Facing fears


By John Greathouse

Marketing automation company HubSpot recently surveyed its users, asking them a variety of startup questions. Some of the responses to this non-scientific study were predictable and others surprising. In particular, I found the answers to, “What is holding you back from starting a company?” to be especially enlightening to emerging entrepreneurs.

Facing Your Fears

The first step in facing your fears is to identify them. Of all the respondents, 67% indicated that they have considered starting their own business. Of these, HubSpot then asked what fears were holding them back (multiple answers were encouraged).

The top seven fears identified by would-be entrepreneurs, are as follows:

66% Fear Lack of Security & Income

Valid – As described in Mini-ventures Build Entrepreneurial Muscle , newbie entrepreneurs should consider launching their venture as a side gig. This allows you to attain product / market fit while relying on your steady paycheck to pay the bills. This approach will greatly reduce your stress and increase your chances of success, though a part time focus will obviously limit how aggressively you can grow your venture.

47% Fear Business Failure

Semi-Valid – Entrepreneurs should be optimistically pessimistic; positive about the long term future, but fretful about achieving their near-term goals. However, if fear of failure is holding you back at the outset of your venture, you might be better off staying at your current gig.

44% Fear Lack Of Adequate Capital & Other Resources

Invalid – Entrepreneurs are wily and get the job done, irrespective of the resources currently at hand. Wantrepreneurs who cannot raise adequate capital are better off not launching a venture.

34% Don’t Know Where To Start

Invalid – The best advice in Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start is on page 9, “Get Going.” Start. There is little likelihood that the value proposition you initially explore is what your venture will ultimately pursue, but you will never find the intersection of your core competencies and the market’s desires if you do not get started.

As Paulo Coelho notes in The Alchemist, “…when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” But no one can help you until you start.

17% Don’t Have A Co-Founder

Invalid – It certainly is emotionally easier to have one or more Co-Founders you can lean on. However, research performed by Haje Jan Kamps counters the myth that you must have a Co-Founder to succeed. His data indicates that, “… almost half of the (7,348) companies successful in raising funding did so with a solo founder.” Of the 6,191 companies with successful exits that Haje examined, 52% had a sole Founder.

16% Don’t Have A Mentor

Semi-Valid – A mentor is not a make or break aspect of launching a venture. However, research indicates that having a mentor early in a venture’s maturation can make demonstrable difference.

Rhett Morris analyzed over 700 New York City companies from 2003 – 2013 and concluded that, “33 percent of founders who are mentored by successful entrepreneurs went on to become top performers. This is over three times better than the performance of other New York-based tech companies.”

10% Fear The Emotional Embarrassment Of Quitting Day Job

Invalid – This one is frankly difficult for me to understand. I assume that leaving an unfulfilling job would be applauded by one’s peer group. Thus, rather than focus on this irrational fear, spend time establishing a more supportive circle of friends and acquaintances.

In addition, starting your venture as a side gig will help you alleviate this concern, as you won’t quit your job until it is fairly certain you’ve created something worthwhile.
Starting a company is like BASE jumping. Once you make the jump, there is no turning back. You will find that many of the things that frightened you at the outset, seem immaterial once launch. Face your fears, even the bogus ones, and just get started.