Before I started this whole thing, they told me:
· 'It's going to be tough'
· 'You're fighting an uphill battle'
· 'You're probably going to fail'
· 'You're going to have to bootstrap everything'
· 'You're going to be financially screwed, sacrifice family time, and have sleepless nights'
Those are all true and I have somewhat experienced a bit of everything but that wasn't it. There are a few things that I didn't expect to be facing (which I assume is normal) that made me embark on writing this blog post.
Here's what they didn't tell me.
They didn't tell me that I will feel guilty. Guilty for starting this whole thing. When I decided to give this thing my all, I knew that I had to sacrifice a fair amount of my education, my financials in terms of working at a good paying tech company, and my mental and physical health. I weighed the cost and benefits, pros and cons, and decided it was worth the effort to explore this new venture.
What they didn't tell me was that during this whole process of "fighting this uphill battle", I will feel guilty for bringing my friends along for the ride. Almost my whole team is made up of my closest friends. It made sense because they were the best engineers I knew. Building a world-class team wasn't hard - especially when it's all fine and dandy when you're successful but when you're not, guilt sneaks in.
A lot of my team either has, have, or will have opportunities at huge tech companies with lucrative salaries, perks, and all the benefits one can dream of. These companies have Disney World-like campuses but rather than overpriced food, everything is free. I personally made a choice and gave that up to start something new but they didn't have to. They could easily be enjoying their early twenties, doing normal and comfortable things without all this additional stress but no, they joined on for this sh*tty ride to who knows where.
We're a teeny barely profitable startup that requires a ton of work for no pay. It's literally the world's sh*ttiest job if you think about it. It sucks to be the founder. Amidst all the glitz and glamour, you're literally responsible to turn everyone's sweat equity into something valuable. All the blood, sweat, and tears that the team puts in (which is a lot) is something I take on very personally to convert into something tangible. You have to lead by example, work a million times harder and make things happen - plain and simple.
And your family never signed up for this.
I was born into a family business and saw first hand what being 'entrepreneurial' does to a family. My dad ran a corner store, a coffee shop, an electronics shop, and a local community club. With so many endeavours and in a pretty bad economy at the time, I witnessed a ton of struggle and the effects it had on my parents, my sister, and myself. I remember I even said loudly that I'll never start a business because of it. Ha. I showed myself, didn't I?
They tell you that balance is key but they don't tell you that it's almost nearly impossible. When you're in a "David versus Goliath" situation, you have to work not only smarter but harder than all your competitors because hey, that's what I signed up for right? (Rhetorical) But then you have to throw balance out the window.
What they don't tell you is that your mom's mom-ness will be in hyper-alert mode and she will be constantly worried about your health. Your partner/girlfriend/boyfriend will eventually feel neglected because it's usually them who you will (unintentionally) unload your stress on when sh*t doesn't go right and ignore when you have work. They take the brunt of it all. Be aware of that.
So yeah, they don't tell you that guilt will be a big part of this whole entrepreneurial gig. Hard work, no sleep, pivoting, and everything else I'm aware of but guilt, now the guilt is something you really have to learn to grasp.
Don't get me wrong, I don't regret taking this leap forward. I wouldn't have started any of this if I didn't believe in the vision. This blog post is meant to allow me to vent, inform, and give prospective founders a taste of what to expect and give current early founders in the same boat a feeling of relatability.
Starting a startup is incredibly fun and rewarding but definitely gruelling at times. It's the only job where you are required to work extreme hours, not get paid, invest your own money in, and still not be guaranteed success.
Like they say "if it's easy, everyone would do it."
You just gotta do it.
a very mindful founder.