After having met many entrepreneurs during my Summer Start-Up, I thought it would be great to depict the adventure as well as what triggers people to create new business ventures or join a start-up. For people like me, who heard lots of successful entrepreneurial stories, I wrote this article to help you realizing some food for thought that you might not have considered or apprehended. It also put into perspectives some entrepreneurship stereotypes.
Who are they?
You might have heard some statistics about most successful entrepreneurs being between 35 and 45 years old. While it could be seen as a stereotype, I have to acknowledge that it is exactly the population I have mostly met, even though I also met some very young entrepreneurs (started an incredible venture at 20 years old!), but also people about to retire and looking for a nice last challenge.
I have observed some tendencies in the profile or at least in the contexts that brought people to entrepreneurship. The classic magical story refers to a person waking up with an amazing idea and deciding to do it… Well, usually this person is in a situation where she is trying to find a new challenge or a bridge to a better situation.
The most common situations I found were the following:
- No responsibilities: You are single and have no responsibility. You are excited to create your own start-up instead of getting to the classic employee life.
- Not enjoying his current job: You have responsibility but get bored or burnout in your job where you don’t understand why you made so much efforts to earn or be considered/treated the way you are in your current position. And you think you deserve a more satisfying intellectual challenge or salary.
- Need a career or cash turnaround: You have no job and need to find a new challenge: You have nothing to lose and find an opportunity while networking, a human adventure that give a sense to your day.
- Last excitement project: You retire and want a last project. You have saved enough for the coming years and have no more responsibility (children to take care of, house to reimburse) and decide to have fun because retiring and relaxing seems to boring for you!
While it might exist, It is pretty rare that you totally leave your comfort zone for a new project when you earn a decent salary, in a nice environment, with many responsibilities. Nevertheless, I met some people in this configuration. The usual pathway is that they identified a niche or a gap in their current industry and leave their employer to create their own structure, reproducing what they used to do and using their existing network as a solid base to start. Risk is highly diminished this way…
The last situation is where the fun starts. You start an idea or help a friend for fun and realize that you can earn your living with it. Not very common but I have got the chance to see it.
What drives them?
Being a bit conservative, I was wondering was drove them, or maintained them in this new ventures’ atmosphere.
The biggest point is freedom. People tend to be fed up with working hours and bad working Life balance. They also want to think out of the box and extend their knowledge with regards to what they used to do in their former job with a more 360°-role approach.
The environment plays a lot in their decision to join the start-up industry. The Fun, the collaborative and growth mindset are key elements to innovate and brainstorm correctly. You get challenged intellectually and faced new problems every day that build your experience 10 times quicker than in a safe environment.
Moreover, earning your own benefit motivates people. “Why shall I be a consultant paid $5000 a day if I only touch a $500 a day? I’d rather be my own boss and enjoy the benefits of my work.”
Last but not least, the importance of the human adventure plays a big role in decision-making. I heard unanimous voices such as “I would have never done it alone” or “Never do it alone”. The team spirit and the stimulation to work in team and live an experience together with people from scratch creates an excitement that boosts your energy.
How do they think?
Another point that struggled me a lot, was the fearless approach of failure. I would not say entrepreneurs are not risk averse, but they are confident that they would find another job in case of fail. Moreover, start-up creation is today highly recognized in the corporate world, so they feel like “Getting a diploma “or “Boosting their career”.
So, what’s the drawback of being an entrepreneur?
I heard many times that they had difficult time to assume their entrepreneur status, mainly when they have got a nice job before with good conditions and recognition from the job market. “It is hard to eat pasta and rice and not travel anymore”. It is also difficult to see your friends evolving in other social conditions and you hoping to breakeven soon. It creates a small social distance and pressure.
The other counterpart that was often mentioned was the effects on private live projects. Many entrepreneurs decided to postpone their purchase of a house or their first baby for avoiding extra-expenses. I have met entrepreneurs leaving at four persons in 40m2, while they used to be consultants at Bain or BCG. Tough realities for so brilliant people.
What about Start-up Failure?
Failure is part of the game and they all know it. They are all aware of the percentage of success, but they tend to see failure as a learning for their next start-up experience.
Another interesting fact is that they tend to switch of sector when they launch their second start-up. When asked about the transferable skills, the common answer is people and project management which are often the most important factors of success.
The Biggest takeaway
To conclude, I am blessed to have been able to meet so many entrepreneurs. Their life experiences and their advices helped building my understanding or their day-to-day life and assess the right drivers to create your business. It helped me realizing that they often do it for many other reasons that the stereotypes of becoming rich. Money comes after freedom and human values.
Another big takeaway is the market approach. Don’t go to global but try to find the niche of the nice. It is called the “Beachhead”. Don’t be afraid to narrow your ambitious initial goal to a specific product in a specific niche market. You might fear the small market size, but this is exactly where you can start growing with generous profit before expending.
Michel NOUJAIM – Green Tech Explorer