This whole thing has been a lot harder than I expected.
Sure, I’d read a ton of books and articles about entrepreneurship, and I had listened to startup-related podcasts until they were both going into and coming out of my ears. (Pro tip, which took me an embarrassingly long time to discover: listen to podcasts at 1.5x speed, ideally while doing something else that doesn’t require too much brainpower, like cleaning or cooking something uncomplicated. You will feel like you have a superpower.)
Everything I read and heard said it was hard. Call me stubborn, naive, or proud, but I somehow didn’t believe that it would be THAT difficult. At least, not to this degree.
Starting a startup has been compared to jumping out of a plane and trying to build a plane (or some other life-saving contraption) on the way down. This feels true to me. Here’s what the comparison fails to call out, however:
- You have no idea what you’re doing. You’ve never built this kind of thing before, and you don’t even have plans to build from – because it doesn’t exist. That’s the whole point.
- You’re somehow supposed to convince other people to join you on this adventure, as it’s really hard to build something all alone. In order to do this, you need to be convincing (even though you don’t know what you’re doing) and have what seems like a solid plan (even though everyone knows it will change). You must be a leader who is tenacious enough to see things through, but also humble enough to listen, learn, and follow. (Clearly, as a solo founder, I’m still working on this one.)
- You’re supposed to build the minimum viable product – something that will do the job, but only just barely. Startup wisdom says that a MVP should be “embarrassing.” This is hard to swallow, for two reasons. First, a startup is often deeply personal – it feels like a reflection of yourself – and no one likes feeling embarrassed. Second, a startup is based on dreams of what “could be” – so as a founder, you likely have a grand vision for how the world will be different with your solution in it. It’s hard to trust that you’ll be able to convince people to adopt a product that brings just a tiny fraction of your vision to life. You so desperately want others to see the potential you see, and the MVP is barely a glimmer of the value you’ll someday provide. But you need to survive long enough to bring that glorious product roadmap to fruition, and the so first step must be a measured one.
- You’re watching the ground get closer and closer. (“How long can I keep this up? Am I going to need to get a “real job” if this doesn’t work?”)
I don’t know, at this point, if Simili will end up being “something,” or if it will end up being an expensive education; either way, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have learned so much over the last year — about myself, about technology and product development, about entrepreneurship — and even knowing what I know now (i.e. that this sh*t is HARD), I wouldn’t go back and make a different decision.
Don’t get me wrong – there are LOTS of things I would have done differently. The whole “solo founder” thing, the amount of money I’ve spent, not doing customer discovery early enough, not having a monetization strategy upfront – all of those are things I would (will?) do differently, the next time around. But I have no regrets about leaving a comfortable job working from home for a company I liked with people I enjoyed to embark on this journey. Really, I swear!
Many of my friends and family members have congratulated me on the accomplishment of “launching” – like I’ve already crossed the finish line. But the crazy thing is this: “launch” is really just the beginning! Now I have to learn how to fly.