In another post this week, Hunter Walk wrote that the prospect (and indeed reality) of starting a company is hard. He referenced previous posts by Jason Calacanis and Paul Smith, both of whom wrote good posts on the kind of spine and drive you need to have in order to tough it out in this business. Both pieces were on point; Calacanis’ in particular struck a chord with me as it reminded me of how DIY punk you need to be in to work in the startup world.
Walk, however, brings something different to the table in his new post; he postulates how people from different backgrounds might have read the previous set of posts differently, and how they might have understood the points which Smith and Calacanis were making. Indeed, Walk strikes on this towards the end of his own piece, when he declares that something has been “gnawing” at him:
Starting a company—deciding to absorb that risk—should attract a self-selecting group of founders[,] but I also suspect stressing nothing but the long odds, the sacrifices, creates a barrier to entry for entrepreneurs who don’t have role models or a support system around them.
And in an instant, Walk seizes on something that is as palpable as it is subtle: those startup entrepreneurs who have a positive role model and/or support system from which to draw confidence are inherently better prepared for the slog than those who do not. However, it’s worth noting that many successful entrepreneurs didn’t come from families of entrepreneurs. Rather, they had to make the jump themselves—into instability, increasing pressure, constant rejection—in order to see their drive and vision fulfilled.
I got lucky; the support system I needed was already in place. I wasn’t aware that my road towards the startup world started long before I ever thought to explore such a path. As such, the long odds are almost normal for me, and the DIY punk attitude is something which has always been underscored in my life.
For others, though, Walk makes an astute point: those who come from different backgrounds—the people who might be the first entrepreneurs in their families, or who have had to surmount obstacles that some of us might not have had to contend with (race, gender, economics, etc.)—need to be aware that they may be able to draw upon support systems outside their personal experiences and upbringing. Such an awareness can change their perception of the long odds although the odds themselves do not change. Walk:
How do we help potential entrepreneurs understand the long road ahead of them while letting them know there’s a support system to help them? Frankly…it’s better that 1% too many people start companies than 1% too few because you never know…And maybe that first time doesn’t work but the second time does…
Walk’s point is palpable; the view that success might be only one failure away is something that becomes ingrained in an entrepreneur who has a support system to fall back on. That support system makes one resolute in the face of the long odd; something to be confronted and overcome, circumstances permitting.
Successful entrepreneurs understand that the long odds are just numbers on a screen that tell you all the reasons something isn’t possible. With the right kind of role model(s) and support system, the long odds become less a wall to avoid than a target to aim at. Perception is a powerful thing, and is a key factor in the spine and drive which one needs to embody to forge ahead.