Entrepreneur Hardship Series: Tough times all entrepreneurs encounter

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 Entrepreneur Hardship 101 – Borrowing money

I quit my job 1 month ago, to finally really start 100% with my start-up. Problem is..it was not completely plan. I left my company after some disagreement with management (see post “What qualified as moral harassment?  – I need to update this post, just didn’t had time yet..) and even if things got better and I am not in good terms with everyone.. I just understood that my entrepreneur spirit would not feat working for someone anymore and my employer and I agree it was time for me to leave. Which I did. With no saving what so ever. I just came back form a trip to my hometown that used up all my last year saving and when I quit my job, I just had enough to sustain myself for 1 month.

Have you seen the movie “In Time” with Justin Timberlake? The movie was pretty lame but the plot and the idea of money is replace by time and most people in the world live a day-to-day life, with the content fear to not have enough time/money to survive… yeah well that is the feeling I got since I quit my job. 

 

So my mission number one, before being able to plan for the future, was to borrow money to FFF (family, Friends and Fools). But even to do that, you have to be pretty convincing that you know what you are doing, you are not some crazy irresponsible nuts who live off other people’s saving.

So I only ask my close family (parents + brothers and sisters). Problems is, in my close family we are not rich. And saving is not really a habits J.

I still collected enough money to sustain myself for 3 months, which was my timetable anyway to get ready to pitch angel/seed investors.

It is a hardship moment because you are vulnerable and you put the other people in a delicate situation, a situation where they have to say “no” to the help you request. SO you can only ask someone who is close enough to you to be able to do that, say no to you and know that you will not take them account for it.

You reach this level of trust only with family and 10+ years friends.

Still I haven’t ask my 10+ years friends for financials help yet because… I know they also have their family to support. I really want to ask them as last recourse.

Now I am in debt, plan to start paying back in January (9 months from now) and it is good pressure. Pressure that tell you “people who love are trusting you with your project, do not disappoint them, do not do shit, do not easily give up”.

  

Entrepreneur Hardship 102 – Not getting the support you expected

 Also the second step of starting your project, once you have the financial more or less sorted-out, is to refine your idea. Bounced it towards the brightest mind of your network, people you trust and admire.

 Something I has not expected and prepared at all for, is to have these people I trust and admire (yeah, they are some kind of mentors I guess) trying to discourage you from being an entrepreneurs…*(see Updates below)

Different reasons I received was:

  • You are too young.
  • You don’t have enough experience. You can keep learning from others’ mistakes.
  • You have no saving.
  • You could benefit so much from working for me.
  • Doing a startup in China is a very difficult market to crack, particularly for a foreigner. Just setting-up the company properly is troublesome.
  • You don’t have a technical co-founder.
  • You are instable and change job too often, are you sure it is the wiser thing to do?

All these reasons are legitimate, but I heard from entrepreneurs testimony and from organizing iWeekend, seeing people moving from corporate job to entrepreneurship is that:

– The earlier you start and fail, the earlier you get better.

– First hand experience is the best.

 If you are interested you will find at the end of this post my answer to each of the above reason but this is not the main reason of this post.

 

1) “Entrepreneurs need a strong support system” – Eric Setton, tango.me CEO

Last year I was lucky enough to meet with tango CEO, Eric Setton when he was visiting China. He wanted to get in touch with my employer but he is also a classmate from Polytechniques (one of the best French Engineering School) of my mentor Leo. So we had lunch and I remember him replying to my colleague when he asked him how supportive was his wife of all his travel and entrepreneur life: “She is very supportive and I need that. Entrepreneurs can not make it without a strong support system”.

And it made me wonder, what when you are single? Are you condemned to fail? Who will encourage you in your low moment?

I haven’t completely test my current support system but yes, you need close entrepreneur friends who can fully understand what you are going through. You need mentors, people you are looking up to who believe in you and push you when you need to be push, listen when you need ot be listen to. The mentor who is doing that for me is in Boston and we mainly exchange by email, but he is doing a great job. And it is quite surprising considering that it is someone I only met face to face for what…maybe 20 days tops!

That’s the thing with connection, if it is someone you have a lot of common with, it doesn’t take time for you to build trust and understand each other.

My advice #1: Surround you of people who are supportive. Know who they are, who are the people you can REALLY rely on, test them even is needed, don’t just make assumption, this is too important.

 

2) “Do not waste your time trying to convince people..” – BenjaminJoffe, CEO at DayDeed.com, mentor at 500Startups

The main reason for this post is to pass to all entrepreneurs out there the best advices that has been given to me in my entire life, an advices that has been given to me when I was meeting people to prepare for the 1st iWeekend Beijing, an advice given to me by Benjamin Joffe, founder of Mobile Monday Beijing and mentor at 500 Startups:

“Do not waste your time trying to convince people who don’t want to be convinced. Just go do your thing! When they will see you moving forward, not giving up and even maybe succeed.. this is when they will challenge their views and this is how you will convince them you were right”.

Action speaks louder than words. Sure you need to be prepared but action is never a waste of time.

Thank you Benjamin.

 

*Updates:

The mentors above mentioned both accepted my choice after a few email exchange and even supported me by saying: “By sticking to your decision you augment your chance of success” and “You do have the #1 quality for an entrepreneur — stubbornness.

That completely made my day! 🙂

————————————————————————-

My answers to “Reasons for not starting your business”:

1) You are too young.

This is the excuse old people tell you when they are afraid that younder people do better than them. You are never too young to start great things. Read “Delivering Happiness”, Tony Hsieh started his ventures since he was 6 years old. You are never too young. But you migh get too old (too many responsibilities).

 

2) You don’t have enough experience. You can keep learning from others’ mistakes.

2 different schools of thoughts, I believe you learn much faster from your own mistake. It is definitely beneficial to learn form others but you don’t need to get a job or go to school for that! Just attend a few good “experience sharing” event and read books. This is largely enough.

 

3) You have no saving.

This is a good one. It would have been good to have enough saving for 1 year. But nothing can be perfect from the start and this is the first test of entrepreneurship: how do you cope with unplanned situation? There is always a several possible solutions. The trade off of time vs money is usually is always in the advantage of time. You have lot of different way to get money, you can not get more time. Time should be used to do the only thing you can not get elsewhere: start your thing.

 

4) You could benefit so much from working for me.

Also usually true, particularly if you have 0 work experience and no network, in that case yes, I will advice you to take a 2 years job with a boss you respect and admire and who has a great network.

Personally I already did that, building my network since 2012, you can always get a better network, so that is not what should stop you to start.

 

5) Doing a startup in China is a very difficult market to crack, particularly for a foreigner. Just setting=up the company properly is troublesome.

Well I don’t see a solution to that, if I listen to this reason than I will never start anything in China.

On the opposite many entrepreneurs in China advice you to not worry about being “a proper business” when you start. Just start, test your idea, only when you start getting traction, then start worrying about being established, not before.

 

6) You don’t have a technical co-founder.

I did believe it was a problem 1 year ago and use it as the excuse to not start being an entrepreneur (see https://carolewaihai.com/2-months-reflexion-about-my-entrepreneurship). Truth is, the partner thing was not the problem, the problem was I was not ready, timing was not write. I hightly recommend the TED video in this post “LEADERSHIP – TED dancing guy”, a video that has been recommended to me by Stephen Wang, CTO of alive.cn and iWeekend mentor. I got the idea of what it means last year, I am surprised I didn’t wrote it in my post at that time, so I will do it now.

When you are ready, when you truly believe in something, you have to be capable to be this dancing guy, dancing alone in the view of all, most people will think you are crazy but it doesn’t matter, you goal is to proof you believe in it enough to attract your first follower (your partner), than adapt your dance to him/her, together you will attract more “believers” until you reach a tipping point and everyone want to join your movement.

The most difficult step is to get that, the first believer. But if you don’t believe in yourself, your cause enough to make a fool of yourself, alone, you wont’ be able to attract him/her.

Do not wait to have the perfect co-founder to start. I would be living a life without dating anyone but waiting for the one you want to marry. Well you need to test may people for you to know what you really want.

If the co-founder thing is what stop you that just mean you are not ready and it is FINE. Take your time. When you will be ready, not having a co-founder to start will not stop you, because you will have faith that he/she will turn in sooner or later.

 

7) You are instable and change job too often, are you sure it is the wiser thing to do?

This reason came from someone who is not familiar with entrepreneurship and spent his whole life being a public servant. Well guess what dad, times are different now!

People who love you can sometimes not relate to you and because of that, they can not give you good advices. You know better what is the best for you, I will always advices my friends “do not stay in a job you hate is that trade off do not worth it”. If what you will gain by staying is not crystal clear for you, run!

Who cares how long you stayed a Morgan Stanley? Do not conform, be unique, write you won story. As long as you can justify every each of your action, you will be fine^^.

About Carole (code name 烤肉)

I work in tech since 2008, moved from Reunion island to Paris, Beijing, San Francisco and ended up in Berlin in 2014.
This entry was posted in Being an entrepreneur and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Entrepreneur Hardship Series: Tough times all entrepreneurs encounter

  1. jeff says:

    inspiring 🙂

  2. swang75 says:

    Good post. There is never a perfect time to start so you might as well start now. Ability to find collaborators in your idea and adapt quickly is ultimately more important than experience or a perfect idea.

  3. szmala says:

    Hi Carole, Thanks for sharing!I think you need to be more conservative about your chance to raise money. It might take longer then you think.Usually you should be able to show a MVP (minimal viable product) + Traction/ interest from customers.At the same time not every investor/ person with money in China is the right investor and without a strong business case you might end up with giving a lot away of your company.My advice:1. Get people who can execute very well (tech + design). A Co-Founder is the first person you need to convince. It’s the first proof that others believe in the idea and commit. 2. Plan that you don’t make any money from this business for 18 months.3. Make some money on the money with organizing events (you need to have the freedom to say no to an investor if its not the right fit)

  4. Anonymous says:

    @Jeff, Stephen Thanks a lot for the support~@szmala,Very good advices, I will definitely follow~ thanks!!

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