolve over time.
What Should Be Done
Here are our three call to actions:
- To everyone - celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and be supportive. the next time you hear somebody sharing an aspiration for entrepreneurship just encourage them. Ask them about their idea, listen to their answers and encourage them to start working on the idea. Just point out that they have to focus on validating “who their customers are” and “what are the underserved needs” that they are going to address. Then just ask them what their next step is and how you can help?
- To investors - nobody questions your good intentions. The next time someone shares their idea that is not ready for you to invest in, inspire them to do the right steps and to never give up.
- To aspiring/early entrepreneurs - follow a structured approach to entrepreneurship instead of relying only on gut feeling and luck. Very few companies are able to do what this big company was able to do in the job interview example - they were able to invest serious resources to provide the means to “develop” the candidates. Similarly - very few VCs and accelerators/pre-accelerators are having the resources to “develop” and therefore they are focused on “filtering”. This is where our vision fits and kicks in - at Icanpreneur we are focused on building the guided journey that helps aspiring and early entrepreneurs to systematically go from idea, through investment to product/market fit. And in order to make the transition from a paid job to entrepreneurship easier, we enable them to start in their spare time, before they quit their day job.
One More Thing
In the end I want to leave you with one more thought attributed to Elon Musk. “Instead of baby showers, let’s host business showers. When a friend starts a business, we all come together, celebrate them and bring resources for their business start.”