Should you build your app idea, start a restaurant, or turn your hobby into a career?
I commonly hear these questions from others who are considering whether they should leave the comfort of their day-job and start their own company.
When I was 18, I co-founded GrandPad, which has grown to over one million users and over two hundred employees. Throughout this seven-year journey, I’ve learned about the sacrifices and dedication needed to start a company, and I’ll share what I’ve learned below.
Why Start a Company
The first question to ask yourself is, “Why do I want to start a company?” If you don’t have a compelling reason, I would advise against taking a founder’s path.
My dad and I started GrandPad because of a burning need to keep in touch with my Grandma. There was no viable solution on the market, so the only way to solve this problem was to build the solution ourselves.
Starting a company is a journey into the unknown. There is no clear path ahead, so you have to pave one yourself. Without a compelling “North Star” to keep you going, it will be all too easy to give up.
Know What You are Sacrificing
Once you are sure you have a definite purpose, the next question to consider is if you are willing to make the sacrifices necessary for building your company.
When you start a company, you are likely giving up: company health insurance, retirement benefits, a clearly defined schedule, and income security.
For example, when starting GrandPad, I was also a full-time university student. My schedule consisted of getting up at 5:30 am every morning, doing homework for three hours, then working the rest of the day between classes until 7 or 8 pm. Then I studied until 11 pm. After three years, the demands of GrandPad grew more significant, and I ultimately ended up dropping out of college to focus 100% on the company.
As a result, my “college experience” was nearly non-existent, and I had no extra to spend with friends.
For me, these sacrifices were worth it. I firmly believed in our company mission, and I was willing to make these trade-offs.
Every new company will have a different set of sacrifices needed. However, the important thing is to think about these sacrifices in advance and ensure you are ready for them.
Be Radically Curious
It’s doubtful that you’ll know all you need to know at the beginning of your startup journey (I certainly didn’t, and still don’t). But it’s that you are capable and curious to learn more.
If you want to start a restaurant but have no cooking ability and no interest in learning, then a restaurant might not be the right path for you.
At GrandPad, I had to learn all sorts of things I didn’t plan on. For example, package design, hardware manufacturing, music licensing, and cellular network certification. Even though I had no previous experience in these fields, I was curious and eager to learn.
The last thing to consider is how starting this company fits into your life’s journey from a long-term perspective. The most effective way to do this is to follow the deathbed exercise below.
Imagine you and are on your deathbed, looking back at your long life.
Imagine that you decide not to start the company. Do you live your whole life asking yourself, “What if?” Do you lie on your deathbed in a state of regret?
Instead, imagine that you start your company but ultimately fail to achieve success (however you define it). Looking back from your deathbed, will starting the company still have been worth it? Would the lessons learned and lack of regret have been worthwhile?
If Scenario #1 terrifies you and Scenario #2 and doesn’t, then you have the right mindset to proceed with starting your company.
Starting a company is a terrifying and incredible journey that few people partake in. It will likely be among the most challenging and rewarding things you ever do. Deciding to start a company is just the first step in a long journey. If you choose to move forward with your plan, gear up and get ready for an exciting ride.