Save The Entrepreneur

Self-employment is fascinating. Entrepreneurs have become the Rock Stars the 20 teens. Which means there is just as much bullsh*t floating around about being an entrepreneur as there always was around rock ‘n roll.

I know a lot of self-employed people. People who have passion and vision, who’s unconventionality makes them a poor fit for corporate structures, systems and mind sets. I’ve watched them struggle, grow, crash and burn and start over. No-one could ever accuse that process of being cool or sexy.

Today, entrepreneurs are being launched off the conveyer belt of university degrees, short business courses and corporate hell holes at an alarming rate. The assumption seems to be, ‘Build it, they will come.’ And for some, of course this is true.

The parallels to rock and roll don’t stop here. Because, despite what most people perceive or think, the ones who succeed are not the lucky ones, the smartest or the coolest. It is the one who work the hardest. And I don’t mean in a ‘Look at me I am so cool, I work 24/7’ kind of a way. I mean the ones who have long term plan and who work over a longer span of time to realise those plans with reference to their market and their clients or end users.

CB Insights survey
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A recent Forbes article quoted figures putting the failure rate of start-ups at over one third (over a 10 year period). And for tech start-ups at 90%. Another article from a CB Insights survey from earlier this year, claimed that 42% of the owners of failed start-ups surveyed admitted that the problem was there was no market for what they were doing.

Match this with rising incidence of burn-out among entrepreneurs along with depression and anxiety and it becomes clear that the way this is all being approached is going badly wrong. To my mind what has happened is the failed, short term corporate approach of get in hard, get out fast and rich, is being applied to small business.

So many people are focussed on going Lean, getting fast to market with a minimum viable product so that they can SELL their business. That sounds a lot more like market speculation than entrepreneurship to me. I was recently at a talk by Pieter Zwart of Coolblue at Start-up hub AimForTheMoon where he questioned this very thing. He asked (my summary), how much can you really believe in something if the first thing you want to do is sell a large percentage of it in order to be able to launch it? If it’s yours and you love it and are passionate about it, doesn’t it make more sense to plough your own resources into it, grow it and then sell a small percentage to make profit?

There’s too much short-termism involved in how the market is currently viewing and working with entrepreneurism. This attitude will crash the start-up scene the same way it crashed the global markets in 2008. And a whole bunch of people will be ruined. But we won’t see that, because they are small, individual humans. The travesty is that this situation is being funded by the self-same corporates who trashed the economy in 2008 and walked away unscathed and will do so here again. They learned something: let someone else take the risk.

And you and me entrepreneur? We believed the hype, we will have drunk the cool aid.

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2 Responses

  1. Peter Cook

    Fads dominate the business landscape in a world of declining business half lives. Smart leaders know the difference between a fad and the future.

    Start ups do suffer from unbridled optimism which is good. They would do well to pay more attention to blogs like this to check that they are not sitting on a fad.

  2. David Chislett

    I think that’s a pretty savvy answer. As argued elsewhere, getting away from the need for big capital to grow from being just a good idea to being the future is really a problem… and I mean a human one, not a business one.

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