Years ago I helped a gentleman open a bank to serve the Hispanic market. We raised the money and squeaked into existence just before the housing crash and subsequent industry collapse that would ultimately take both his job and mine with it. But we very nearly didn’t make it.
First off, this gentleman was of Hispanic heritage and thus very passionate about helping “his people” learn the banking system in the U.S., but he looked more Irish than Hispanic so “his people” didn’t know what to make of him. Second, he ignored virtually every piece of advice given to him about how to complete the project, despite paying good money to me and my company for it. However, after losing both time and money he did ultimately succeed, and learned enough to apply his knowledge toward other endeavors that would serve Hispanics residing in the U.S. I’m not sure how many endeavors there ultimately were, because we lost touch about a year ago, but during one of our last lunches where he was talking about his latest venture he mentioned that his wife, “used to say I married a f&*%@#! entrepreneur!!!, and now she says I married a f&*%@#!!!! entrepreneur.”
Fortunately for those of us who have a romance with the idea of being an entrepreneur, it’s once again cool to say you’re starting a company. Unfortunately, it’s also harder than ever to do.
Not that starting a company was ever easy, there just didn’t used to be so much competition. It used to be that you created a business plan, walked into a bank, and if the plan looked good they’d give you a loan to make it happen. Now there are funding options all over the place, from Angel Investors to Venture Capitalists to ordinary individuals who crowdfund ventures in exchange for some perk like a t-shirt or a membership to the beer-of-the-month club. But there’s also thousands more companies competing for the same dollars, making it incredibly hard to get noticed. And if your venture is one still trying to get noticed, you’re probably calling yourself a f&*%@#!!!! entrepreneur and wondering which will fold first, your marriage or your business, because it takes a saint to live with an entrepreneur. Fortunately I married a saint, and he’s pretty good at tolerating the work calls at odd hours, my obsessive need to check email and my mood swings brought on by the one step forward ten steps back dance that embodies what it’s like to birth a new company.
I had hoped that when I wrote about my own startup adventures it would be nostalgic; check in hand and marveling at how our little two-person show grew into a multi-million dollar company that Amazon just bought. That’s every entrepreneurs dream of course, but in my case it wasn’t (and maybe still isn’t) unattainable. After all, its happened to others before, and there’s no reason it can’t happen for me. I guess that’s why I choose startups over a “real” job.
I don’t have normal business hours. I don’t have access to the tools and resources that would really drive things forward. I don’t even get paid, except in equity, and that only counts if we succeed. So what’s the point? I guess it’s that I love envisioning what we could be. I love thinking about all the different applications of our business model, the strategic relationships we could develop, the marketing campaigns we could create. I love the idea that we could have a significant impact on a given industry in a way that would benefit businesses and consumers. And I love the idea that I can say, “I saw what the future looked like, and I helped build it.”
I believe in the idea of new businesses. I can be proud to be part of them because it’s not just a way to make a living for myself but for others too. Sure I may sometimes want normal hours, but that means giving up flexibility. I may want someone with more knowledge and experience to do the work I’m not qualified for, but then I wouldn’t learn it myself and be able to teach it to others. And I may really really really want a paycheck, but some things are worth the wait.
I know the idea of finding my startup match and living happily ever after is a bit overly romanticized. And yes part of the reason I want this to succeed is so that I have a reason to get out of my active wear. But above all else I am in love with start ups, and I can’t imagine working in a place where I don’t get to help influence how it’s built and what it can do. I want this to work so instead of being a f&*%@#!!!! entrepreneur, I can be a f&*%@#! entrepreneur!!!!