Over the past 10+ years, I’ve seen my share of deals. Being a VC, I’ve also seen many more failures than flat-out successes. There were a couple mediocre exits in there but 50% of the deals simply failed. I won’t get into the stats of venture deals. They’re all over the place to read about. It’s the nature of the business. Yet, if you’re an entrepreneur you better be resilient. You have your company and not a portfolio of companies. Your business is your one bet. If you’re all in, it has to work. I love “all in”!!!!
Resilience is where it’s at. Mark listed a bunch of entrepreneur characteristics. I agree but I believe resilience far outweighs all others. Being an entrepreneur really can suck! You’re about to run out of money, your customers are pissed off at you, lawyers are chasing you, employees are scared shit they won’t get paid, your wife or husband want to divorce (if not kill) you. Your kids don’t see you as anything more than a source of cash. I could go on! There are so many things which can and will go wrong and you will constantly be tested.
In Europe, if you asked me what I believe to be the biggest hindrance to success of entrepreneurs, I would answer “giving up!” Too many start-ups fail because the founders give up. They don’t give up at the end. They give up long before the company fails. If I as a VC have to remind you that it’s up to you to save your company, you’ve failed. If I have to tell you to call that other VC once again to check on fundraising status, you’ve failed. If you’re arguing with me about a bonus having completely missed your targets, you’ve failed. If your customers are calling me to complain about you, well then you’ve completely failed.
On the other hand, there are entrepreneurs whom I consider to be complete schmucks! I really wouldn’t want to spend much personal time with these guys. Everyone complains about them and yes, they can be extremely annoying and rude. BUT, you know what? THEY ARE GETTING PAID. They work their butts off. They’re not out there to be everyone’s friend. They’re out their to find VC’s to fund their ventures. They’re out there chasing down customers to close deals with them and make them happy thereafter. They’re recruiting all the time. They fire slackers and non-performers. Mediocre doesn’t work for them. If you’re mediocre, you’re irrelevant to them. Are these guys resilient? You bet! Does your mum want to hang out with them? I don’t think so!
Giving up just doesn’t work. You have to keep at it. I’ve been reminded of this so many times. Get a couple beers in any VC and ask about the deals which were close to completely failing which then became runaway successes. You’ll find your share of these. It usually was the founders who simply refused to give up. They made it happen. You think Skype or Google or whatever other headliner deal you’ve read about didn’t come close to failing? Think again! I bet (well, I actually know) they came within an inch of their lives multiple times before somehow making things work out and ultimately succeeding big time.
You want to know whether you’re resilient? It’s easy….lots of people don’t like you. You aren’t going to always be popular if you’re resilient. You will step on toes, ignore advice and generally not always be politically correct. You will speak your mind and you will push through your agenda. I’m not advocating that you cheat, steal or do anything illegal. Yet you have to push on all fronts without wavering to ultimately succeed in the start-up game. Most importantly, once you’ve done it successfully for the first time, you will go out and do it again. Call me!
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