Why Don’t More People Become Entrepreneurs?
It’s time to stop pointing at how hard it is to start a company
It’s never been easier to become an entrepreneur.
Let me clarify. It’s always been easy to call oneself an entrepreneur. And for a while now, it’s been pretty easy to look like an entrepreneur. Within a few hours, anyone can have a website and a shipment of business cards on the way to a broadband-ready home office.
But let me say it again: It’s never been easier to actually be an entrepreneur. There’s never been a better time to throw off the shackles of corporate atrophy or college-to-grave career path and forge out on one’s own, taking advantage of advancements in technology, finance, remote work, logistics, and communications to build a sustainable, viable, and profitable business.
So why aren’t there more of us entrepreneurs?
Because startup is hard?
I had a conversation last week with the head of one of the top-10 University-based entrepreneurship programs in the U.S. We’ve been talking on-and-off for a while, and this time the subject was fear.
We both agreed on one thing: A lot of folks are afraid to start a company because they don’t know what they don’t know.
Where I disagreed, slightly, was that the fear manifests itself because of how difficult it is to start and grow a company. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that it’s super-difficult to start and grow a company. But I also think it’s super-difficult to be successful at anything you want to do, whether that’s be an entrepreneur or a professional athlete or a mid-level manager at some huge corporation.
Don’t kid yourself. It’s ALL difficult.
So why does startup seem more difficult?
It’s not about education, it’s about exposure
One conclusion that the better University-based entrepreneurship programs have all come to is that if you’re going to teach startup, you’ve got to spend less time educating students on the nuts-and-bolts, and instead set them up to experience the tactical.
If you want to learn how to market your startup, you can take a course in marketing. If you want to learn how to finance your startup, you can take a course in finance. If you want to learn how to build an app, you can take a course in coding.
But if you want to learn how to get a viable business idea successfully launched to market and into the growth phase, it’s going to take more than sitting in front of a laptop for 90 minutes a week or whatever.
You have to do it.
Where do you get exposure?
Teaching Startup is built around exposure, not education. Starting up in a vacuum sucks. As someone who has built 13 companies in a region not known as a startup hub, I can vouch for that.
So I built Teaching Startup as a newsletter where subscribers can ask questions and get answers. The immediate problem I faced was the volume of questions I expected to get every week. Soon, I’d drown in hundreds of questions and/or upset subscribers when they didn’t get their question answered.
But that’s not how Teaching Startup works.
I was surprised in the beginning by how few questions I got based on how many subscribers Teaching Startup has. Don’t get me wrong. We get questions, lots of them, and we don’t answer them all. We just don’t get anything close to one question per subscriber per week.
Then it hit me.
That’s how Teaching Startup works.
Part of the fear that keeps people from becoming entrepreneurs is that they don’t know what questions to ask. Teaching Startup lets them see questions and answers from real, working entrepreneurs. There’s so much value in being exposed to that that they don’t necessarily need to ask their own question.
Until they finally realize the questions they should be asking.
Then they start asking them. Then the value proposition explodes. Then the cycle continues with more new entrepreneurs.
My colleague noted that less than 10% of Teaching Startup members are those folks who are new to entrepreneurship while 90% are working entrepreneurs. Would that ratio impact the usefulness of Teaching Startup in the University environment?
My answer: People who want to be entrepreneurs don’t need exposure to other people who want to be entrepreneurs. All entrepreneurs need exposure to other entrepreneurs. Your students are already entrepreneurs, they just don’t know it yet.
Because they don’t know what questions to ask.
You can help me prove my point. Join Teaching Startup today, for free, no credit card, and you can answer a poll question about this very subject in tomorrow’s issue or see the results next week. Use promo code QUESTIONS and you’ll get 15 days for free plus half-off your first month (it’s only $10 a month).