The Truth About Being an Entrepreneur

This is a post I originally wrote for the Reese News Lab blog during the first week of my internship. It was later published on PBS MediaShift‘s Idea Lab, which you can view here.

 

I think that I can speak for all eight of Reese News Lab’s summer startup interns when I say that we have been constantly confronted with truths this week. The exhilarating/terrifying/sobering truths of being an entrepreneur.

Our first week has been a continuous practice in brain-expansion as we have tried to soak up every bit of the inundating range of concepts and emotions that come with entrepreneurial thinking. It’s astounding what we’ve covered in five days– and that’s only the tip of our 81-day iceberg. I have a lurking sense that we’ve only scratched the surface; that we can’t even begin to know the mass of information, challenges, and growth that awaits us in our remaining 11 weeks.

It actually does feel like we’re heading for an enormous iceberg…and in a sailboat. We don’t know now what we’re doing or how to begin or WHAT EVER WE WILL DO when we reach the inevitable trough of sorrow.  The amount of figuring-out that we have ahead is overwhelming. But anxiety aside, there is a palpable excitement at getting to dive into the challenges we have the task of solving.

And so we begin a summer of solving: equipped with a sailboat of uncertainty, vaguely-naive excitement, and the entrepreneurial truths we have gleaned from a week of initial clamor as we were thrown into this beautifully messy startup process:

Truth #1: You’ve got to be a little crazy to be an entrepreneur.

We’ve heard this sentiment echoed in some way, shape, or form from a variety of experienced entrepreneurs themselves. The amount of work that goes into innovating and executing something that is totally your own is incomprehensible. Passion is the power player here. You have to be sure that you would rather do nothing else with your life than pour it into your idea. Even when the answer is “no”, you know you would still pursue your cause with passion: and the kind of passion that is ready and able to withstand a lot of “no”s.

Truth #2: You can’t ignore the money.

At Reese, we explore three main components of every idea: Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability. Viability is always the fun-sucker. As much as I wish I could live in the fairytale land of startups where you never have to worry about financial sustainability, money cannot be ignored. Who is going to pay for this?  Bottom line: Find a way to answer this question, or even the most Titanic ideas are sure to go under (too many iceberg metaphors yet?) Viability is the true test of good ideas.

Truth #3: Trusting your team is vital to success.

It is important to have a solid relational foundation with your team. Without a team that values trust, accountability, and healthy conflict, the road to accomplishing a common goal will be rocky if not impossible. Great ideas do not make a startup successful; great people do. The eight of us walked into the lab at the beginning of this week not even knowing each others’ names. Through intense brainstorming sessions, we have already begun to learn how to value each others’ ideas, listen to each other, and accept each others’ feedback. It has been a promising evolution that I am excited to see continue throughout the summer. I know that no time will be wasted in continuing to grow and invest in our relationships.

Here’s to the many truths to come and the icebergs to overcome.

 

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