Entrepreneurship means solving new problems, coming up with solutions, and building new products and services around them—with the intention to grow. Entrepreneurs usually intend to gradually increase the revenue, hire more employees, and develop their products and services further so that the market share and the value of the company will grow as well. Developing startups is challenging; statistically, most startups fail. 

However, even though working in business can be a path through pain, blood, and tears, and requires strong intuition and some degree of luck, it can be a great adventure leading to an exciting lifestyle and deep satisfaction from work.

Entrepreneurs are often featured in Hollywood and not always in a positive way but rather, as tricksters and opportunists—just to recall movies such as The Social Network (2010), or Steve Jobs (2015) and documentaries such as The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019).


It is hard to characterize the business environment and summarize it in one sentence, as it is extremely complex. Probably, the best expression would be a “fluid working environment.” Every area of industry hosts thousands of parties with their personal goals ad motivations—lone wolves, as well as bigger and smaller teams aiming to pull off new projects. They tend to dynamically reconfigure and reshape their objectives depending on the situation on the market and the situation within the team. 

Business environment is a mixture of three groups of people. 

The first group is the gifted visionaries who create real innovation and push this world forward. 

The second group is the dreamers who would love to bring innovation to the world too yet are not as skilled in developing viable business ideas and/or executing them and therefore, they will never be successful no matter how hard they try. 

Lastly, the third group is, unfortunately, the con artists who are money- rather than vision-oriented. They are fully aware of the fact that they don’t have what it takes to create a viable new business—and, that they can get anywhere with their money-making plans only when they steal ideas from others and use other people’s talents to build new solutions and market them properly.


Wrong Expectations

Similarly as in the case of the academic career (see chapter 6: Academia), most people dreaming of a career in business often have a wrong picture of how the daily life in this field looks. The image created by Hollywood movies suggests that entrepreneurs spend their days talking about their vision on stage, making lucrative deals, shake hands with hundreds of clients lining up for their products, and spend evenings on sipping expensive whiskey with other successful entrepreneurs and making new, exciting deals. 

Well, in fact, the daily life of an entrepreneur is not any close as glamorous—it mostly consists of troubleshooting. Most people set their companies with the intention to be free. Yet, they soon learn that all they do now is serving three gods: the investors, the clients, and the employees. 

As an entrepreneur, you need to make maaaany people happy at a time. And, you spend your whole day on running from one source of fire to another, and trying to prevent the company from the ultimate collapse.

Artistic Chaos

As mentioned before, the daily life in a startup is typically hectic and chaotic. In business, you need to be prepared for SNAFU (after the slang military acronym—“Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”). In other words, never ending problems are the norm.

Since you are the leader of the project, you are expected to be there for your team 24/7 and troubleshoot problems on the fly. You can expect mostly bad news throughout the day! After all, your team members will knock at your door and ask you questions when things go wrong and not when things go right. Every day is different and new problems arrive. Therefore, you feel the responsibility, you never feel that your work is done, and it is mentally hard to disconnect from the project even for as little as a few hours.

Plus, you are the face of the project. Therefore, next to pushing the project forward, you also need to pay attention to networking, Public Relations, and building the image and the brand for the company day by day.

Almost Unlimited Routes To Explore (For Creative Entrepreneurs!)

As an entrepreneur, you can use any possible strategies and resources you can think of to push your project forward—as fast as possible, as well as possible, and as cheap as possible. The sky is the limit, or rather, one should say that your imagination is the limit.

In business, new, creative solutions can come up at any moment and from every side. They come up when chatting to a stranger on the bus, at a reunion party from high school, while shopping for groceries. The more mindful you are, the better for your chances to grow an amazing company.

You Need To Stay Vigilant

As mentioned before, mindfulness is essential in business. You need to monitor the situation in your field on many different levels at a time. Many people working in business have a misconception that they should keep their focus on closely watching the competition and their moves. However, it is usually not the best strategy. Namely, it is better to track the global trends in the market and your clients. The general development of the market sector you belong to will obviously open or close opportunities for your business. 

Moreover, you need to closely communicate with the clients, monitor their current needs, and observe their interactions with your product or service so that you can keep on improving for as long as it takes to become the leader.

Besides, companies that focus on trying to outrun their competition never really win the race. It is because they play the “finite game”—they want to win against their competitors (Sinek, 2019). On the contrary, the iconic companies that lead to groundbreaking improvements, such as Apple, choose for the “infinite game”—they don’t compare to anyone else and they only aim to outperform themselves. 


One Day, You Can Wake up as a Leader of a Large Company

You typically start a company by yourself and with one of two of your co-founder(s). Before you get enough cashflow within your company to start hiring people, you can motivate others to take part in your project by offering them pools of the company shares. Then, once you secure a seed investment, you can also hire a small core team. 

Many companies develop without investment as well: they sell enough of their products and services to bootstrap, namely to reinvest their profits into further building their team and products. When the company develops, the number of people involved grows too. So, in a few years, you might find yourself to be a leader of a large company, with hundreds, or even thousands of people working for you. Optimistic scenario for sure, but this happens.

You Can Choose Your People

You have a rare opportunity to only work with people whom you truly enjoy to work with. Since you are the employer now, you can cherry-pick people who think alike, share your sense of humor, and who can teach you something useful every single day. You can also actively avoid toxic people as you are in command of your own close environment.

A Shortcut To Becoming A Wealthy Individual

While the company grows, the revenue and the market value of the company grow too—the sky is the limit! At some point, the income from your salary and dividends can far exceed what you would otherwise earn at corporate positions, and what is within reach to any employees in the whole job market. Getting 10x or even 50x of the average salary is a viable possibility if you are a talented entrepreneur and if you find and take over your market niche. 

Furthermore, today’s market undergoes progressive globalization: giant corporations acquire a sea of promising businesses to strengthen their position on the market. Therefore, it is possible that one day, in just a few years from now, your startup will draw the attention of a big player in the market. And after signing a lucrative deal, you will wake up as a self-made millionaire with no duties left. And you still have all your life to live! In such a situation, some people still have a craving for pulling off influential projects and launch yet another company, while others decide to retire and the enjoy quality time with their family. 

Of course, this is not the only possible path to becoming wealthy. Climbing the ladder in a corporation, a prestigious consultancy company, or an international public organization, and wisely investing your savings and bonuses will lead you to wealth as well—and in a much less edgy and risky way than running your own company. However, it will make you decades, while setting startup might potentially lead you to big bucks in much shorter period of time (all depends on your market niche, your product-market fit, and a few other, independent factors).

You Don’t Spend Time On Unnecessary Activities

If you has corporate jobs before in which you suffered from an extensive amounts of bureaucracy, content-less daily meetings that prevent your from making progress with your projects, and highly procedural ways of solving every small issue, the good news is that here, this won’t be the case. Quite the opposite: since an early-phase startup is constantly in its survival mode, you won’t have any time to spend on unnecessary meetings and procedures.

Instead, you will need to focus on the core problems, set your perfectionism aside, and find the quickest possible solutions to get over the obstacles and release a beta version of the product to the market. You will improve and upgrade the product multiple times in the process anyway. This concept is known as a lean startup (Ries, 2011)—and is highly successful in the today’s startup culture.

Your Career Doesn’t Depend On Anyone Else’s Opinion

Of course, this is a bit provocative statement—you will always depend on someone’s opinion—as eventually, someone needs to decide to buy your products and services. However, if you are a startup owner, your career never depends on the opinion of one person. Company employees often experience the ceiling effect when their bosses don’t let them get promoted. Academic researchers often get their wings cut when some anonymous person working for a public granting agency decides about their whole future by rejecting their key personal grant proposal. But as an entrepreneur, you don’t need to worry about the opinion of any particular person—you need to only worry about the statistics

Namely, if you present your product to, say, 1,000 potential clients, 950 of them might choose the product and make a purchase, or only 30 of them might choose to buy your product. It is a highly unlikely scenario that none of them will buy—unless it’s a really bad product (well, in that case, you better reconsider your whole business model…). 

In general, your company revenue will be proportional to the quality of your product and to your outreach—namely, to how many potential buyers within your target group will learn about the product. It will never be a binary outcome of the decision taken by one anonymous “expert” whom you have never met. In that sense, the probability that as a business developer, you will be blocked for development by someone else’s incompetence, is low.


Star Qualities

In business, the meaning of star quality is quite different than in other working environments. Namely, in entrepreneurship, you primarily need to be authentic. What does that mean? Well, it’s hard to give an encyclopedic definition… You are authentic when it transpires through your words and behavior that you have a real purpose and drive. This drive is contagious—it inspires and infects others with enthusiasm for your story, your vision, and your product. 

To become a successful entrepreneur, you also need to be a little bit of a visionary: able to take a helicopter view at problems and predict future trends in your field—at least to a certain extent. You also need to appear intelligent, for instance by presenting a good sense of humor and making good connections with respected people. 

However, being a visionary is not enough to become a successful entrepreneur. As mentioned before in the chapter dedicated to creators, people such as Elon Musk not only have big dreams but are also pragmatic and down-to-earth. They have a perfect understanding of how to develop their product from scratch—they just choose to delegate the work so that the company can grow faster than it would grow otherwise.

Lastly, you need to have the perseverance to get far. Developing a company is a marathon and you will balance on the edge for a long time before the success eventually comes—even if you have a good product and business acumen. As a leader of the team, you are also a linchpin and mental support for all your team members. You always need to be there for them—and you need to stay strong, positive, and inspiring to them no matter how bad you feel on the inside. 

Therefore, it does not come by accident that most entrepreneurs exercise every morning. They exercise not because they have a desire to look like a model, but because they are aware that they will need incredible amounts of physical and mental energy to go through all the obstacles on their way, and being their company and their team to the successful finale. 

Lack of Work-Life Balance

Most entrepreneurs work 24/7—especially in the early phase of the business, before securing a seed investment or developing a stable revenue stream. You need to be available for your team and answer questions from all stakeholders at any time. Plus, you need to be there for your team every single day to build the team spirit. For this reason, many budding entrepreneurs refer to themselves as “married to the company.” Others like to call their company their “infant.” 

The metaphor makes much sense as the company needs constant attention and would soon die without their involvement. Your work-life balance as an entrepreneur can improve later on when your company grows. At that point, you can delegate a large portion of your work to the managers of the lower level. However, for the first few years, you won’t be able to go on vacation without checking your phone every five minutes. 

You might also get surprised by how quickly you become company-centric in the process: after a few months, you start evaluating every task before you get down to it. You ask yourself, “Does this activity serve the company?” You might also start cherry-picking friends and leaning towards those who are on a similar development stage with their own companies—or, those who are more advanced than you. Is this calculated behavior? Perhaps to some extent it is, but this is also a natural behavior when you are on the survival mode. It’s understandable.

Understanding of Value and Equity


Even if you know your craft and work 24/7, it doesn’t mean that you will eventually become successful as a business developer. Namely, successful entrepreneurs are those who get a good grasp on two qualities: value and equity. Generating value is the essence of business: the amount of added value that you can provide will eventually turn into the company profits. Value is often hard to evaluate, especially when we are talking about non-material goods, i.e., services. To assess the value properly, you need to understand the market and the customer. Plus, you need good imagination—especially when thinking about a product that doesn’t exist just yet. Equity means your share in your projects. 

For instance, if your equity share in the company is 5%, it means that you will receive 5 cents per every dollar that the company makes. Full-fledged entrepreneurs are motivated by equity much more than by the salary because they understand its long-term potential. Thus, they fight for equity like lions.

Constant Rejections

If rejection can ruin your day, prepare that you might experience lots of it in business. As an entrepreneur, you’ll spend almost all the time in the selling mode: selling the vision, products, competencies of your employees. And, you’ll hear, “No, thank you!” so often!—at least one order of magnitude more often than when working as an employee. 

For instance, in most online stores, the conversion rate is lower than 1%. It means that statistically, more than 990 out of 1,000 potential clients who view the product decide not to buy. And you still need to attract these potential clients to your website in the first place! Even worse, when you hear “No,” you often feel like a disappointment, not only to yourself but also to your employees, investors, and other stakeholders. Thus, to become an entrepreneur, you need to develop a thick skin against rejection and learn to take it on your chest and keep going.

Street Knowledge

Most entrepreneurs are street smart rather than book smart (although the top entrepreneurs often represent both qualities at a time). Therefore, they focus on the practicalities—theoretical models and considerations are not as essential in business. In business a good understanding of the market, hands-on experience with building businesses, and a broad personal network are much more important than books and formulas. The main reason why it is the case is that, ideas are worth nothing. The whole value of the project is in the execution not in the idea. While during the public education, we often get good grades for proposing ideas and discussing problems on paper. This is an anti-entrepreneurial approach.

Therefore, it often comes as a surprise and a disappointment to highly educated individuals with a solid background knowledge to discover that they are not as highly valued in business as those who never finished the university yet are active in business since ten years or more, and participated in many projects in the process—even if most of these projects failed. 

If you are a fresh university graduate, you will need to accept that regardless of your good grades and your other accomplishments from the past, now you will need to build your expertise and work for your good name in the field from scratch.

Rational Choices When It Comes to Finding Business Partners

In business, you need to become pragmatic and put your emotions aside while making strategic decisions. Green entrepreneurs often launch their first company with a close friend just because they enjoy the accompany of this person and trust them. They ignore that person’s (lack of) competencies, the value that they might bring to the table, and the alignment between their individual business interests. 

These mistakes often lead to failures in the early stage, before the company ever launches its first product. Of course, in business, funding a trustworthy person is important. However, as a rule of thumb, it’s better to reach out to people who are either good linchpins or specialists rather than to those who might be your friends but cannot effectively help you in building your company. 


Entrepreneurs tend to be paranoid, and not without a reason—as long as your work cannot be protected by a patent or by copyrights, it can get scooped at any time. It is because, as mentioned before, ideas are worth nothing without good execution. There is no “code of honor” that would prevent other business developers from adapting your idea if they believe that they can execute it better than you. 

Therefore, if you share your business ideas without rushing to put them to life as soon as possible, you are almost guaranteed to get scooped. Of course, you can’t build the business without telling nobody about what your are doing! Your stakeholders, coworkers, and collaborators need to know. For this reason, you need to build a network of trust—a circle of people whom you trust and support, and who support you. Trust and lifelong friendships are priceless in business!

IP Violations: Prepare and Protect Yourself!

Related to the previous point: once you enter the business environment, you need to beware of the loose understanding of agreements and IP. Many people in this space consciously overpromise to get what they want—especially if they are in an early stage with their projects and struggle with the cash flow. You will meet lots of linchpins who will try to lure you into their projects with their vibrant personalities and ask you to do something for them as an exchange for some elusive shares in a non-existent company. And then, they will disappear with your work, and never contact you again. 

You can also expect that the copyrights will be respected to a lesser extent than in other working environments. Therefore, you should also get familiar with the concept of a Non-Disclosure Agreement (a.k.a., NDA), which is a form of a confidentiality agreement that should be signed before sharing any confidential information essential to your company with external parties. 

Of course, if your product involves some patentable innovation, you should think of filing a patent application as soon as possible. A patent gives you the exclusive right to manufacture the protected product or design for a given period and on a given territory. The patent law is complicated and differs from country to country. Therefore, it is hard to give a short recipe for how to determine if your concept or product is patentable—you should visit a local patent office for this purpose. 

You can also think of protecting your brand by applying for a trademark. Trademark gives you the exclusive right to trade under a chosen name and/or with a chosen logo in a given market sector and on a given territory. Trademarks also need to fulfill a number of requirements, e.g., be unique and distinct from the brand names of the competitive companies in the same sector. If you, however, manage to register a trademark, it will also become an Intellectual Property of the company, build its recognition among clients, and increase its value in the eyes of potential investors. 

Regardless of all the above, it’s also a good idea to get some legal protection for your company, i.e., arrange the liability insurance (in case an individual or another company makes claims that your company caused physical damage to their property), the legal insurance (in case you need to open a dispute against an individual or a company with whom you disagree on the business ground, e.g., your copyrights were broken), and a range of other policy insurances dependent on the market niche that you occupy.

Luck Factor

Similarly, as in an academic career, there is a luck factor associated with building businesses. You might have a great product in your hand, but if you don’t time the market well, you will be still doomed to fail.

You might get a competitor that has a worse product but a broader network, more influential partners, and a bigger marketing budget. And, they’ll eventually take over the market. It might happen that a brand new technological solution released on the market suddenly makes your product obsolete. Many budding entrepreneurs need to try a few times before they succeed in launching a startup.

Rocky Start

It’s not easy to start in this area. One of the multiple reasons is that, as a fresh entrepreneur, you don’t have your safety net just yet. For worse, you might be thinking that you do—only to painfully discover later on that in fact, you don’t. Without knowing the key figures in your field, you will need to rely on other fresh entrepreneurs who are as green as you—and you can experience incompetence and disloyalty in the process. 

The successful, multimillionaire entrepreneurs, who have already developed five or ten successful companies in their professional lives, will prefer to reach out to entrepreneurs with a similarly high status while creating new ventures rather than take a green person onboard. Thus, it will take you many years to gradually leverage your skills, contacts, and status in the field to the point at which you can acquire powerful, accomplished business partners.

But it is not all. For the vast majority of budding entrepreneurs, the major bottleneck is the lack of cash. They all have this big vision and the plan of development on their head, but they lack the cash to put these ideas to life—build the prototype, build the infrastructure, test, and market the solution. They need to use creativity, charm, charisma, personal network and come up with a range of unorthodox solutions to be able to pull off their projects. On the good side of things, this is probably the best way to grow into a strong business developer. 

Just imagine two scenarios. Scenario 1: You need to start with a zero balance on your account and create something out of nothing. And then, at some point, a year or two years later, the cash starts flowing in—either coming from investors or sales. Scenario 2: You get a lavish amount to spend on the company development right from the start, as you find an investor who is willing to invest in your project already in the conceptual phase. So, you experiment by ordering services from the subcontractors whom you don’t even personally know based on a single recommendation, buying expensive courses in sales and marketing, paying expensive content creators and marketing experts… After one or two years, you achieve similar cash flow in the company as in scenario 1—this time, not due to your creativity but due to professional, paid help. 

And then, some calamity comes to the job market, such as the pandemic or any other, external circumstance that wrecks your original growth plans. In which scenario are you more likely to get through this thunderstorm and still become successful? Well, that’s precisely why the best entrepreneurs usually come from modest beginnings.


If you chat with a stranger at a party and in less than ten seconds, the person starts shilling for some product or service, they might be an entrepreneur. Without salesmanship, it is hard to make any business flourish. Some people are born to sell, while others need to learn this skill in the process. Many people are also unaware of their potential as a salesperson. If you enjoy persuading someone else to try something new, you might have a hidden talent for sales! 

Salesmanship is not conmanship—it requires empathy and respecting human nature, understanding the psychological mechanisms that prompt consumers to make spontaneous purchases, understanding people’s needs and motivations, and giving them what they need, when they need it. To become a good salesperson, you also need to understand money: how it flows in the society, how it motivates people.

Trust, Brand, and Visibility

Today, business is based on trust. Consumers are demanding. To buy into your products and services, they need to trust that your services are good-quality, but also that your company is safe for the environment, ethical, and mission-driven. They need to know that you have integrity in your team and what you stand for.

Therefore, as a company founder, from the very start you need to build the image for your company. In most cases, it implies the necessity to build content around the company website, build the social media presence and gain some following, create the mailing list with contacts to potential clients, and take care of the online visibility of the company website, e.g., through the Search Engine Optimization (SEO). First-time entrepreneurs often regret they haven’t thought about those seemingly unimportant details early enough.


As an entrepreneur, you do not have a guardian angel. As mentioned before, the business environment is a type of a fluid environment, in which the rules of the game are not clearly defined. There is no script or scenario to follow. Your progress can be highly nonlinear, and it is not obvious what steps will bring you closer to your goals. 

And sometimes, you can hit a jackpot and teleport straight to stardom. You need to rely on your instinct, read people, foresee the bottlenecks, track the progress in your field, be a bit of a visionary, and adapt to the situation as quickly as possible. You need to be present and mindful. It is hard to achieve this state of mind as, at the same time, you are under constant pressure coming from multiple directions. 

Furthermore, since you are the head of the project, you are in the spotlight. You cannot reveal your stress and negative emotions to “your” people. Therefore, you will need to learn how to handle your mental health and how to find your inner peace—as was well explained by Mark Leruste in his TEDx talk. Many people depend on you and your peace of mind! For this reason, many entrepreneurs develop a special routine: they read, meditate, or practice yoga to increase their resistance to stress.

Control Freaks Won’t Survive For Too Long


As an entrepreneur, you need to delegate tasks. You need to find the right people and to explain the tasks to them—and then monitor the progress and make sure that they have enough skills and motivation to do the job. In the early stages, you can supervise the process, but while the company grows, then sooner or later, you’ll find yourself in a situation in which you need to trust your people to do the job without your involvement.

There Is No Free Lunch

Actually, it might be true in every working environment, but you will feel the consequences of this fact on your skin in business more than anywhere else. Whoever offers you a favor as an entrepreneur has some reason behind it—either directly or indirectly. To those who are empathic and altruistic by nature and who are willing to sacrifice more time and effort to projects than they need to, this cannel to lots of disappointment. 

You’ll also need to negotiate every payment for every service you ever deliver—you can take nothing for granted. If you don’t negotiate your terms right at the start, it probably means you will eventually get nothing for your work at the end— you will just hear that “you input is highly appreciated.” For those who don’t have any experience with negotiating deals, it might be a hard call


As an entrepreneur, you need to become even more conscious about the law—and in particular, about the corporate tax law—than as a freelancer. Even at the stage of setting the company, it is good to be aware of which company structure will be most beneficial for you, even the scope of operations and the stakeholders. 

The tax regulations can be complicated, especially if you offer your products and services internationally. E.g., in the European Union, you need to charge your customer sales tax according to the local tariff in your country or in the customer’s country of residence, dependent on what type of product or service you sell. The tax law also changes from time to time—and it can be costly for you once you make a mistake. 

In the United States, on the other hand, there is no sales tax, but instead, there is the state tax, which every state collects separately. Overall, the taxation system is complex worldwide. For this reason, you should hire a tax advisor as soon as you can afford it. Still, it’s a good practice to keep track of the local taxation rules as tax advisors can also make their mistakes.

Also, mind that in most countries, all companies are equal to law enforcement. It means that penalties for breaking the tax law are the same regardless if you are a multi-billion dollar corporation, a non-profit, or a modest sole-proprietorship that barely meets ends. Therefore, making mistakes in tax declarations might wreck your budding company big time.

Pulp Fiction

The public perception of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship much differs from reality. Your distant family and friends will probably believe that you sleep on money—while, in fact, at least for the first few years, you need to worry about your empty fridge. They will think that you have an easy life simply because you don’t have a boss. While in fact, you spend your days running in panic between your employees, investors, and clients, and trying to make everyone happy.

Moreover, you should appear successful—a long time before you actually become successful. The crowd loves success stories and the tales of hardship, internal battles, and ultimate wins—but only when they are told in the past tense. Successful entrepreneurs tell the public about their shaky beginnings to build public trust, but they never mention about their current problems. If you openly announce that you are depressed and your initiatives don’t work, no one will be willing to work with you, invest in you, or buy your products. It’s the hypocrisy, of course, but these are the rules of the game that you need to accept.

Even More Pulp Fiction

Related to the point raised above, entrepreneurs often exaggerate to appear more successful than they are. You need to take this into account while interacting with other people in this space. 

For instance, when you hear, “We work with subcontractors,” it often means, “We order stuff on Fiverr.” When you hear, “We are already profitable,” it often translates to, “We just managed to land our first client yesterday.” When you hear, “We have a vision,” it often just means, “We don’t really know what we’re doing but our motto sounds cool enough, we’ll figure out the details later.” Lastly, if you hear, “I’m a serial entrepreneur,” it might be a euphemism for, “I’m trying again and again, and I go bust every time. No idea why.” 

Therefore, you should always take what you hear with some healthy distance. People who brag the most about what they are doing, are not necessarily those who are the best experts. It takes years of experience to learn how to tell the difference between those who are real gems, and those who oversell what they do.

Could You Help Me?

As a budding entrepreneur, you will often need to ask for help. Growing a business on your own is almost impossible. You will need to get over pride and ask family and friends to help you on many occasions, especially in the beginnings. It can involve asking for advice, contacts, recommendations, feedback, spreading the news, linking your website on their websites, financial help, or just mental support. 

And sometimes, even asking for food when the situation requires. Many budding entrepreneurs have a mental blockade when it comes to asking for help. The good news is, at some point your empty fridge will win and you will learn how to ask. The sooner the better though. 


Well, in business, new opportunities are never really announced. It is all about spotting the opportunities all by yourself at the right time and finding the right people to go with. You need to know yourself and your boundaries very well to estimate if you are capable of pursuing a given project, and if you can aggregate all the necessary know-how and resources within your network to successfully bring this project to the end. 


Starting On Your Own

Even now, in the 21st century, many successful startups are still born in a proverbial garage. You can start on your own, especially when your business idea is based on building new Intellectual Property (e.g., new algorithms, software, methods, editions materials, and other forms of original content) rather than building costly, specialistic solutions such as prototypes of new machines or developing new drugs.

Many budding entrepreneurs are able to start their adventure with business by side-hustling. They keep their day jobs and pursue their business full time only when it starts generating first profits. They also often make use of “3 Fs,” namely “Family, Friends, Fools.” It is a colloquial expression to describe borrowing or receiving money for business from the closest people who believe in you, and from the types investors who like to gamble on first-time but promising entrepreneurs.

Angel Investors

(So you think that) you have a perfect business plan in you hands, but the “3 Fs” strategy didn’t work for you? You might consider contacting angel investors through your network, dedicated platforms, or specialistic agencies that match startups with investors. In every country, there are dozens of such agencies. 

There are also multiple online platforms dedicated to this purpose. They work similarly to job boards: you can create a profile for your startup there, explain your project and its goals, and in that way, expose yourself to potential investors who might contact you.

Grant Programs and Open Competitions Organized by the Government

If you need cash for launching your project, you might also consider participating in open grant calls announced on the local, national, and international level. There are multiple programs available at any point in time, and they usually don’t involve giving away any shares in your company. It might give an impression that free money is just lying on the street waiting to be picked up. 

However, mind that in most cases, winning grant competitions is not as easy as it might seem. Firstly, grant proposals are assessed by committees which rate proposals according to some internal guidelines. There is usually a list of mainstream topics that are promoted and supported more than others as the government believes that they are currently more essential to the economy than other topics. 

For instance, in 2020, the number of public grant programs dedicated to designing new vaccines and new education programs aiming at promoting diversity and inclusivity has largely increased due to the socioeconomic situation. Currently, disciplines such as, e.g., AI, machine learning, cryptography, quantum computing, ecology, are also on top. 

If your business plan does not fall into any of these categories, chances are that your grant applications will be rated low. Remember that in the public grant programs, the money-making potential of your project is secondary compared to the societal implications of the project—and these are subjectively assessed by a number of anonymous experts whom you will never meet. 

Moreover, today, most companies and public institutions hire professional freelancers and professional agencies to write grant proposals for them, e.g., in an exchange for a commission root the grant. There is a whole industry around it! Public grant proposals usually require writing between 20-100 pages of text (that’s no joke!). 

It means that you might waste a month of your life to take part in a competition in which you don’t stand any chances right from the get-go—as you compete against teams of professionals who went through the process hundreds of times and know perfectly well what jargon and arguments will score the most points from the jury.

And even if the miracle happens and you land your grant, then usually, it is only the beginning of your effort. Public grants usually require regular reporting the progress, the milestones and the results until the end of the project. The reporting in itself can become a full-time job!

You could also consider participating in open competitions for startups organized by the government. Usually, these competitions require less effort than grant calls. You need to apply and if you are invited to pitch, you can give a presentation about your startup in front of the committee and live audience—with a chance of winning an equity-free prize (which can be as high as $50,000 or more). The downside of this option is that, usually, hundreds of startups compete for the same prize. 

Startup Accelerators

Are you afraid of embarking on this journey alone, without professional help? You can also choose to start your entrepreneurial journey from joining a startup accelerator. Most accelerators are private ventures, but these days, universities and other public institutions often promote entrepreneurship by opening their startup accelerators too. Most public accelerators usually will accept you without asking for a share in your company, but also won’t offer you cash. 

On the contrary, private accelerators will usually offer you some small investment (in the range between $50k-200k), but at the same time, reach out for a little piece of the pie—usually 3-10% of the company. It is your call which path to choose. 

However, mind that private accelerators are run by experienced entrepreneurs who built successful companies before, while public accelerators are often run by workers of the public sector who have theoretical, university education about economy and never built their companies before. Additionally, owners of private startups have more direct interest in helping you to eventually succeed as they hold a small portion of your business. Therefore, no surprise that statistically, more startups originating from private accelerates eventually succeed in the market as compared to public accelerators.

Mind that some international, private startup accelerators have a long record of successful investments and might be very hard to get in, e.g., Y Combinator (mostly interested in new online platforms and new technologies), TechStars (mostly interested in innovation in IT), or Shuttleworth Foundation (mostly interested in projects that evoke a social change). Still, the application procedure is usually very simple and won’t cost you more than one evening—and, people who work there have a good eye for opportunity. So, if you are up to something, they might actually spot you among thousands of other applicants!

So, what can startup accelerators offer you? Well, you can get helped with drafting your business plan, and conducting your market research. You can also get trained in pitching to investors and get an opportunity to present to private investors. 

Last but not the least, in a startup accelerator, you will be surrounded with other startupers who are at a similar stage in their development as you, who think alike, and who can understand your struggles. This is an invaluable mental support—especially given that, as mentioned before, most of your family and friends won’t understand your problems. 


Freedom Is the Religion of Business

Against the common stereotype, most entrepreneurs are not motivated by money, but rather by the possibility to gain a high level of personal freedom and personal safety. Getting wealthy is only a means to achieve this ultimate goal. As Kevin O’Leary famously said, “Salary is a drug they give you when they want you to forget about your dreams.” Entrepreneurs highly value personal freedom and mobility. Yet, most entrepreneurs don’t drive Rolls-Royce cars nor live in mansions with swimming pools. They tend to be modest, down to earth, and far from showing off their wealth.

Customs Aiming to Build Trust and Team Spirit

As mentioned before, business is based on trust. If you establish your company with the wrong person, it is instant death to the business. If you don’t deliver to your clients at the quality that you claim to deliver, it is also instant death to the business. If you inflate your numbers when pitching to an investor, it is instant death to your relationship. And so it goes. In business, loyalty is crucial. It is often the case that those who are not necessarily the brightest and the most hard-working, but stick to the right people and are loyal to them, get rich and wealthy.

Acquiring business partners also requires trust. Therefore, entrepreneurs exhibit a range of group behaviors that help them build trust in the team and celebrate every little success. Storytelling is cultivated. Therefore, if you are a good storyteller and can tell good, ice-breaking jokes, it will help you in making business deals. Moreover, many business meetups are late-night events. Thus, if you are a morning lark who avoids social gatherings, you can miss out on a lot of opportunities.

Strong Belief in the Karmic Energy

In business, the ability to play a long-term game and avoid conflicts on the way is essential. Everyone knows everyone in your field. Thus, if you have any personal disagreements, it is better to prevent bloodshed and walk away. Sooner or later, you’ll always bump into the same people again, and they can make or break your future business deals. Therefore, diplomacy is an essential skill in business. 

Entrepreneurs often have a strong belief in karma—they fear spreading bad karma like it was a fire. Even if they are not religious in the traditional sense, most entrepreneurs just believe that karma always comes back. For instance, they often walk back from making shady deals, even if it might lead to some missed profit opportunities. They also often become philanthropists and actively contribute to charities for this reason.