Rajesh “Raj” Setty is a serial entrepreneur and a business alchemist based in Silicon Valley.
If you are a first-time entrepreneur in any industry, odds are well against you. You already know this, too, but you go ahead with your (ad)venture. Hats off to your courage, but that’s not sufficient enough to cross all the hurdles.
1. Not being able to see escalating friction
There is literally zero friction for your ideas when they are in your head. The friction escalates at an alarming rate as you move through the following phases:
* Reflecting on your idea and self-validating
* Asking people close to you, not necessarily those that are knowledgeable
* Sharing it with people who think similarly to you
* Market research
* Recruiting partners whom you will pay (vendors of any kind)
* Talking to potential prospects
* Talking to potential investors
If you don’t understand the level of friction at each stage, you will notice that you will enter the stage terribly unprepared and fail miserably.
2. Confusing activity with progress
In a startup, there are so many things to do and so many things that you can do. Lot of activity can happen under the radar without ever talking to a potential customer. Interestingly, you can create work that will create more work. For instance, you decide to file for not one but five patents. That will spawn some work. This work will spawn more work in terms of queries from USPTO, and those queries will spawn some more work.
The sad part is that you can start misattributing several activities to progress.
In general, any activity that cannot create value to your customers in a measurable way needs to be questioned. There is a good chance that it’s just activity leading nowhere.
3. Lack of valuable accomplishments
Unless you have built a product that is shockingly awesome, you need to have built an identity that will bring credibility to the venture. Somebody should be able to easily understand and appreciate why you are the right person to take this venture forward. If they don’t believe in you, the derivative will be that they will lose belief in the venture.
People do judge a book by its cover and a founder by his or her previous valuable accomplishments. You might as well get prepared for it.
4. Not knowing what not to do
Time is the most precious asset you have. It is not only important for you to know what to do but most important to know what not to do.
How do you get to know that?
It comes from experience.
But you are a first-time entrepreneur, so experience is out of the question. This is where you surround yourself with people who have been there and done that and are willing to help.
5. Concluding for convenience
It is better to call a spade a spade and move on. When you take a misstep or face a setback, it is better to quickly acknowledge that you goofed up and clear the air for the next set of actions.
When you engage in blame game to conveniently wiggle out of the uncomfortable situations, nobody wins. If you are surrounded by smart people, they will see through it; and if you are not surrounded by smart people, you have a bigger problem at hand already.
By design your first foray into entrepreneurship will be uncomfortable, and that is part of growth. By posturing as anyone other than a student of the craft, you will be doing a dis-service to yourself and others around you.
6. Trying to fix your weaknesses fast
Trying to fix your weaknesses during your first entrepreneurship journey will be like trying to change tires on a moving vehicle. There is no trial run in entrepreneurship; everything is real.
The only way to win the game is to play to your strengths, invest in your strengths, and invest in the team that will compensate your for your weaknesses.
7. Believing that you will have it all in control
There is a thin line between confidence and hubris. Your hubris might appear to you as extreme confidence until you are humbled. There is an African saying that is apt in this and many scenarios. It goes something like this: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Entrepreneurship is a game that you win in the long term. It is a game that is beyond just you. It is a myth to think that you alone will have it all under control, however smart you are.
As you would have guessed, there are many more hurdles along the way. Whatever your adventure, it will be a humbling experience that will help you grow by leaps and bounds along the way.
Rajesh “Raj” Setty is a serial entrepreneur and a business alchemist based in Silicon Valley. He currently serves as president of WittyParrot. He was instrumental in founding several US or India based technology and publishing companies. Raj has been a member of Band of Angels since 2007 and is an award-winning teacher at the Founder Institute. He has authored 13 books and has published more than 1800 blog posts. You can read his blog and follow him on him on Facebook or Twitter.