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Peter Yu

Why the half-hearted Singaporean entrepreneur is a failed one

BY PETER YU

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart - it is all or nothing. Starting a brand new business is taking a big gamble. Chances are slim that you will come out on top, with 50 – 70 percent of startups failing within the first 18 months. With such devastatingly statistics, the fact is that entrepreneurs can only succeed if they go all in.

Many first-time founders start a business as an experiment – to test the waters. Many also hold a full-time job with a startup on the side or try a few businesses at the same time to see if it works out.

While there is nothing wrong with that, as the advocates of the Lean Startup methodology, will point out, taking the necessary precautions (market research, product testing, limited releases, etc) before proceeding with any business is prudent. For a short time, this can work well.

But eventually, the business must go full time to go into the big time. Running a startup is not like any other job ever, because it never stops. Founders would spend almost every waking moment either working or thinking about the business.

It is a whole different way of life when it's one’s own company versus working for someone else. It's exacerbated by the fast pace of startups, which at times, makes it hard for entrepreneurs to catch their breath.

Founders need to work at solving problems with diligence, skill and most importantly, persistence. Going all in gives one no choice but to constantly move forward.

It could be small steps like maintaining a regular blog to big moves like resolving immigration difficulties. Keep working at it, the big problem can be broken into smaller bite-sized ones. But when the startup is on the sidelines, it is easy to give up, as there is a simpler 9-5 to fall back on.

Running a startup part time runs its risks. There is the likelihood of getting caught moonlighting, where in many corporations, that calls for immediate dismissal. Besides losing your job, it is a bad mark on one’s reputation, which is paramount during the fundraising phase.

Also, there will be little to no way, an occupation will allow for startup meetings, emails or calls during business hours.

On a similar note, when plunging into the deep end, take on one business at a time – or no one will take it seriously. Especially when speaking to investors, running multiple businesses just shows that it does not receive 100% devotion.

Also, no matter how good a multi-tasker anyone can be, running multiple businesses simultaneously will not be sustainable. A startup drains your time, energy and emotions – having more than one will take a serious toll on your health and personal life.

Startups are for the long-term. Just because entrepreneurs can work fast and do multiple things at the same time, doesn’t mean others will. Signing a partnership with a big firm or securing funding from venture capitalist firms can be an extended bureaucratic nightmare.

Entrepreneurs with startups as a secondary entity will be disappointed to find out that they are unlikely to have instant successes like YouTube or Facebook. Marketing guru Seth Godin once said, “it takes about six years of hard work to become an overnight success” so startups are not only intense, it is also protracted.

The hallmark of a true entrepreneur is betting it all, time and time again. The mantra of “big risks, big returns” apply here. Taking the safe way may work on the corporate ladder but not in a startup. Failing quick is in fact better than a business dying a slow death.

Failing quick means there is less time wasted and more time that can be put towards the next project. In that light, there is no such thing as failure, just a temporary pause from success. After cashing out, many successful entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey go right back into rolling the dice by investing in other startups.

As The British Special Air Service motto goes,  “Who dares, Wins”. With that in mind, the successful startup entrepreneur is the one who is fully committed in taking risks, in for the long haul and prepared to try harder after certain failure. Not the one who is anything else.

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Peter Yu

Peter Yu

Peter is the chief agent for countless guerrilla marketing stunts at Bebop Asia. Also, he is the Head of Public Relations at Sugar Ventures for up and coming startups like Kluje, Folr, Voicemail, and more. Specialising in creating meaningful and long-lasting conversations about game-changing businesses that go after grand ideas.

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