This article is part of Startup 101 Series: Storat.com early lessons. The articles are written by the founders of Storat.com to record and share their experiences launching an internet startup in the middle east. The intention is to share our early experiences so other entrepreneurs in the Arab world can learn from our right and wrong decisions in dealing with the uncertainties of launching a new online platform or an IT business.
Before founding Storat.com, I worked for more than 19 years with Microsoft Corporation. While the decision to quit my job to pursue my entrepreneurship dream felt natural to me, it was awkward for the community around me. However, I am constantly asked: "What is the difference between the corporate world and the life of a small startup?" While this article is not a prescription or guideline on how to quit your job to pursue your entrepreneurship dream, it is about the basic six things you must forget when you open your own business:
1. Money! Are you serious? Yes. if you are leaving your lucrative job to make more money, then don’t leave. Specially in the first 2-3 years or may be more if you are aggressively focusing on growth. When we were doing the business plan for Oryx Cloud and Storat.com and calculating risks and odds, we have decided to pursue something we truly care about more than money. That is a vision to web-enable small and micro-businesses in the middle east and bringing advanced automation to them. We have decided to pursue that vision although we know the risk ahead with 99% historical failure rate for our flagship product because of the difficulty of establishing the network effect. However, it is that vision that is fueling our engine and giving us unlimited energy to keep on with all the long hours, miss steps, and difficulties.Money is only a byproduct of doing something you are truly passionate about.
2. Vacationing and weekends: You should face the reality before you even start. A startup is a business with a shortage of money, no brand, no product, no customers, no trust, no offices, no legal structure and no employees. You will be confused about your vision and uncertain about your success. You should build all of that along with 1 or 2 cofounders. The volume of work for the first few years means you need to get accustomed to 12-18 hours work shift per day, including weekends every single day for the first few years. You will need to depart from a lot of things you love and care about. You will need an obscene amount of support from your family and closest friends.
3. Waking up late: This will come naturally to most entrepreneurs. Since I started my company I discovered the most important asset in the world is not money, capability, or reach, it is TIME. It will come natural to you to wake up at 4 or 5 AM every day. The days I wake up after 6:00 AM, It feels like I have lost the initiative for that day!
4. Making excuses and complaining: In the corporate world, we are accustomed to making excuses or complaining about why things are not working. It becomes part of the process with business justification sheets and endless business reviews. When you launch your own business, there is nobody to complain to or make excuses about why things are not working. You are on your own! You must make decisions faster, recover as fast as possible from mistakes or wrong decisions. While you don’t have to spend, endless time building justification for others, you will need an obscene amount of openness with yourself to learn and recover quickly. The simplicity formula we found to correct our path is to stay close and always listen to our customers.
5. Your ego: If you care much about your ego, don’t start a business. The ego that will stop you from walking the streets selling your business or cold calling hundreds of customers every day to close no deals or 1-2 deals at best. The ego that will make you afraid of embarrassment, admitting mistakes, or correcting your course quickly. The ego that will stop from listening to customers need because you are fascinated with your product. Unlike established corporate businesses where ego issues can harm, in a startup, Ego is a killer!
6. Your fear: you will need to control your fears, mostly is the fear of failure. Fear is a very obsessive force that can cripple humans and society. Focus on the hope, the journey, and the learning. Success is only accumulation of all your failures.
"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" Vincent van Gogh
CEO & Founder
Oryx Cloud, home of Storat.com