Startups Anonymous: 19 Hard Truths About Being a Founder
[This is a weekly series that brings you raw, first-hand experiences from founders and investors in the trenches. Their story submissions are anonymous, allowing them to share openly without fear of retribution. Every Wednesday, we’ll run one new story chosen by Dana Severson, who operates StartupsAnonymous, a place for startups to share, ask questions, and answer them in story-length posts, all anonymously. You can share your own story here.]
I was reading a story last week from a young entrepreneur who had just experienced his first failed venture. It was more of a post-mortem, a look back at some of the hard lessons he had learned along the way.
EVERY entrepreneur has failures. It's part of growing. It's my opinion that if you're not failing, it's likely you're not taking enough risk.
It occurred to me though, maybe it would be helpful to arm first-time entrepreneurs with some rarely-discussed truths. Things that most people won't tell you because they're trying to be supportive and "nice".
The truth is, as much as it hurts sometimes, entrepreneurs need straight advice. Here are some hard truths:
- Nobody gives a sh*t about you or your company until you give them a reason to.
- Employees will never care as much about the company as you do.
- Once your start raising money, you'll never stop raising money. EVER. Don't start until you absolutely have to.
- Trying to convince investors to say "yes", after they've said "no", is a waste of time and energy.
- Luck will be a big part of your success.
- If you start your business with a friend or family member, it probably won't end well.
- Splitting equity equally is a bad idea and will come back to bite you.
- Working throughout the night is totally unnecessary. Rookies think it makes them look dedicated.
- Networking IS working, and totally worthwhile. The old adage stills hold true, "it's not what you know, it's who you know".
- It's more likely than not that you're not a billion dollar company. It's ok.
- Nobody will believe you if you say that you're going to build your business on word of mouth and press. Always talk about "real" customer acquisition.
- 80% of your employees are going to mess around for 20% of the time. Get the most out of the 80% they'll give you and highly reward the 20% of employees that give you 100%.
- Testing everything as quickly and as inexpensively as possible sometimes gives you a false positives (and false negatives).
- Hard decisions never become easier. But they are part of your responsibility, so make them.
- Never sign for business expenses/credits personally.
- Sales solve everything. EVERYTHING.
- There will always be someone more successful than you. It's ok to be jealous, especially if it drives you harder.
- If you find success, there will always be someone trying to knock it down.
- There are going to be stretches where you feel you've lost your passion and interest. This is normal. Every entrepreneur goes through it.