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Technology  24, Jan 2014

Before you start a company, you better read this

It’s going to be really, really hard. So you got to believe in your vision, in the problem you want to solve, because it won’t make sense any other way

So you are in school and want to be an entrepreneur. I was there too in 2007 after graduating with an MBA from Stanford University. My first start-up failed. The second one made money. And now I’m on my third riding the roller coaster that is entrepreneurship.

Before you take that leap, here’s my advice: It’s going to be really, really hard. So you got to believe in your vision, in the problem you want to solve, because it won’t make sense any other way.

Your stock has never been higher with your brand new, shiny university degree. You’ve graduated from a top school and full of promise. You’ve done no wrong. Your friends envy you and your parents respect you.

That will change if you do a start-up. Ninety per cent of start-ups fail and yours will probably be in that group; those are the odds, bet on it. So after years of working harder than you’ve ever worked before, and earning less hourly than you could have at McDonald’s, your company will probably close. You would have done wrong. Your friends will look at you differently and your parents will worry and nag.

Also Read: “Thou shall have balls & not business ideas”

Meanwhile, that annoying first class honours student who played it safe and joined a bank would be earning a six figure income. He’s driving an Audi, eating in posh places like Andre’s, clubbing at Mink and dating that super-hot girl. He’s got the kind of brand name experience on his resume that’s a springboard to anywhere else. (He could easily be a she; reverse as desired.)

This is the price you pay if you do a start-up, and it’s real no matter how sexily the media dresses up entrepreneurship. The only way this cost makes sense is if you believe in your vision; to the point where it doesn’t even matter if you fail while pursuing it – the act of trying is enough.

I am just about the laziest guy in the world when it comes to going out. I hate faraway places; I want to eat and drink, attend cool events and do things that are close by. The problem is I never know what’s happening in the neighbourhoods I live in and work at. I’m sure I can find the info if I look hard enough on Google or Facebook or Timeout… but who has time for that? Thus Feecha, my start-up, was born: it’s the best way to see what’s happening in a location. We do that by gathering content from newspapers, magazines, blogs and other apps and organizing them around neighbourhoods. Think of Feecha as a Flipboard for Tiong Bahru, a Flipboard for Holland Village, and so on.

Also Read: Who you build a company with is as important as what you’re working on

The point is that you have to solve a problem you care about. Otherwise, the hours, the doubts, the persistent lack of money, the decisions that proved wrong, the friend you recruited who turned out poisonous…all those things will wear on you. You must believe in what you do, otherwise the price is too steep.

So you want to be an entrepreneur. Are you ready?

Note from the author: This article was meant for a school magazine but it was rejected for being too negative, so I’m posting it here — a salute to those of you who know how hard it is to be an entrepreneur, and cautionary counsel to everyone else thinking about starting up.

The views expressed here are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them

e27 invites members from Asia’s tech industry and startup community to share their honest opinions and expert knowledge with our readers. If you are interested to share your point of view, please send us an email to writers[at]e27[dot]co

Jeffrey Yuwono

Jeffrey Yuwono

3-time tech entrepreneur, slaving away at http://feecha.com. Stanford MBA, Duke grad. Blogs once a day about tech, start-ups & gadgets at http://cornerplay.com.

  • Al Mukmin

    I wonder how many subscribers e27 is going to lose over this article. smh

  • Steven Goh

    good on you for writing (odds for failure for consumer internet is >90%.). building a startup is not about being a hipster and reading tech blogs. it’s much more than that and requires a real dedication that few quite frankly, have. good luck with it, and if you need any help, i’m sure there’s other founders out there who’d lend a hand ..

  • Buaya bite

    Only the deluded ones.

  • Mohan Belani

    Last I checked, the number of subscribers is still going up :) So far so good.

  • Jeff

    Thanks Steven for the comment!

  • ardnet

    yup, we need more article like this which seems sounds brutally honest, not meant for demotivating, but to know the real truth in start-up and entrepreneurs world, so at least we could learn and overcome it earlier, cheers.

  • Al Mukmin

    You honestly don’t think there should be some sort of quality control with guest blog posts that get approved on e27.

    I don’t disagree with his POV that entrepreneurship is hard work. Scaring people from starting just because they’re likely to fail isn’t the solution. If anything, 10% that succeeded more than make up for 90% that failed.

    Besides the fact that the article was fluffy, repetitive and poorly written, let’s look at what else is wrong with this article:

    1. This article stereotypes the following people as evil and “annoying”:
    - Bankers.
    - First class honour students.
    - First class honour students that pursue banking as a professional career.
    - People that work hard, drive nice cars and have a nice life.

    2. Everything in the article is negative except for:
    - The author has an MBA. (the first thing he mentions)
    - The author has made some money from one of his startups.
    it was all “I’m the best so you should listen to me.”

    3. This article is purely a commercial for his own startup, he wrote an entire paragraph about his startup! Is one thing to have people review your startup and it’s another thing to write an ad and have it published on e27.

    4. This article is just the author stating the obvious, over and over again. All the entrepreneurs I’ve talked to KNOW that entrepreneurship is hard, if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

    Here’s the thing, screaming the sky is falling over and over again shouldn’t be encouraged. Be realistic, not pessimistic.

  • http://litford.net/ brian

    Hi Al,

    Thanks for your comments and feedback. They are all valid points as well.

    At e27, we also want to give readers and entrepreneurs, much like yourself, the opportunity to share opinions about what’s happening in their journeys. We strive to be objective in our news and analysis, and share opinions candidly and openly.

    We welcome your feedback on how to improve the articles we publish, and I’d also invite you to share your opinions on e27 as well. Do get in touch with me at brian[at]e27[dot]co and I can set you up with our editorial team.

  • Jairus Bondoc

    ^ Then more reason to join communities like e27 or attend conferences like echelon, where you can find people that CAN mentor or help.

  • Weijie

    c’mon now al, defensive much? the author mentions he failed before, and i’m guessing if he got a stanford mba he probably did pretty well in school. sometimes it’s not about the message but the way it was delivered, and it was delivered well here.

  • Jeff

    Whoa nellie! Just alerted to your comment. Sorry for the late reply, it’s been a busy month. Only a few points:

    1. I used to work in investment banking and had decent grades, so I’m not sure where you got the “evil” thing from, because clearly I don’t think of myself as that. ;)

    2. One of my start-ups succeeded while the other failed, as stated in the article. Does this mean I’m simultaneously showing off while being self-deprecating? Skill!

    3. Why I started feecha is a supporting point for the central thesis of the story — to do a start-up only because you care deeply about the problem you want to solve, and not because of gold and glory.

    4. Is the article so obvious? I’m not sure you understood it.
    Maybe you read a different story from the one I wrote.

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