Julian Eberling is a Relationship Manager at TheVentury and has a rich experience as entrepreneur, including his participation in the founding of LEAD Horizon – a company offering innovative self-test sets for the detection of COVID-19 – which quickly became a partner for many organizations and even the City of Vienna’s „Alles gurgelt!“ campaign.
Many people go to work every day, dreaming about starting their own business. And when everyone around you suddenly becomes an entrepreneur, founding a startup seems easy as pie. Because if the kid that dropped out of high school or your neighbour next door can start a company, how hard can it be? Well, I would like to share some of my experiences with you, that should help you before hopping on the startup trend.
1. Say goodbye to regular working hours and free weekends
Founding a startup feels like a roller coaster ride – you constantly switch between ups and downs. Unlike in a corporate job, as a founder, you don’t have a clear area of responsibility. You are simply responsible for everything. When I founded Captain’s Desire, a fashion jewellery label, I sometimes had to get involved directly in production. Meanwhile, I organized sales, managed marketing and built the website. At the same time, you can’t neglect accounting. There is no option to put any of this off or not do it, so be prepared for this.
When no one gives you anything to do, you also don’t have anyone to keep an eye on how busy you are. You have to get everything yourself and you do a lot of things alone in the beginning. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a Sunday, on vacation, or at night. If you are not ready to give up lots of free time, you might catch yourself struggling to figure out why there is no progress.
However, you should never forget the actual reason you are doing it all for. Always keep your “why” in mind and let it lead the way. It’s not just about working a lot but seeing your own idea grow and have an impact. Helping other people or bringing joy is the highest level of self-fulfilment.
2. Be unemotional about feedback and listen to your users
Very often entrepreneurs think it’s absolutely certain that their idea will create added value for other users as well. As a founder, you are convinced of the product. It is very tempting to simply go into implementation without actually generating user feedback. Seeing that your idea is not well received can sometimes be disappointing, but it is important to get this feedback early. So do honest testing and don’t skip this step.
The goal of idea validation is to get actual reactions and not to necessarily confirm your idea positively. Being convinced of a product is of course a prerequisite for a successful startup. However, it is also important that the users see a significant added value in its use. Follow these steps and repeat them over and over: build a MVP of your product, test it with real users, learn from your tests, build again, and implement what you learn.
The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.Walt Disney
3. Never give up
Not every startup becomes super successful right away. This is where the roller coaster ride comes into play again. Sometimes it feels like nothing is going to work and the easier option is to give up and do something else. That’s the time when you have to persevere. One week can be awesome and in the next week you might have the feeling that you have to close everything down.
With LEAD Horizon, for example, it was very difficult to get accepted at first. The price of the COVID-19 PCR tests was still relatively high and it was very hard to find buyers. Many people where sceptical whether the hometesting is valid or not and the media spread a lot of false information. The IT and legal challenges were also big. If the team had given up then, Vienna would not be one of the only cities with a free citywide PCR home testing system today. So, if there is a customer benefit, if you are convinced of it and if there is a product-market fit, then keep working, never give up.
Starting a business is a lot of work. It may seem really easy with so many famous examples of successful entrepreneurs and new companies being founded literally every minute. But you should be prepared to walk a steep path and sometimes sacrifice a lot. Once you commit don’t forget: dream big, test your idea early and never give up. And finally, don’t be afraid to look for support – get in touch with our experts if you need help developing your business.