By Marty Aquino
04 MAY 12
The process of starting-up a business is not a straight-line affair. The same impetus that drives an entrepreneur to believe their company to be unique, in many cases, can blind them to the reality of the startup process. Get prepared and you just might get through it victorious.
The now famous startup curve by Paul Graham, founder of Y Combinator, is a frighteningly accurate depiction of the new company process (shown to the left). Many newly-minted entrepreneurs generally believe so strongly in their idea (at least initially) that they fail to take-in the true gravity of the undertaking.
TechCrunch of Initiation
"The Process” initially catapults you to a premature high of hope, novelty and unchallenged ambition. At this point, everyone is hopeful and confident. Your team's morale is flying high fueled by enthusiasm and endless possibilities.
Wearing Off of Novelty & the Trough of Sorrow
Incredibly, this glimpse of success plummets even faster into what’s been coined the “trough of sorrow.” This is arguably the longest section of your journey. Your executive team will be forged into unbreakable tempered steel if you keep squarely focused on your startup objectives and are able to shrug-off the dissenters, fair-weather teammates and implementation issues. This is your proving ground. It’s during this part of the journey that you must get your team past the “proof-of-concept.” Failure to do so may result in the bleeding of company morale to the point of an untimely startup-death.
Releases of Improvement & the Crash of Ineptitude
Ironically, the first major improvements and evolutions of your project will occur as you uncover challenges. It will be these largely blindsiding and potentially crippling problems that truly “test your company’s metal.” Your trial and error methodologies will inevitably lead you to unavoidable “crashes of ineptitude.” When you want so badly to win, it will take a few or more failures to realize the result you seek. It’s also for this reason that your company will experience “lower than low” sensations. Startups commonly view this period as hitting “rock bottom” and being “worse off than when they first started.”
Wiggles of False Hope
If your intestinal fortitude allows you to make it this far, congratulations! It’s time for some forward momentum. Albeit, perceived momentum. During this phase, you’re trying to solidify your proof-of-concept, possibly raising external funding and perhaps even entertaining early stage talks with interested buyers. You're going to have to dig down and keep moving forward despite the false-positives. Remember, it took Edison over 1,000 unsuccessful tries before he and his team invented the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times? Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
The Promised Land! & the Acquisition of Liquidity
Tangible progress! Perhaps it’s the VC wire transfer necessary to transfuse the right amount of lifeblood capital into your startup. Or, maybe, it’s getting the final signature on your first major invoice of product-orders. Whatever this milestone is, if you’ve done it, your team collectively should be smiling. And, proud you should be, fully 4 out of every 5 startups will fail within the first few years. Even if the path to success wasn’t as smooth as you would have liked -a win is still a win.
You Must Be This Brave to Ride
In the end, that’s what success is all about. You will need to take the years of toil without proper funding, working so hard you flirt with total burnout, days of everything going wrong and accept them to keep moving forward. The challenges your company will face are collectively known as the “so what of life.” No one else cares what your company's been through. They're interested in your results. They want to know that your product benefits them.
Don’t dwell on your problems, issues and seemingly insurmountable perils. Identify them. Quickly ascertain the best available solutions. And, act decisively. Asking “why is the problem so bad?” is an endless loop question. Turn the “so what of life” into “so what I must do right now to make this work.”
Take another look at the startup curve. Entrepreneurship is indeed a roller coaster ride. So please don’t go into it with a “walk in the park” mentality. The risks are many and success is not guaranteed. But, for the fateful few: bragging rights, wealth and an exciting new chapter await. Just like in life, there is no “timeout option." So, if the startup life is truly calling for you –don’t hesitate. Take action right now. Conditions are very seldom perfect, so you might as well begin the journey right now and get a head start.