Once again, we have a tech celebrity talking about the hardship of being an entrepreneur. In a piece he calls Entrepreneurshit, Mark Suster writes:
It’s 4.50am. Sunday morning. And I couldn’t sleep. I have much on my mind since I just returned from a week on the road. 5 days. 3 cities… I had to miss a full day with my family… I returned home Friday night at 10pm – too late to see my kids. I’m reminded of this feeling. It’s all too familiar. It’s what life was like as an entrepreneur.
He goes on describe how risky and stressful it is to be an entrepreneur, and how for most people it never works out, so watch what you ask for!
[By looking at high profile entrepreneurs] you might be psyched out into thinking you’re doing something wrong for being in your shitty little windowless office. Clicking on their glam party pictures. You’re not. You’re where you should be.
Suster (who’s a VC now) won’t take his own advice though, because:
Of course I do [want to be a founder again]! How could you not want to go back to it. It’s addicting. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other.
This whole picture of entrepreneurship reeks. It’s only true for a small subset of entrepreneurs - ones that make high risk plays with VC capital and years without profitability. Founders who make these plays are really half entrepreneurs, half gamblers.
If you build your life around dependency on outside capital, is it any wonder you’ll be stressed when said capital is about to run out? You have only yourself to blame - you walked into a high risk, high gain situation. If that’s what you want, great, but don’t go hijacking the term ‘entrepreneur’ to describe only people like you. I do low risk, good gain business, and I have every inch of claim on the word ‘entrepreneur’ that you do. I don’t spend my time in airplanes, I don’t get up at 4:50am, I’m never stressed, I have plenty of free time to use how I see fit.
I am also not rich by a long stretch. Maybe one day I will be, maybe I won’t, who knows. What I know is that I love my work, that I have an income that allows me to live exactly like I want to live, and that my business has been supporting me and our team of five for many years.
One thing Suster says starts to capture some wisdom.
If you read the tech press every day you’d get the impression that it all glamor. It’s not.
Ironically, Suster’s piece is a part of the same problem. People (and the press) love high adrenaline stories. Glorified risk, glorified gains, and also glorified suffering.
There’s another way though. Instead of taking big risks with other people’s money, use whatever resources you do have to experiment and create something people are willing to pay for, then grow slowly but surely. Only quit your day job once you’ve found something that works, and before you know it, you’ll have a good income and a good life with little risk and little stress. You won’t make the headlines, because there’s nothing sexy about the guy who worked calmly for ten years and made a few million dollars, but who cares.
If you want to be careful, be careful around VCs like Suster, who’d love to give you heaps of money so you can get up at 4:50am and get a heart attack every time your money starts to run out.
UPDATE: I think it deserves clarifying that I have absolutely nothing against the VC model. It’s a tool, it enables opportunities, and it can be a great move. My only beef with Suster’s piece is equating ‘Entrepreneurship’ with the VC model.
UPDATE: Nice, DHH tweeted this post. Achievement unlocked.