I haven’t kept very close track, but Mark and I have now been running this website for nearly 2 years.
For readers who’ve been with us for any length of time it should be clear what we do with our spare time. OK, scrap that, it should be clear what we do with our time. “Spare” time has not visited our respective households for a long, long time.
Over the course of our careers we have been fortunate enough to have met, engaged with and financed more entrepreneurs than I can count.
There are some common fears that each and every entrepreneur has experienced…some more than others. I’ll list just a few key ones that come to mind and then break them down and give you some of my thoughts.
1. The fear of how to get started
Getting started making or creating something is more important than an “idea” in a startup. Mark and I had very little idea what Capitalist Exploits would become when we started. Our sole criteria was that we wanted to do something we were passionate about that would never feel like a job. We wanted to reach out to see if there were others who we could interact and collaborate with in our own little niche. Turns out there was!
2. The fear of inexperience
This often comes with age. We’ve seen 20 year-olds completely devoid of this affliction, while we have met 50 year-olds who become physically ill when facing investors; the fear completely engulfs and paralyzes them.
The solution to inexperience is very simple…experience. The only means of acquiring experience is to, well…acquire it. I always think of riding a bicycle. It’s just not possible to learn how to ride a bicycle by reading about it. It’s only when you get onto it that you begin to understand the forces of gravity and motion and how they exert themselves on you.
This is why Mark sent his nephew to Mongolia to help us start a business there. He’s a green shoot, but he’s getting a real education in a place that is simultaneously one of the harshest places on earth, yet also holds immense potential.
3. Fear of an idea which is not good enough… or even no idea at all
What I mean by the latter is that there are entrepreneurs who absolutely KNOW they want to create something, but they are not quite sure what it is.
Find a need and fill it. Don’t worry about the specifics. Once you begin the journey your “idea box” will begin to overflow and you will have more projects than you can possibly handle. Ideas will be the least of your concerns.
For example, Mark and I have conceived a service that caters to accredited investors seeking high, risk-adjusted returns in private equity. We “discovered” this idea as a natural outgrowth of what we do anyway in our daily lives. We also listened to feedback from our readers, who were requesting such a service. The fit between what we do and the market demand was synergistic.
As I mentioned a moment ago, it’s important to note that we had zero idea what we would land up doing when we set up the site. In fact, we didn’t even know if we would create anything we could monetize. We decided it would be fun, first and foremost, and we would be meeting the demand for the type of information we wanted to ramble on about…even if it was a dozen people. Thankfully it’s more than that.
When we decide to fund an entrepreneur or a startup it’s not necessarily the idea that grabs us. Highly skilled founders or management is what we look for first.
When we first met Scott…a young man who we have recently brought into one of our businesses as an equity partner, and wrote about in the post Why I Ditched California for Mongolia, we knew relatively quickly that we were dealing with the right sort of person. This isn’t to say success is guaranteed. We are confident, but Scott, like us is a guy who can be flexible, look at many ideas and will eventually be successful.
This brings up another topic I’ve thought about before…age.
I must admit my preference for funding older guys who have been through the business cycle a few times. That said I know of 40-year olds who are still operating at the mental age of 16. When they are challenged they hit out, react or shy away and cower.
By contrast, an adult simply says something like, “really, OK what makes you think that?” Scott may be 22 years old, but when speaking to him you get the impression you are talking with someone in their 30’s or 40’s. Our Meet Up delegates will see that first-hand in Ulaanbaatar in a few weeks.
At the end of the day, founders are exponentially more important than any single idea. Ideas are like grains of sand on the beach…founders are not.
What is fascinating though is that of all the founders, entrepreneurs and businessman I’ve met who have ventured out to try something new, I can count on a single hand those that have regretted the decision, and this includes those who have returned to work for “The Man”.
“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” – Mario Andretti