Why Entrepreneurs Hate WantrepreneursBY: Kathryn Hough | November 8, 2012
Ok everyone, I’ll admit it. I used to be a wantrepreneur. A wantrepreneur is someone who attends all of the startup events, meetups, and participates in online discussions about entrepreneurship without actually being an entrepreneur.
When I lived in Boulder, CO, I was excited about the vibrant startup scene and I worked for a startup, so I used to show up at many events that were geared more toward the people starting the business rather than the person working for the people starting the business. Although many startup scenes pride themselves on their inclusiveness, the truth is that entrepreneurs hate the people that show up who are all talk. Ideas are cheap. It’s the execution that matters.
Now that I am founding my first startup Huedio, I know why entrepreneurs hate wantrepreneurs. The main reason is that the execution part of this startup formula is so damn hard. Take for example yesterday.
I’m the CMO of the company, but at this point, I am doing everything that does not include building the product. My husband Chris Hough, the CEO, is working on that. That leaves me to wear the content, marketing, pitch deck, market analysis, financial projections, and business development hats. I know that many software engineers argue that if you are not helping to build the first version of the product you are useless, but in our experience, this is the opposite. We are building a community of merchants and fans, so it’s my job to solve the chicken and the egg problem while ensuring that we have revenue from day one because we are bootstrapping.
When I was a wantrepreneur working for a startup in New York City with a steady salary, here was my day.
A Day In The Life Of A Wantrepreneur
8:00 AM Wake-up.
8:30 AM Morning commute packed into the subway against someone’s armpit while listening to the latest episode of This Week In Startups. My subway card is free and comped by my company.
9:30 AM Get to work in a beautiful downtown office and make coffee available for free.
9:45 AM Working.
12:45 Go to Equinox to workout with me free gym membership comped by my company. Think about how I am going to start my own company someday and I will give my employees free gym memberships too.
2:00 PM Back to the office working.
6:00 PM Commute home while listening to Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series. Make up a plan to start a business and definitely agree to practice Steve Blanks’s customer development process, even though I have no product and no potential customers.
7:00 PM Cook a big organic dinner with grass-fed meat from Dicksons Farm Stand in the Chelsea Market.
8:00 PM Research and write for Techli.com – best and most productive part of my day.
11:00 PM Go to bed feeling like an entrepreneur.
Notice how no actual entrepreneurial activity took place during that day. I read about it. I listened to thousands of hours of podcasts about it. I interviewed people who were doing it. I sure wanted to do it. But I wasn’t doing it. I was so comfortable that I had no incentive to take the jump.
Until I did.
I quit my job and moved across the country to Portland, Oregon with all of our worldly possessions in an SUV. I had to make something happen, or I would have to go back to an office. In my mind, that was the worst form of torture. It was time to “put up or shut up” as they say.
Here is what my day looked like yesterday:
A Day In The Life Of An Entrepreneur
8:00 AM Wake up in Boulder, CO in a hotel because we are on a business trip. Check email from bed. Take a shower and try to cover up the bags under my eyes with make-up.
8:30 AM Freelance client work to pay the bills.
9:30 AM Walk to coffeeshop and do more client work while scarfing down a breakfast egg plate and latte, fork in one hard, typing with the other. Worry about maxing one of our credit cards because of the travel and a few big business purchases we made last week.
11:00 AM Hop on a bus to Denver with a free bus pass a friend gave us. Work on pitch deck for potential investors. Surf the web for examples of other startup pitch decks and think about how mine will be way better. Get to the “market size” section. Freak out and realize that I have lots of data but I’m not sure how to make sense of it for this section. Everyone will think I am a fraud. This pitch deck sucks. Get to the “team” section. Look st the Square pitch deck and realize that the Square team consists of the best in the industry. Look at my LinkedIn bio. Cry inside.
12:15 PM Get to Denver and have lunch with old friends and Chris. It was a welcome rest.
1:45 PM Go to Starbucks and do client work. Get an email that all of the business insurance providers can’t help us. Call one back from outside and say that my lawyer sent me, then they are willing to talk. I know nothing about business insurance and the agent walks me through it. I frantically look inside the window every two minutes to make sure my MacBook is still there, because without it I would literally die.
2:00 PM More client work. Read an email from someone who wants to take a meeting with us. Jump for joy! Then, get a knot in my stomach. I am an introvert, and I love meetings even though they continue to scare me to death. Oh my god, I think my keyboard has egg on it.
4:00 PM Get on the bus back to Boulder. Work on pitch deck with renewed enthusiasm after finding resources about market size from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Steve Blank. Feel more confused than ever. Do investors want to see total addressable market size, served available market, target market, or all three? Hate myself for getting a women’s studies degree and not a business degree.
5:15 PM More client work at a coffeeshop in Boulder. Look up designers and front-end developers in Portland. Scheme how to meet them. Decide that we will do the wireframes ourselves on Balsamiq before we hire someone for front-end.
6:30 PM Dinner with two good friends. I have so much work to do, but I remind myself that relationships matter too.
9:00 PM More work in the hotel room. Wonder if I did enough work.
12:15 AM Go to bed.
3:30 AM Wake up and feel like I want to throw up. Wonder if we will ever make this work.
I know the work is only going to get harder. We don’t have employees to pay right now, and we don’t have major clients that we have to impress. This is only the beginning, and deep down inside, I love every single second of it.
The work of an entrepreneur is different each day and it never stops. Of course it’s easy to float into a startup event when you have no skin in the game. It’s fun, there is free booze, and there are cool people to talk to. But the real entrepreneurs have issues on them that weigh heavily, even when they try to stop thinking about them for an hour or two.
There is nothing bad about wanting to start a business, but you have to stop talking about it and just pull the trigger at some point. Entire companies from idea to product can be made by a team of strangers at Startup Weekend. If you’ve ever thought about founding a startup, stop reading this right now and take the first step. Trust me, you’ll be happy that you did.
Kathryn HoughKathryn is a writer for Techli covering ecommerce, social, and the startup hubs of Portland, St. Louis, and Chicago. She is the CMO and co-founder of Huedio, a startup that is currently in stealth mode. Kathryn was an early employee at DailyBurn, a TechStars class of 2008, which was acquired by IAC in 2010. Prior to her foray into startups, Kathryn co-founded the New School Free Press at New School University.
Fascinating! I'm pretty sure i'm somewhere in between. I've not gone to "start up meetings" i sort of just jumped in, but it's been more of a "hobby biz" instead of my bread & butter like i need it to be. thanks for the Insight. I really appreciate it.
Its the wake up at 3 am that really made this article real. The point is that there is a difference btw walking the walk and talking the talk. Stay away from anyone that answers a question regarding how they can add value with, "becasue I am an expert, I have talked to the top people in the field." The people you want are the ones that point to what they have done. You will be able to tell if they are an expert.
I can respect and appreciate the sentiment on some level here, having been on both side of the Corporate World and Entrepreneur World... BUT I say that being part of the 9-5 grind is certainly no cakewalk, there are uncertainties that abound at every corner, bureaucracy and all the challenges that make people want to have their own business. That said, the insight many executive leaders that are not entrepreneurs have brought into my business life are incredibly valuable. As I re-enter the beginnings of entrepreneurship again, I welcome the conversation, insight and wisdom that come from all smart business people and how that can translate and add value to my life. I would never shun that as long as there was a mutual respect for what we each did. In fact, oftentimes those conversations are a nice diversion and can add a new way of thinking to what I'm doing.
JasonTrout Yes, I see what you mean. You have to want it and get the lay of the land before you jump in.
I love the visceral sense of grappling with the unknown that you manage to evoke Kathryn. In all of my startups I found the balance between accomplishing the mission and doing the sustaining work that keeps you going but doesn't contribute was a very very hard thing to maintain.