Many people believe that they can create and launch a successful startup online. They think that they can magically make money just like Mark Zuckerberg did with Facebook.
They see the Internet — websites, social media sites and mobile apps — as a place where all they have to do is stake their claim and the money will start rolling in. Many just know they can make a better version of what’s already out there.
In all fairness, that’s partly because we only hear about the startup successes, rarely the startup flops.
This post, aimed at those who think they’d like to launch a startup, discusses 11 indicators that you may not be ready to launch a startup. Should any of these indicators hit a nerve, you might want to reconsider your plan. If not, you’ll likely waste time and money, and worse yet, belief in yourself.
1. You want to make money
People often launch startups because they want to make money or support themselves or their family with the startup. Perhaps they have a good friend who succeeded with his or her startup. They quit their day job, and in an “all-or-nothing” approach, give up everything for the startup. Most of the time this approach leads to “nothing” results.
If you found a startup with making money as the central reason, consider returning to your day job and a more assured source of income.
2. You think your idea is exceptional
I frequently meet people who think the brilliance and uniqueness of their idea will skyrocket their startup to success. Some people even ask me to sign an NDA before they’ll discuss their idea with me.
I always decline to sign the NDA and tell them that they should share their idea with those around them. That’s often how entrepreneurs get the support and insights required to turn an idea into something concrete.
Brilliant ideas do happen, but as the age old saying goes: Success is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. If you think your idea alone will propel your startup to success, you may wish to rethink launching a startup.
3. You want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg
Lately, it seems that everyone talks about success as though it’s so easy to achieve. Some people say that Mark Zuckerberg was simply lucky. These people have no concept of the work behind a product like Facebook. They’re sure that they can create something similar or even better.
If you think it’s simple to build something like Facebook, or that it succeeded just by chance, you may wish to reconsider your startup idea — success is not easy or a matter of luck.
4. You are not mentally invested in your startup
Many people would like to try launching an online startup. They’ve seen the huge success that can happen, so sure, they’re kind of ready to give it a go. They think: if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay.
Perhaps they have the money, the time, and even some resources. But as soon as they start doubting that they really want to pursue developing this idea or that it might be harder than they thought to achieve success, they give up.
With startups, you’ll always have times when you feel like giving up. But if you ever doubt that this is the idea you want to invest your time and energy into, you shouldn’t waste the time and resources required to launch a startup.
5. You don’t want to work hard
Some people decide to launch a startup when their life is going well — things at home, at work, financially and with the family feel good and comfortable. Yet they decide to quit their job and risk it all.
They then discover that the startup takes twice the time and effort as their old job. They want to do their eight hours and then go home, kick back and relax. They don’t want to work from home or late into the night.
If you think this might happen to you, then wait until you are more willing to do the hard work it takes for a startup to succeed.
6. You don’t believe in your idea
Occasionally, people work on ideas they don’t believe in.
Perhaps they received the funds for the idea, and are now just developing and testing it without believing in or feeling passionate about it.
I find this mindset difficult to comprehend. For me, belief in my idea is critical. If I lose faith in what I am trying to achieve, then I can’t continue working on it.
If you don’t have faith in the idea behind your startup, you should stop doing it — you won’t have the resilience to get past the tough times that are part and parcel to successful startups.
7. You are not ready to fail
A few months ago, I read something that compared startups to pregnancy: when everyone is congratulating you and your wife on her pregnancy and asking to feel her tummy, nobody understands or knows how many times or how much effort went into the pregnancy.
Similarly, in business, every success has many failures that preceded it. Some people experience ten, twenty or even more failures before they achieve success.
While for some, success happens the first time they try, that’s typically the exception. With a startup, don’t bank on being the exception.
If you believe in your idea, never give up. Be prepared for defeat and to try again and again. If you don’t have this level of commitment in the face of defeat, then you’re not ready to start.
8. You are not a risk taker
An essential skill in running a successful business is understanding how to take risk.
Startup founders must find that fine line between taking acceptable versus unacceptable risks. Somewhat ironically, finding that line requires taking risks to gain experience in smart risk-taking.
It requires you to leave your comfort zone and experience failure and loss. If you aren’t ready to take risks—not even big ones, but just simple, everyday risks — then the life of an entrepreneur is likely not for you.
9. You can’t make decisions
Perhaps an obvious, but rarely discussed capability of someone launching a startup is the ability to make good decisions. After all, decisions steer the direction the company takes and directly impacts its growth (or lack thereof).
Many companies fail because leaders don’t or take too long to make decisions, even simple ones. They worry too much about making the wrong decision and simply get stuck in indecision. They often try to shift decision making responsibility to someone else. Without a decision the company can’t move forward.
While each team member must make decisions at his or her own level, founders must make the high-level, broad-reaching decisions. If you have difficulty making decisions, then you should probably avoid founding a startup.
10. You expect quick results
Many people think they can repeat the quick success of the founders of Instagram who worked on a mobile app for two years and then sold it for one billion.
They don’t understand that the most important part of Instagram’s success was not the actual app, but the execution of building that app and getting millions of people to use it. If you think you can build a product quickly that millions of people will start using overnight and that will sell for millions — think again.
11. You can’t learn fast
Any initiative requires the founders and their employees to learn new skills from both study and experience. After all, people can’t immediately become an expert at something completely new.
Startups almost always require founders to learn how to problem solve and develop the skills required to lead a company. For example, they must learn how to hire the right people, manage the company, persuade partners to sell, write code, design work and more.
If you are not the type of person who thrives on learning new skills and who can learns quickly, then heading up a startup will prove extremely challenging.
Still want to start a startup?
I could definitely list additional reasons to reconsider founding a startup. I whittled this list down from 30 to 11 — it’s a nice prime number, and happens to be my youngest son’s favorite number.
At the same time, I don’t want this post to give off the impression that nobody has what it takes to found a startup. People have started them, and have done so with extreme success.
I just want to point out some of the indicators I’ve seen that associated with startups that don’t succeed to prevent the wasted time and money and loss of self-confidence that occurs in such cases.