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
I must confess that my issue has been #3. I’m 25 years old and knew my calling was entrepreneurship when I was 19 years old. I helped my father grow his small business for 5 years while I went to college to study finance. I told myself that I would start my own venture after I graduate from college and never work for someone else. My last year of college I stumbled upon so many ideas and sometimes I was just trying to force ideas. It was insane. I would walk into a business and my mind would be processing everything and my fascination and love for business would cause me to come up with ideas left and right. Unfortunately, nothing felt worthy of pursuing as I got closer to graduating so I took Mark Cuban’s advice and decided to work for others and learn as much as I can from every experience so that when the time comes, I will be equipped and ready to seize the opportunity. Once I graduated college, I worked for a private oil brokerage firm and then quit due to my disgust with their business strategy. I now work in sales for a few manufacturing companies. It is frustrating because I’m not fulfilled and my struggle to fight the daily inner passion to quit and just take the plunge keeps getting stronger and stronger. It is a daily struggle to just be patient and wait for when the time is right. I could continue to work for others and achieve the so called “American Dream” and I would be happy but not fulfilled.
On another note, a few years ago, I would have told you that experience is overrated. When your young, ambitious, and full of passion for business, you tend to let your ignorance get in the way of logic. Now, I’m exposed to many different businesses and industries and people and now realize how important experience is. There are some things you just can’t learn from reading or talking with other entrepreneurs. I think that for young entrepreneurs to overcome the experience obstacle, it is important to build a core team that brings something different to the table. This will balance the inexperience you may have when starting a venture. To elaborate on this, I think for young entrepreneurs who have determined their calling/gift is entrepreneurship it is important to not try to do it all on your own. This would be a costly experience. I used to think that I could do it better than anyone and as I have matured, I realized that if I want to succeed in my business/businesses one day, I will have to ensure I create a team that compliments each strength/weakness. I think good entrepreneurs naturally develop the ability to identify talent when they see it in someone. As an entrepreneur, you are a visionary. A big picture thinker and leader. If you have the right people, a good niche, a good strategy, and willingness to execute, your chances of success in business are high. Then again, I don’t really know if I know much about anything. I’m just rambling since I don’t get the opportunity to meet with others in person my age who are like-minded.
Thanks for this post. I think your right about just pulling the trigger when you identify a need and a way to fulfill the need in the marketplace. I agree with you that once you take the plunge and get in the game, new opportunities will arise that you didn’t originally think of. For those who have the luxury to pack up and move to a frontier market and start a biz, there are an abundance of opportunities. For those like myself who don’t have the luxury to do that and are stuck in the US, there are still opportunities. The risk is just higher in my opinion.
Thanks for your post Jon
All insightful comments. I’m not sure what the ultimate best strategy is or even if one exists. What I do think though is that if you are unfulfilled at any time that is a clear sign to change. The risk is that frustrations with being unfulfilled can do either of two things. One they can motivate change and this means quitting the job…or maybe starting something up regardless (maybe working nights and weekends). The other thing that can happen is that the longer you leave it the more you become “comfortable” and I’ve seen people then begin to justify why they should be “waiting” for the right time, or the right opportunity. Eventually what began as a decisive plan blurs into a dream and never gets fulfilled. Things like starting a family come in for instance and then the risk is no longer yours in the same way. Now you’re risking your partner and possibly children and where the food is going to come from to feed them.
Like I said. I have no idea what the best strategy is and its entirely possible that each and every person has their own “best” strategy since everyone operates with nuances in their psychology.
I operate on the premise where I focus on what I really want to be doing. It allows me to be a much happier person and that is worth more than the money and for me that means entrepreneurship.
Best of luck you.
Thanks for taking the time to respond and sharing some wisdom. You mentioned, “The other thing that can happen is that the longer you leave it the more you become “comfortable” and I’ve seen people then begin to justify why they should be “waiting” for the right time, or the right opportunity. Eventually what began as a decisive plan blurs into a dream and never gets fulfilled. Things like starting a family come in for instance and then the risk is no longer yours in the same way. Now you’re risking your partner and possibly children and where the food is going to come from to feed them.”
You nailed it. This is sometimes my fear as a passionate entrepreneur and a married man. I feel like sometimes I’m too systematic in my thinking and that if I keep waiting for the perfect idea, I may risk falling into a comfort zone which will be harder and harder to escape when you factor in starting a family and other things. I can already see my wife getting comfortable with me making decent money and having consistency with little risk. My peace comes from my faith so I know that when the time is right, I will know and will just have to execute when that time comes. Thanks for such a great website.
As a serial entrepreneur who funded, started and ran 3 separate small companies over the past 30 years, I deeply understand the “dream” and the desire to make it happen. I was lucky enough to have a well paying career alongside these ventures that (mostly) allowed the time necessary to build and run them. I also was lucky enough to have a spouse who understood the time demands and was even a partner in the last business.
Of course, looking back now I realize I should probably not have undertaken any of the businesses if reviewed in a purely financial aspect. The first one was more a hobby that drained good income from my primary job, the second never became profitable and was gradually made obsolete by new internet technologies and the third was very successful and thriving for a couple of years before it’s demands contributed to marital strife, eventual divorce and dissolution of the company! So in retrospect and in “normal” human terms I should have just been satisfied with my “day job”……
But for me, that would have left too many things on the table and probable regrets. I now have NO regrets having spent all that money, time and sleepless nights worrying about these companies. The amount of things I taught myself and the experience of conducting all the affairs was priceless, plus the satisfaction of having executed on “the dream” was worth it, most definitely. At this point I don’t want to be the leader anymore and am happy finishing out my “day job”, but my experience and failures/successes has made me a better investor and person.
There aren’t many people out there who are willing to leave the comfortable and the known to pursue a “dream” in a new frontier. And then those that are may not be experienced or savvy enough to make a go of it once they arrive on the scene. But for the rare individuals out there who smart, determined and ready to accept a lot of “OJT”, the opportunities are endless and the venture funding can be found.
I think its important to mention that entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. That said I do feel that there are way more people who should be entrepreneurs but who aren’t. Part of this I believe to be a function of the education system which I’ve spoken about a lot.
At the end of the day we get only one life and its our duty to be the very best we can possibly be. A duty to ourselves and ultimately to those we care about, support and interact with.
Thanks to all for sharing their experiences.
As for Mongolia, I wonder if you met this guy:
He has a big family and actively hosts people from all over the world.
Wow what a great way to expand your horizons without going anywhere…thanks for the link.