Friday, December 11, 2020

What, IMHO, is the most important thing about Entrepreneurship?

Just the other day, something funny happened to me. 

A few days ago, I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch at SMU, after meeting me, she asked me to do a quick video to answer twenty questions for her colleague. Naturally, I would do anything to promote my business, so I eagerly agreed. ( Having learnt that sometimes in life, it's often better to say YES than to say NO - unless it involves investing money. )

I was given a minute barely a minute to glance through the questions and then the recording began. 

It's probably not wise to share the details of the twenty questions discussed as it might be a pleasant surprise later if it ever sees the light of day, but I felt that if I had prepared for the event (like in radio interviews) I would have said something more politically incorrect.

The truth is that I'm probably not a coachable guy and basically run a single-person start-up. I do not know what capital I need because I have relatively strong cash flow even in a pandemic year and have always bankrolled myself. What I am looking for may not be something an incubator can offer - access to some high-converting groups to provide free finance talks that I cannot normally reach in my previews. 

( I've even highlighted that SAF regulars about to retire and SIA pilots are a demographic I would really like access to. )

So I thought perhaps I can share my opinions on entrepreneurship which I would have like to have said in a candid interview. I'm sure a seasoned startup entrepreneur might disagree with me, but given what I have seen so far, these are my thoughts at the moment.

The fact is that entrepreneurship and founding a start-up has such a ridiculously low rate of success, it can't possibly be the road to riches for the folks who are involved in it. I suspect some founders are founders because they are not employable like myself. Even though the successful cases do wind up billionaires or multimillionaires, startup founders are better off thinking about other forms of motivation.

So if the motivation is not about money, what other possibilities can a fledgeling boss strive for?

For me, I think it is about freedom and control - Autonomy from reporting to an overlord or kowtowing to someone like the rest of the folks who work as employees. To many Singaporeans, they think they work for idiot bosses. To validate this opinion, some Singaporeans should work for themselves to see whether they can do better. 

Now, if the motivation is about freedom and not billions, then the most important thing about entrepreneurship is not about a grand vision or a dream which I see too often when founders speak. I was stunned when I hear of founders who can barely even explain their business idea open their mouths to ask for a million dollars. 

Which planet do they come from? Who actually opens their wallet to these pitches? 

On the other hand, I have to sell each of my seminar tickets previews by preview. Building a working product that can sell takes years, and you need to balance a strong marketing campaign with a product that can solve a problem for your clients. The only way for me to ask for money is that I have the means to multiply it. 

So I think if you put a degree of emphasis on freedom, you'd think differently about the business you want to run.

I think if you ask for a $1M and actually do get it, I think the VC would want a degree of control over your performance. You will be using the money to hire people and, in a sense, be held responsible for their well-being. If you have a co-founder, you may have to adapt to their style and the reality is that equal distribution of labour will not happen between co-founders. This kind of arrangement has too many attachments. 

So I suspect I might not go far in my incubator because I have an Antediluvian approach to doing business. Even though I'm fairly profitable, my business is also too tied to my personality at the moment to scale properly. The business I want to conduct is a cockroach business and not a unicorn, it has to produce cash flow and sustain itself consistently. Bonus points if the costs are fully subsidized by dividend payouts.

Anyway, I hope I can turn up some speaking gigs soon. With a market recovery just about the corner, interest should be at an all-time high.  



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