When speaking at various companies, IITs, and IIMs, one of the recurring topics I come across a lot is the infinite allure of entrepreneurship among millennials. The journey of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs left an indelible mark on the minds of millennials. One interesting facet is that many of them have no idea what problem they are going to solve, even though they all want to pursue their own endeavors.
As we step into a decade of incremental rather than fundamental opportunity, this column highlights the wrong reasons for choosing to be an entrepreneur, the harsh realities of the journey, and a possible path for those who really care.
Entrepreneurship is not the way out of your current situation
I’ve looked after many millennials who wanted to take the entrepreneurship path because they didn’t like their jobs or their current bosses. The biggest mistake an aspiring entrepreneur can make is venturing on this journey if they don’t like their boss or their current job or the degree they’re studying. Another wrong lens to continue this journey is when someone is unclear about their interests – the “I don’t know what I like so let me start my own business” syndrome. The leading test for anyone who should even consider starting their own business is to have a clear business problem that will be solved.
Most likely, you will fail or remain unhappy all the time
While there is an abundance of entrepreneurship literature that urges millennials to give up everything and start their own business today, it’s important to understand three key nuances for anyone looking to pursue this journey on their own. 99% of all entrepreneurial ventures fail, which means there is a very high chance that you will not succeed if you set up your own business. In this modern age of instant gratification, success for the remaining 1% comes after immense physical and mental exertion after a period of ten years. The decision to bet ten years of your life with immense physical and mental exertion for a 1% chance of success is a chance most people don’t want to take. Even if the stars align and everything works out, a significant portion of the 1% who succeed will be forced to abandon their ventures against their will by private equity investors. Are you sure you want to sign up for it?
Although incredibly difficult, the journey of creating something of your own is very noble
While the road to starting your own business is incredibly lonely and error-prone, there is an easy template for the serious minded to succeed and secure your bets appropriately. The issue being addressed should be important to consumers in order for them to have a positive unit economy, to be scalable to touch 1 crore consumers, and to have an area of technology embedded in it. Any idea that is aimed at a certain micro-market without scaling and, at best, increases sales without medium-term profits, should not be pursued. For an aspiring entrepreneur, their potential business should be positive cash flow and profit by the end of year three.
As we are stepping into a decade of incremental opportunities rather than stepping into wide open spaces, it makes sense for any budding entrepreneur to test a concept for 3-6 months along with their existing professional activities before setting out on their own. If your pilot concept gets a lot of traction, you can take the plunge or continue your boring professional life.
After all, the most important facet is to bring friends and well-wishers with you who are ready to support you financially, emotionally or directly in your potential business. More than the entrepreneurial concept, loneliness and fighting your inner battles alone destroys potential poster boy / girl entrepreneurs.
In summary, being an entrepreneur and making a difference is always a noble thought. However, for every millennial reading of this piece, test your nobility by asking yourself the following question:
In the worst case scenario, are you willing to give up ten years of your life, work 16 hours a day and possibly have nothing?
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The views expressed above are the author’s own.