Years ago a fellow founder described being an entrepreneur as being like a clown punching bag: no matter what hits us we keep popping up, with a big smile on our face. I asked him once, “What happens if I just don’t get up one time?” He responded: “Well you wouldn’t be an entrepreneur then. That’s what it is to be an entrepreneur, we just keep going.”
Why are entrepreneurs so “revered” — is it this resilience in the face of defeat? Journalists clamor to break the story of the “next big start up,” “the overnight success story”… the reality is so far from this truth.
Most start ups remain small businesses. It is only a handful that truly scale and solve the problems of the world. Yet the public has a fascination with the idea of the rags to riches story. Founders as demi-gods. Maybe it is because people understand that precarious nature of what we do.
People often ask me about success, they want me to define “the one thing that created success for me.” The answer – hard work – just is not that interesting for most people. There are no short cuts; I could have just as easily fallen from the tight rope, but I haven’t. There are no guarantees.
The founder of tech startup 99 dresses shared vividly her experience of failure. Nikki Durkin wrote for News.com
OVER 90 per cent of tech start-ups fail, but I never thought my baby, 99dresses, would be one of them.
If there is one thing that doing a start-up has taught me, its that I am much more resilient than I could have ever imagined…
Since then I’ve survived being stabbed in the back by cofounders, investment rounds falling through, massive technology f**kups that brought sales to a halt, visa problems, lack of money, lack of traction, lack of a team, hiring the wrong people, firing people I didn’t want to fire, lack of product-market fit, and everything else in between…
The start-up press glorifies hardship. They glorify the Airbnbs who sold breakfast cereal to survive, and then turned their idea into a multi-billion dollar business. You rarely hear the raw stories of start-ups that persevered but ultimately failed — the emotional roller coaster of the founders, and why their start-ups didn’t work out.
Here is my contribution to the cause: my story. This is what failure feels like. I hope it helps.”
I feel very fortunate the business I founded 13 years ago goes from strength to strength, but I did not do it alone. I have a business partner and a great CEO and leadership team. The businesses that I started before RedBalloon were not so successful, but I learned a lot from them. I feel tremendously grateful for the journey I am on. And as the business gets bigger and bigger, the tight rope I walk becomes less lonely.
I wrote the below as a reflection of my entrepreneurial journey to date — though I am still a long way from my destination.
Thank you to those people who:
Loved me, you made me believe in myself
Cared, you made me feel worthwhile
Shared their wisdom, you inspired me to learn
Laughed, you made my world fun
Listened, you made me feel loved
Challenged me, you made me play a bigger game
Said ‘no’ – you made me more determined.
Disliked me, you made me stronger
A big thanks to ThinkStock by Getty Images for the pic – which inspired this post.