Reflections from a Relatively New Entrepreneur
You've had an amazing, busy rollercoaster of a year. Your startup still isn't yet a year old, and you have your pilot development in place, customers ready to onboard, a passionate team and a desire to change the world for the good of humankind. Sure fundraising is still a challenge, but it's a matter of time, because you fundamentally believe that someone out there believes in you and your solution... naive: maybe, disillusioned: perhaps. But without a tad of naïveté and disillusionment, people would never attempt the improbable, let alone the impossible. So here's some reflections and advice for me...
You've made your choices
This crazy ride is the one that you've chosen. You could be in corporate job. You could be the next-best novelist. You can do gigs. But you chose to do this. That means something. It means you can choose to fight or you can choose to leave.
Place your trust
Place your trust in yourself, your team, your decision making. If you can't do that, you have nothing. The ride depends on the driver leading towards the destination. Recalibration is possible, mistakes are fixable, the signposts might change along the way, but you are behind the wheel
If you think there's a problem, there probably is
It's not just about instinct or 6th sense. It is also about experience, practice and having a well-tuned eye and ear. That guy you didn't want to meet even though he has a great resume and wonderful connections. Don't meet him. That contract that was promised but somehow never sent. Don't pursue. That investor who would invest, but he thought it better not to deal with you because you are a woman. That's money that you don't want. At. All.
If you always think there are problems, there probably aren't
Everyone needs a pragmatist and a devil's advocate on their team. But that can't be your hat to wear. If you are too busy imagining worst case scenario after worst case scenario you will never build it.
Look for advice but don't necessarily take it The purpose of advice is to challenge yourself, not to second guess yourself. It's about filling in the gaps and cracks of the decision that you are about to take. If the gaps and cracks are too wide, you are not looking for advice, you are looking for a professional to do something that you simply can't, because you don't have the know-how or expertise.
Know your limitations
Yes, in entrepreneurship you do a bit of everything. But you have real limits in time, skills, and ability to be a Jill-of-all trades. When your limits have been reached, push some more, and only then find someone to do what you can't.
Failure isn't always a dead-end
There are things you don't succeed at. There are things you won't succeed at. None of this necessarily means you are stuck. What it means is you have to do things differently. When you reach an impasse you double back. When you reach a cliff you build a bridge. Failure forces you to be creative about reaching your goals. It forces you to really examine yourself closely and to work out where to from now.
Do I have the strength to end the journey, to say I'm done?
That's not the question. The question is do you have the strength to continue the journey. Do you have the passion, stamina, fearlessness or not. If not, then not. It may be the end of this initiative but it may be the beginning of another.
It's tempting to fight the battles as they come, but it's imperative to be strategic and to plan ahead. I'm not talking about a 5-year plan: 2020 is a whole new year, where do you want to be in 6 months. Where do you want to be when 2021 rolls around. That's what I'm talking about.
Get silly sometimes
The road is fraught with sleepless nights, endless staring competitions and unknown outcomes. It's so easy to get sucked in to the pressure cooker and be constantly fatigued and deflated. Sometime you just got to decompress, to have a laugh, to do something not remotely connected to the pressures of the path you have chosen.