The startup scene in Bangladesh right now is gathering steam, with plenty of youngsters choosing to skip the corporate life to jump into the risky but rewarding world of entrepreneurship. However, many of them are entering this challenging journey while holding some dangerous myths in their mind as facts. These can easily derail them from the path of success. Let us look into 5 such myths and disclose the truth behind them.
Idea is everything
Someone looks at how Pathao is doing so well (or used to, anyway) and remarks, “I had the same idea years back. If only I had followed on it. I would have been rich instead of Elius.” The problem with such frankly disrespectful statements is that they romanticise the importance of an idea to a ridiculous level, while giving very little credit to execution. However, the cold truth is that ideas are worth nothing. You may think you have a revolutionary business idea, but without execution, that idea has zero value.
Frequently, business success hinges so much more on how you execute your idea than what you choose it to be. For example, some of the most successful ventures in today’s world weren’t “original” ideas at all. People sold things on the internet before Amazon came along. Jeff Bezos just executed it a hundred times better. Search engines were available even before Google, but their founders blew the competition out of the park through innovation and top notch execution. Many of the world’s top car companies dabbled with electric cars unsuccessfully, before Elon Musk came in and changed the perception of electric vehicles forever with Tesla. All these people took a good idea and made it worth billions through sheer executional brilliance. People on the outskirts, those who never had a venture, completely fail to realise just how difficult it is to launch and run a business, and keep it going for years. They think all it takes is an idea. But a smart budding entrepreneur needs to understand otherwise, or he is in for a very scary eye-opening ride after he jumps into his venture.
Someone will steal my idea, so I should not discuss it
This is a variant of the first myth. Many budding entrepreneurs believe that they should not be sharing their business ideas with others lest it should be stolen. Nothing is more ludicrous. The probability that someone will steal your idea and start a business on it is next to zero. Because again, ideas are a dime a dozen. All that matters is execution. Moreover, 99.99% of those around you won’t rush to start a business just because your idea seems great, because people in general have all sorts of reason not to explore entrepreneurship – risk aversion, lack of capital, fear of uncertainty, etc.
The mantra for would-be entrepreneurs is to share their ideas with as many people as possible, so that they get effective feedback. Before launching a business, they should prepare an MVP and test it rigorously. The aim is to get some validation from potential customers before taking the big risk. Fear of idea theft should be left in the backburner.
Successful entrepreneurs are often very young
Legendary stories of university dropouts like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates founding revolutionary businesses have created a universal perception that startup founders are all young, university-level mavericks. However, data does not hold this theory up. In the US, the average age of a successful entrepreneur is 40. In the UK, it is 47. According to Harvard Business Review, amongst the top 0.1% of startups based on growth in the first 5 years, the average age of the founders were 45!
In fact, studies show that the later a person starts a startup, the more likely they are to be successful. This is because, an older person will have had a few years of corporate experience, which will imbue them with the right knowledge and skillsets to excel in business. In this regard, if that person starts a venture in the same field as their career, their probability of success will rise sharply. Domain expertise is one of the most sought-after skills of a founder.
However, this is not to discourage any fresh graduate from launching a startup. Age is just a number, and if the opportunity seems right, it is never too early or too late to do something of your own.
I am my own master
Many, especially jobholders, dream about entrepreneurship because they feel it will free them from being accountable to anyone else. This is another dangerous myth that needs to be dumped. While being an entrepreneur does give you a greater sense of freedom than being employed, you are by no means free from accountability. Firstly, you will at some point in your startup journey need an external investment. The moment you take money from someone else, you are no longer in total control. Don’t believe that just because the investor has 30% and you hold the other 70%, you are the boss. It doesn’t work that way. You will still have to justify your activities, plans and business development strategies to your investor. Aside from investors, constantly tending to your employees and customers will also make you quickly realise just how much you need to regulate yourself if you want your business to succeed. You cannot do what you want and get away with it, without consequences.
Raising funds is a measure of success
Whenever a startup, especially one in Bangladesh, raises a sizeable investment, the market is awash with exalted praises towards the founders. No one is saying raising funding isn’t a good achievement. In a country like ours, it is extremely difficult, due to the limited number of angel investors and VCs, to raise money for new ventures. However, raising money shouldn’t be seen as anything more than an investor taking a calculated risk on you. The game is not won when the fund is in the bank. Rather, that is when the game actually begins. This starts the long and often tormenting road of making the business grow so fast that the investors can be paid back as promised, either through dividends or an exit. Hence, budding entrepreneurs should be wary about getting sucked into the allure of PR and focusing too much on fund-raising instead of building their businesses.
Co-founder of Alpha Catering, Muhammed Asif Khan is striving to leave an impact by working hard and helping everyone around him. For any support or advice, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.