Ok, so things have changed over the last few years. More and more people have been jumping on the “entrepreneurial” bandwagon and there’s now a whole industry to support this trend.
I think it started with the movie The Social Network, which was actually based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, which you can buy on Booktopia. It’s a great read!
Tech startups hit the mainstream mind and then — bam! All of a sudden everyone had an idea for the next big thing, aka ‘the unicorn’.
It was the culmination of a number of technological factors coming together, but as the idea of becoming a billionaire overnight became more prevalent, a new “startup” industry was born. The startup culture became mainstream as people are always excited and motivated by the idea of a better way of life. Technology is a wonderful black box that can potentially make this happen.
My journey into business began in 2008 when I took a huge risk on a business based government grant. I was young, passionate and determined to forge a future and “build my dream”. I listened to every podcast, read every book and went to every conference. I even taught myself to write computer code.
Needless to say the business looked like it was going well, until the government pulled the pin and it all came crashing down. I had the right attitude, the energy and did everything the self help seminars and books teach you, but I lacked experience. I didn’t see all of the variables.
So, I quit being an entrepreneur and started to run a business.
I learnt a powerful lesson from my failure — that failures are bound to happen and they can help you gain great insight into your business. But this insight only comes from learning from mistakes, and I could only gain these insights through making mistakes. It was a bit of a catch 22!
So, as I was saying, things have changed over the last few years. The industry has shifted and this “entrepreneur” word has become more and more popular, but at the same time diluted into a grandiose dream which has been peddled around.
Unfortunately there is a darker side to this “startup” culture. The problem here is the industry suffers from a hype machine that makes people feel like they are winning. Noah Kagan, founder of SumoMe, has a great video for these people which he nicknamed ‘wanterprenur’ which you can watch below.
Some conferences about “building your dream” seem to prey on our internal drivers; that each and every one of us wants a better future or state of being.
The problem here is, having that drive does not make you an entrepreneur. It makes you human.
We all want things to be better.
Also, having an idea doesn’t make you an entrepreneur, it makes you smart and creative and possibly a visionary.
But not an entrepreneur.
The word now comes with a lot of baggage, and when someone tells me that they are an ‘entrepreneur’ I cringe internally and smile politely. Usually they tell me about this great idea they have for an app that’s going to revolutionise — INSERT INDUSTRY HERE.
Then I ask these fundamental questions:
What have you done about your idea?
Have you made any sales of your product/service?
Have you spoken to someone in your target audience?
How are you going to make money?
Unfortunately ‘no’ is often the answer.
This puts me in a bind as a businessman, running a software development company, when it is not in my best interest to tell people that they don’t need an app.
But, I tell them they don’t need an app — for now. What they need is a business model and they should first look to manually test their idea before investing in its scale.
We’ve written a few articles on how to take these crucial first steps:
Making the jump into creating a startup product
Don Draper’s design thinking approach to a problem
Unfortunately, not every business takes this approach and are quite glad to take their money — will that be credit card or paypal please?
As the startup machine keeps turning, this is an unfortunate dark side to the industry.
So what now?
So… let’s not get to down about it all! Let’s shed some light on the reality of being an entrepreneur and claim back the word to its true meaning.
Firstly the word itself is derived from the French word ‘entreprendre’ which means “undertake” and the English word ‘enterprise’ which means “business”.
So to be an entrepreneur essentially means “to undertake business” and actually start a business.
to have an idea for a business
a person who is a visionary
to attend a conference
not to pay someone to build an app ‘that is actually an investor’
To be an entrepreneur is to literally become a businessman and to put it all into context.
People have been doing this since the beginning of time.
The world’s current oldest business is:
Nisiyama Onsen Keiunkan which was founded in 718 AD. They were a startup!
Yep an entrepreneur.
Every corporation, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, HP was founded by someone or a business itself.
They all undertook the entrepreneurial journey.
They all measured the risk and took action to undertake business!
This is a reality of the startup industry that rarely gets discussed among the slogans of “Dream Out Loud”.
… and Finally!
If you are venturing out into this world, be encouraged that there is a large cohort of people who have done it. Some succeeded and some have failed, but the difference between having “an idea or vision” and running a business is action and learning from gained experience.
So if you still want to be an entrepreneur, remember these words:
“Inspiration without action is hallucination”
Take action, and if you make mistakes undertaking a business, learn from those mistakes, gain experience and try again!
Here’s a great guide to getting started:
If you need any help, feel free to send me an email or follow me on twitter.