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The Golden Age for Startups is Dead
WeWork building

The golden age for startups was 2012-2022, with the term ‘Unicorn’ going mainstream thanks to the rise of Uber and Airbnb. A sort of grandiose, lifestyle-craving entrepreneurial culture emerged in this 10-year period. Positive cash flow models were pushed aside for the growth at all cost model. It was a go big or go home mindset among most founders — whether that suited their business or not.

The mainstream media painted romantic visions of entrepreneurship. Starting a business, raising tens of millions of dollars, going public, and becoming wealthy beyond belief became expectations for many budding entrepreneurs.

The Past Ten Years Were Not Normal

The past ten years saw some bizarre companies raise a lot of money… it got a bit wild. There was the launch of an umbrella sharing company, $20 grill-cheese sandwiches, employment services that never had a hope of making a profit, and all sorts of wild real estate-related startups that could only exist in a market that continually went higher.

The last decade bred a culture of delusional entrepreneurs who felt funding was a formality and their ideas were one in a billion. Rarity meant inevitable success. As a result, the ‘when it’s convenient entrepreneurs’ were born…

Nothing Entrepreneurial is Convenient

“I’ll deal with it on Monday,” said the CEO of (enter name) tech company.

There’s nothing convenient about being an entrepreneur. Leading a business requires triage, taking work with you on vacation (if you’re lucky enough to find time for one), and coffee-fuelled days when you’re sleep-deprived. It’s the reality, yet I see so many entrepreneurs cast aside urgent matters in the name of convenience or achieving a ‘work-life balance.’

If lifestyle is a priority, avoid entrepreneurship. The frothiness of the last decade and the ease with which capital was raised were exceptions, not the norm. To be a successful entrepreneur, as the saying goes, you’ll have to live a few years of your life like no one else will, so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.

So, You Want to be an Entrepreneur…

Suppose you aspire to be a successful entrepreneur now that the economy has come back down to earth from its meteoric ascent driven by loose monetary policy. In that case, to be a success, you need to be ‘on-call’ and obsessed with the nuts and bolts of your business. You need superb customer service that goes above and beyond the competition (this requires a drop what you’re doing and help the customer immediately attitude). Focus on profiting early and often (at least prove, on a small scale, that you can make money with whatever widget you’re selling, right away). Ensure you have a plan B and C for when supply chain issues inevitably impact your business. Enjoy working long hours (great things require great sacrifice), and you can’t be concerned with recognition or accolades. We are going into a rebalancing period economically. And the grinders are going to succeed in this new economic environment.

Accept that control is an illusion as an entrepreneur and convenience doesn’t exist. Your customers control your schedule. Your shareholders are your boss. And you, the entrepreneur, only control how well you serve your people.

Stay hungry,