Do You Have the Stomach for This?

entrepreneurs

Recently I went through a little entrepreneurial funk.

I know I probably shouldn’t admit that in public, but if we’re honest, we know everyone has them. If you’re anything like me, this thought process probably sounds familiar:

  • Crap. I don’t know if I’ll pay the bills this month.

  • I’ve worked 18 hour days every day for a year, but I can’t pay my freaking bills.

  • What’s the best thing I can do right now to make sure the bills get paid?

  • Damn! I don’t want to spend all my time only thinking about the short term. I have dreams…and goals…and and and…!

  • Screw it. What’s the point?

At this point, you’re wondering if your mother was right and you should get a “real job.” Oh, the peace of a regular paycheck, semi-normal work hours, and that long lost thing called a weekend.

I’m not going to tell you to suck it up and keep going. Maybe you’re not cut out for this. Maybe you should do yourself and the rest of the world a favor and find that nice stable job after all. Hey, there’s no shame there, even if we like to glamourize entrepreneurship to the point of it becoming unrecognizable.

I’m not going to tell you to keep chasing your dreams, because this is gut check time. This is when it’s time to really ask yourself, “Do I have the stomach for this?”

What’s your risk tolerance?

This is where you factor in all those people who matter to you. Do you have a spouse and kids? Are their needs being met in some way, preferably that doesn’t involve massive debt?

I’m not saying parents can’t be entrepreneurs, even struggling ones. I’m a single mom, so this is the big question that really hits home for me. My conclusion is that the future I’m building for my kids outweighs the struggles of the present.

But, that may not be your conclusion, which leads to the next question…

What’s your big picture–and is it worth it?

Do you have a long term goal? Or are you just wanting to “be an entrepreneur”? I promise you, being an entrepreneur for its own sake is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Take some time away from the daily grind and really define your goals–concrete things you actually want to accomplish. At the end of the day, will those dreams provide a payoff that exceeds your current struggles?

If not, maybe you should consider a new path, at least until you can define a long term goal worth chasing.

What do your advisers say?

I’m very lucky to have smart business partners who care not just about our business but about me and my family. When both of them consistently said I should not give up yet, I knew they were seeing the bigger picture I was missing.

Talk to people you trust, who know you and your unique situation. Listen to their advice, and when things seem darkest remember that they are probably seeing the pieces you’re missing.

How sleep deprived are you?

You might think this is out of place, but trust me. You don’t want to make major decisions on a sleep deprived brain.

Do whatever is necessary to get a few nights of consistent sleep. Melatonin works wonders for me, and everything starts to make more sense when you catch up on sleep.

What does your gut say?

And, then sometimes, you can’t quantify your thought process. Sometimes the answer is to simply follow your instinct. During my most recent funk, my instinct was to keep going, even when fear was telling me to stop.

If your instinct is to take a break or even stop altogether, go with it. You’ll be happier, healthier, and saner than the rest of us.

Going through hard times is never fun. But, it’s almost always a gift in disguise. Walking through the dark days will reaffirm your passion and vision, making you more confident the next time you struggle.

Or, it will be a big red flag that says it’s time for a new path.

Don’t Tackle An Elephant Head On

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I’ve heard two different philosophies about building a successful company. One school of thought glorifies the idea of “disruption.” These are the Ubers of the world who set out to redefine or create entire industries.

Then there are the founders who believe you should watch what works for others and simply recreate it in order to achieve similar success. This approach can work when taking a model from niche market to niche market or from city to city.

Both models have their champions. And both sets of champions have plenty of bad things to say about the other approach. Personally, I like what I call the “Paul Singh approach.”

Don’t Tackle An Elephant Head On

In our podcast last week, Paul talked about the early days of 500 Startups, taking on giant investing firm Andreessen Horowitz. While Andreessen Horowitz had access to deal flow and didn’t have to work hard at finding investments, 500 Startups was young, unproven, and relatively smaller.

So, Paul and Dave McClure didn’t play the game the same way their larger competitors did. They chose to travel the world, spending most of the year in other cities, speaking and meeting startups. They built their portfolio by going to the companies–the exact opposite strategy most investment firms were using.

This is where “disruption” can play a big role. 500 Startups didn’t invent an industry; but they did re-imagine what an industry could look like and how to get business done. And, as we all know, they were successful with it. If they had chosen to play the same game as larger, more established firms, they probably would’ve lost.

But Know the Rules of the Game

We often hear stories of founders who built successful companies in industries they weren’t familiar with. They attribute their success to “not knowing any better.”

But, that’s not as common as we like to think it is. In the case off 500 Startups, if David and Paul didn’t know much about investing before they started, they learned quickly. After all, it’s vital to understand your industry. More common in real life is the entrepreneur who spent much of her career in a certain industry, saw a problem there, and figured out a way to solve it. Profitably.

If you don’t know the rules of the game you’re playing, you’ll never be able to judge which ones to break and which ones to keep. 99% these are the most important decisions you’ll make as you start up.

Want to know more about the “rules” of the game? We’re launching an awesome webinar series in the next few weeks and would love to have you join us. We’ll be talking about things like idea validation, pitching investors, and crowdfunding. Just pop your email address in the subscribe box, and we’ll keep you updated on all the important details.

The Secret Rules of Startups

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Serious Startups : Unwritten Rules of Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs are notoriously famous for breaking the rules. But, with startup culture going mainstream, there are a lot of unwritten “rules.” For example, “Thou shalt always be ‘killing it.’”

Check out the video above as the Serious Startups team educates Kane Harrison on all the ways he’s rebelling against startup norms.

Even Startup Founders Have Bills To Pay

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Serious Startups : Staying Afloat

We all like to pretend we’re “all in” with our startup, but let’s be honest. We have to pay bills, just like everyone else.

David and I talk about how we do it and give some advice on making it happen without getting stuck in a rut. What do you do to make ends meet while chasing the dream?

Make sure to check out our partners Talkapolis

Passion vs Logic & Mentor vs Advisor

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Serious Startups : Passion vs. Logic and Mentor vs. Advisor

What is ultimately behind a business, passion or logic? And, when does a mentor become an advisor?

John, Kane, and I talk about these issues in the latest episode of Serious Startups. What do you think about the whole passion vs logic and mentor vs advisor thing?

Clint Arthur Talks Unique Positioning and Entrepreneurship

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What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Clint shares his Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at his journey to becoming a successful Entrepreneur.

Clint is the only mentor in the world who helps Authors, Speakers, Coaches & Entrepreneurs create Celebrity and Unique Positioning using Local TV News & Talk Show interviews. His students — he calls them Magic Messengers — have booked more than 1,000 appearances on ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates across America, and on major TV shows including the Daily Buzz, Good Morning America, and the Today Show.

Success Quote

  • ‘Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.’ – George S. Pattonclick to tweet!

Business Failure

  • Clint spent Y2K driving a cab, then sobbing on his ratty, rented boat in the LA harbor. Fire Nation, sometimes you have to get HUNGRY and be SICK of losing before you can truly win!

Entrepreneurial AH-HA Moment

  • Clint was spending a fortune on his publicist to get TV appearances, until one question from his wife changed it all.

Current Business

  • Clint could not be more excited about his ‘Magic Messengers’ and the success they are having!

Small Business Resource

  • Amazon Prime

Best Business Book

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Interview Links

  • Guaranteed Celebrity: Celebrity Launchpad is a super-fun, super-exciting, 100% GUARANTEED life-changing 90-day transformation experience

rsz_2star_fullReady to launch YOUR Podcast? Sign up for our free weekly Podcast Workshop @ PodcastersParadise.com

Entrepreneur, You May Be Crazy But You’re Not Alone

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A lot of people say that entrepreneurs are crazy. We give everything we have to build a business, including our health, money, time and relationships.

And, for what? Most businesses fail, and many of the ones that “succeed” never reach their full potential.

Yet, if you’re anything like me, that fact motivates instead of scares you. That’s the crazy part. If you’re a lifelong entrepreneur, you look at long odds, grin and say, “Damn right I can beat those.”

Because entrepreneurship saves us.

If you’re wired to be an entrepreneur, you just can’t help it. The act of building something from scratch, of seeing your vision come to life is your driving force. You live and die by every swing of the entrepreneurial pendulum.

And it’s not just the successes. The obstacles and failures drive you, too. That moment when you have to tell yourself to go one more round, when you have grit your teeth and give it everything–that’s when you feel most alive

The ability to create is what sets mankind apart from animals. Throughout the centuries great artists and creators have all been seen as a little unstable, but the beauty they put into the world was worth it. Or, at least, they were so driven to create they had no choice.

In 21st century America, many entrepreneurs are the modern day artists. Which is scary because

Entrepreneurship also kills us.

There’s a reason there’s a constant debate over work/life balance in entrepreneurial circles. It’s because we’re all so obsessed with what we’re doing, we can’t stop. We don’t eat well. We don’t sleep. We don’t nurture deep relationships that make a real difference in our lives.

And, in extreme cases, we think death is better than failure.

There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. That’s why so many great artists and writers suffered so much internal pain. Entrepreneurs, unfortunately, are no different.

I wish I had an answer to the problem. I wish I knew how to pull back, how to care less about what I’m building.

I wish I knew the answer to work/life balance and had guarantees that it would all be worth it in the end. That the things I’m choosing to live for will really matter–to me or anyone else one day.

But I don’t, and neither do you.

Instead, we can take comfort in the fact that we’re not alone, at least. You aren’t the only who feels like the crazy entrepreneur, and if you make smart bets and wise risks, it’ll be worth it in the end. Let’s face it. Without people like us, shit wouldn’t get built.

So keep building.

But also get some sleep.

The Truth About Startup Failure

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The hard thing isn’t dreaming big. The hard thing is waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat when the dream turns into a nightmare.

–Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing About Hard Things

In the Silicon Valley-inspired startup culture, we glamourize failure. We wear our failures like badges of honor, write post-mortems with all the gory details, and duck our heads in mock humility when discussing them in person.

“Shoot for the stars,” we say.

“Fail fast,” we say.

Unfortunately, the message that is often missed in this go big or go home mentality is that failure really sucks.

Failing Looks Like…

Failure is not glamourous. It’s not even pretty.

Failure looks like losing 30 pounds in 3 months because the stress is so much you can’t eat.

Failure looks like not closing that funding round 6 months after you graduate from the accelerator, despite following every step they outlined.

Failure looks like going 6 months, a year, 2 years without a paycheck and seeing your bank account so drained you need to get a “job.” Except the only thing on your resume is a failed business, so…

Failure looks like pulling together the best team you could, selling them on your vision, and then not making payroll.

Failure looks like looking friends and family in the eye and telling them you–you, personally–lost every dime of the money they invested.

Failure looks like no longer speaking to the person you once trusted enough to call a business partner.

Failure looks like wrapping yourself so much into your business that it becomes your identity. And when it fails, you don’t know who are anymore.

Failure sucks. There’s no easy way around that.

Success is falling nine times and getting up ten.

–Jon Bon Jovi

One More Round

You know what else failure looks like?

It looks like getting up and going one more round.

Because even though I just told you (and myself, again) what failure looks like, if you’re an entrepreneur you don’t really care. You (like me) are thinking, “Yeah, yeah, but this time I won’t fail.”

Personally, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is like life on steroids. Life is hard, with ups and downs and lots of chances to make mistakes. Entrepreneurship is the same, at a speed and intensity that will take your breath away.

Entrepreneurs will do well to be honest with themselves about the harsh reality and extreme pain of failure. We can’t glamourize or make it seem like anything but the soul crushing defeat it is.

But, you know you’re a born entrepreneur when you can’t help but go for it anyway.

 

Serious Founders Manage Their Own Psyche

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“By far the most difficult skill for me to learn as CEO was the ability to manage my own psychology. Organizational design, process design, metrics, hiring and firing were all relatively straightforward skills to master compared to keeping my mind in check. It’s like the fight club of management: The first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown is don’t talk about the psychological meltdown.

–Ben Horowitz, The Hard Things About Hard Things

Last week in our podcast announcing the acquisition of Nibletz Media, Nibletz CEO Nick Tippmann said the most important thing he’d learned in building the company was that as a founder, you have to manage your own psyche.

When you’re the founder, there’s no one else to take responsibility. You’re the first and the last stop for everything in your company, which includes your own salary if not that of a team. You’re responsible for product-market fit, raising investment or funding it yourself, company culture, company reputation…

Talk about pressure. No wonder founders are all a little crazy.

But, at the risk of breaking the first rule of the CEO psychological meltdown, let’s talk about it for a minute.

It’s totally normal.

Well, as normal as anything else we entrepreneurs do. If you’re a startup founder, you will have at least one psychological breakdown, and anyone who tells you they haven’t is a liar. Or a bad entrepreneur.

Ben Horowitz, successful entrepreneur and VC, wrote an entire book about how hard it is to start a company. Trust me when I say you’re not alone.

Now that you know you’re not the only one, what do you do when the psyche threatens to manage you instead?

Acknowledge Your Thoughts

First, don’t run from your negative thoughts. Acknowledge them. If you pretend you aren’t having them, you’re just fooling yourself and not really addressing the issue.

Take a deep breath and take note of the thought that’s trying to control  you.

Now, is there something you can do about it?

Maybe you’re thinking your idea is too crazy and there’s no way it could work. Remind yourself of why you started in the first place. Talk to the people you’ve recruited, listen to the customers you already have.

Is there a particular issue that’s come up that you worry you’ll never solve? Block out some time, either by yourself or with the appropriate team members, and figure out some action steps you can take. Maybe you won’t see the complete solution, but getting started will make you feel better than worrying.

Do Something Else–Like Sleep

We entrepreneurs are infamous for our insomnia.

But, really, everything looks worse when you’re exhausted.

The best thing you can do for yourself is have one thing you do to relax. Read fiction. Watch science fiction. Exercise. Hang out with loved ones. Some kind of hobby or distraction will not only get you out of your own head, it might very well help you relax enough to solve whatever problem you’re facing.

Making a point to relax will also help you sleep. Worst comes to worse, I’m not above some melatonin or Nyquil to get the brain to stop moving.

Have a Great Cofounder

There’s a certain pressure as a founder to always be upbeat and positive. Your employees need it, your investors want it, and you better never let the press see you sweat.

Thankfully, if you have healthy cofounder relationships, you also have built in support.

Building a business is often compared to marriage. You and your cofounders have sacrificed everything to get your baby out into the world. No one knows what it’s like in the trenches than the people in there with you.

While building Nibletz, this is one area Nick and I did really well with. Almost always when one of us was doubting or stressing, the other was able to give encouragement. Managing your own psyche may be primary, but it’s great to have partners help out with that every now and then.

Whether you have great cofounders or not, building a community of peers and mentors will also help manage the daily strains and stresses of entrepreneurship. Go to founder meetups and conferences, get coffee with fellow entrepreneurs, and join communities like our Serious Founders group to get that extra support.

Managing your own thoughts and psychology is–by far–the most difficult part of entrepreneurship. There may be tips and tricks, but ultimately it will always fall to you.

And if you can learn that skill, you’ll find that you win more often than you lose.

 

Serious Startups Acquires Nibletz Media

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You know that feeling you get when you have a secret. And you’re DYING to tell everyone, but you.just.can’t.yet.

Well, welcome to the last 6 weeks of my life.

After a year of building Nibletz Media with my awesome cofounder Nick Tippmann, I’m thrilled to (finally!) announce that the company has been acquired by Nashville-based Serious Startups.

I’m also pumped to say that as part of the acquisition, I will be joining the Serious Startups team as the COO.

You can listen to the podcast for more details on next steps and to hear from Nick on what it’s like building a media company. Here are some things you can expect from the new Serious Startups:

  • A weekly talk show produced in conjunction with Talkapolis. David, John, and I will join our friend Kane Harrison to argue discuss all things entrepreneurial
  • Bi-monthly podcasts with startup experts from around the country
  • Kick ass live events
  • And–best for last–our Serious Founders master mind group. Find out more here. I promise, you don’t want to be left out

Why Go Big or Go Home is Terrible Advice

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You know what’s really sexy?

Big.

Big user numbers. Big engagement numbers. Big markets. Big press stories.

In theory, if you line these all up, you’ll soon be looking at big profits. And, we all know that when it comes to profits, size definitely matters.

The problem is that going big or going home is terrible advice. Here’s why:

Size is Relative

What is “big” exactly? It’s a relative term that relies on comparison.

  • Should you shoot to be the biggest company in the city? Your state?
  • Are you only successful if you’re the market leader?
  • Do you need to be the biggest company in the world??

The truth is that small and medium-sized companies are successful every day. They make a lot of money, provide employment, and make their founders wealthy, even if you never hear about them on Twitter.

Jason Lemkin recently advised founders to shoot for an order of magnitude bigger. Success is really about the math, and for the majority of entrepreneurs going big isn’t necessary to make the numbers add up.

Motivation (And Personality) Matter

Newsflash: entrepreneurship is hard enough. Building something from nothing is hard, no matter what your goal is.

Trying to be the next Facebook/Google/Uber, etc? That’s a level of sacrifice most founders just aren’t made to handle.

A lot of articles would now chastise you and make you feel like you’ll never be worthy or “part of it” if you aren’t cut out to be the CEO of a $20 billion company.

But, imagine a world in which we’re all Mark Zuckerberg or Travis Kalanick.

The truth is we all have different personalities, motivations, and responsibilities. And that’s okay! As the saying goes, “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go ‘round.” The same applies to business and entrepreneurship. It takes all kinds of companies to create a full economic ecosystem.

“Know thyself” is indispensable wisdom. When you understand your own true personality, motivations, and desires, it’s a lot easier to know what kind of business you should build–and it’s totally acceptable if it’s not change-the-world big.

Heroes Are Outliers

Along those lines, it’s imperative to remember that those mega companies we all admire are outliers.

Depending on who you ask, something like 75-99% of startups fail.  Of the small percentage that “succeed,” almost all of them are acquired.

2013 saw the largest tech IPO class since 2000 with 188 companies going public. That’s 188 out of the thousands of companies started each year. And let’s be honest, the only one we really remember is Twitter.

On the flip side, there are thousands of entrepreneurs making great money pursuing their own ideas, even though they’ll never be featured on TechCrunch or close a $1.2 billion financing round.

What I’m Not Saying

I’m a big fan of innovative, change the world ideas. I fully believe we haven’t reached the edge of our ability to create new technology that will improve or enhance lives (and, yes, make money). So, if you have that kind of idea and drive, absolutely go big.

If you don’t, though, it’s time to stop drinking the go big Kool-Aid.

Overwatch Brings Video Gaming to Real Life Paintball

Okay, I’ll be honest here. I’m neither a big gamer nor avid paintball fan. I don’t love the graphic violence on video games, and paintball–well, those things hurt!

But, both pastimes are obviously very popular, and players of both are often not just participants but avid fans.

One of those avid fans is Josh Moody, who realized that real life paintball and airsoft could be greatly enhanced by the features of online combat games. So, he created Overwatch, a smartphone app that incorporates GPS, Bluetooth, and other technologies to provide a more digital experience to real life.

Josh gave me a quick education in gaming and what Overwatch can do to enhance real life games. Check out our chat below.

1) What does your company do?

Overwatch brings the futuristic technology of combat video games to real-life games of paintball, airsoft, and laser tag.  See the location of teammates and opponents through an overview of the entire playing field, communicate with teammates via voice chat, and activate perks and unlocks to gain an edge on the opposition during any game—all through your iOS or Android device.

2) Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?

The company was founded by Joe Saumweber, Michael Paladino, and me.  Joe and Michael are the owners of RevUnit, an independent software development firm based in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Joe has an extensive background in digital and mobile strategy, large enterprise solutions, and consumer facing applications.  Michael has over ten years of experience in software development and developer management across web, mobile, and social platforms.  As for me, I am a self-taught programmer and web designer, with experience designing and building electronic hardware.  While I am only eighteen and have not had years and years of experience like my co-founders, I pride myself on being able to learn quickly and constantly improve.

3) What’s the story behind your idea?

Three years ago, just as most teenage guys are, I was an avid gamer.  Specifically, I played quite a bit of “first-person shooter” games—titles such as Call of Duty and Battlefield.  While I enjoyed gaming on my console, I also enjoyed playing airsoft and paintball with friends.

—Most people are familiar with paintball but not airsoft.  To explain, airsoft is a similar game, but with much smaller, plastic BB projectiles instead of paintballs.  Airsoft guns also provide a much more realistic, tactical feel and experience.—

Interested in both the digital and real-life versions of combat gaming, I realized a substantial gap between the two.  None of the features of combat video games were present in real-life combat gaming, and thus, the Overwatch concept was born.  Using the Overwatch app and hardware, gamers now have real-time GPS radar to track the location of teammates and opponents on the playing field, bluetooth voice chat to communicate with one another at all times, and even perks and unlocks that provide special abilities (such as Radar Jam).  All of this and more is displayed right on the user’s smartphone, mounted directly in front of them, during any airsoft, paintball, or laser tag match.  Overwatch is interactive gaming in its truest sense.

4) How as being part of the ARK Challenge helpful for your startup?

Without the ARK Challenge, Overwatch would not be where it is today.  Not only did the ARK provide the funds our company needed to start up, it also provided invaluable mentorship and advice from experienced entrepreneurs, and the knowledge necessary to continue onward even after the 14-week competition had concluded.  I am incredibly grateful for each person who worked to make the ARK Challenge the great program that it is, and hope to see many more companies emerge from it.

5) What milestones have you reached, and what are you working on next?

From our founding, we’ve built the Overwatch app from the ground up for both iOS and Android, as well as designed the perfect hardware to incorporate a player’s smartphone into gameplay while providing adequate protection for the device.  At the close of the ARK Challenge, Overwatch secured a partnership with the largest airsoft manufacturer in the world to ensure that our products have a strong presence in both online and retail stores worldwide.  The iOS app is complete and will be submitted to the app store in the coming weeks, while the Android version is soon to follow.  As for the hardware, the armband, essentially a running band for your forearm, will be available in the coming months.  The rail mount, similar to the heartbeat sensor in Call of Duty, will be available later this year.

6) Where can folks find out more?

To find out more, we encourage people to visit OverwatchApp.com and sign up for our email updates.  If anyone has any additional questions after checking out the Overwatch website, feel free to email me at: josh@overwatchapp.com