The infinite mythical lure of entrepreneurship

When I speak at various corporates, IITs and IIMs – one of the recurring themes that I often come across is the infinite lure of entrepreneurship amongst millennials. The journey of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs has left an indelible mark in the minds of the millennials. An interesting facet is while they all want to pursue their own ventures, a lot of them have no idea about the problem they are going to solve.

As we enter a decade of incremental opportunities rather than fundamental ones, this column looks at the wrong reasons for choosing to be an entrepreneur, the harsh realities of the journey and highlights a potential path for those who are genuinely interested.

Entrepreneurship is not the way out of your current situation

I have mentored many millennials who have wanted to pursue the path of entrepreneurship because they didn’t like their jobs or their current bosses. The biggest mistake an aspiring entrepreneur can make is to venture out on this journey if he doesn’t like his boss or his present job or the degree he is studying in. Another incorrect lens to pursue this journey is if someone is unclear about their interests – the ‘I don’t know what I like so let me create my own venture’ syndrome. The leading test for anyone who should even consider venturing out on his own is to have a clear business problem that is getting solved.

In all likelihood, you will fail or stay continuously miserable

While there is a plethora of literature on entrepreneurship pushing millennials to give up everything today and venture out on their own, it is important to understand three key nuances for anyone who wants to pursue this journey on their own. 99% of all entrepreneurship ventures fail implying there is a very high probability that you will not succeed if you choose to go on your own. In this modern day age of instant gratification, success for the remaining 1%, comes after immense physical and mental toil after a period of ten years. The decision to bet ten years of your life with immense physical and mental toil to have a 1% chance at success are odds most people wouldn’t want to take. Even if the stars align and everything works out, a significant proportion of the 1% that succeed are forced to exit their ventures against their will by private equity investors. Do you really want to sign up for this?

Although incredibly difficult, the journey to create something of your own is highly noble

Although the path to starting your own firm is incredibly lonely and prone to failure, for the serious minded, there is a simple template to succeed while hedging your bets suitably. The problem being addressed should be significant for consumers to be unit economics positive, scalable to touch 1 crore consumers and has to have a technology leg embedded in it. Any idea that caters to a particular micro-market only without scale and drives revenue at best without medium term profits is an idea that shouldn’t be pursued. For an aspiring entrepreneur, their potential business should start turning cashflow and bottomline positive towards the end of the third year.

As we enter a decade of incremental opportunities rather than glaring wide spaces, it is sensible for any aspiring entrepreneur to pilot a concept for 3-6 months along with his or her existing career pursuits before venturing out completely on their own. In case their pilot concept gets significant traction, they can take the plunge or else they can continue their boring professional lives.

Finally, the most important facet is to bring friends and well wishers along, who are ready to back you up monetarily, emotionally or directly in your potential firms. More than the entrepreneurial concept, loneliness and fighting your inner battles alone destroys potential poster boy / girl entrepreneurs.

In conclusion, aspiring to be an entrepreneur and making a difference is always a noble thought. However, for any millennial reading this piece, test your nobility by asking yourself the following question,

In the worst case, are you willing to give up ten years of your life working 16 hours a day and potentially ending up with nothing?



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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