This is an ongoing guest post by Andrea Dismont Trott, from our Startup Tribe. Andrea hails from Bermuda with a background in finance. As a breast cancer survivor, she is working on a startup that will assist family and loved ones during similar traumatic experiences.
As an outsider looking in, I had always thought that the startup world was populated by uber smart, geeky, twenty-something year-old men. To me, the startup world was foreign, strange and inaccessible to everyone excluding super coders.
These notions were quickly dispelled over the course of our first weekend with Founder Centric’s, Rob Fitzpatrick, author of the ‘Mom Test’. It dawned on me afterwards that our budding entrepreneurial path is in fact an archetypal hero’s journey. And we, with our varied experiences and interests, are each playing the hero’s part in our own voyage.
What struck me the most about the way Fitzpatrick was leading the weekend, was his humbleness and humour. Fitzpatrick generously shared his own start up experiences including many of his failures, fall-outs with co-founders, and living in a drippy, cold warehouse (just to make ends meet). It seems that the entrepreneurial journey is a bumpy one but witnessing Fitzpatrick’s ability to chuckle at those experiences in a ‘Zen Master Way’ relaxed us and removed the intimidation factor.
I felt even more reassured when Fitzpatrick drew on the Entrepreneur’s Emotional Cycle. According to this model, we are expected to experience alternating high’s and low’s vacillating from “I’m a genius” of uninformed optimism, to “This is harder than I thought”, to “This is the worst thing ever”. There was a unanimous sigh of relief as we recognised how real this was for all of us.
It was cool to hear Fitzpatrick discuss the importance of immersing in community as we sat comfortably in our Brain-Trust groups. I know how important they have been already, and we’re not even half way. I’m hoping we are forging lasting relationships.
I was surprised when Fitzpatrick encouraged us to share our entrepreneurial problems openly with others. “The startup community are surprisingly generous“, he said. “People are willing to help solve and add their thoughts when encouraged to do so“. Being able to listen to others and talk with people is key to becoming a great entrepreneur, and I suspect for many of us, engaging with our customers will push us right out of our comfort zone – this is something I know I will personally struggle with.
The biggest lesson for me that Rob imparted was never to leverage our own house, credit cards or take bank loans. The risks are too high particularly if we want to survive for our next venture. Bank debt sticks forever and there is nothing helpful about being homeless. “Leave the investment to the professionals”, he cautions, ‘who do this for a living and spread their risk across their portfolio”.
The ultimate goal and beauty is to build something that solves a problem that people care about having fixed. Fitzpatrick shared with us a humorous, yet insightful example.
“I’m walking around with broken shoelaces, and someone comes up to me and says, “Hey Rob, I solved your problem, I have created these perfect unbreakable shoelaces, would you buy some?” I would instantly say, “No”. Although broken shoelaces are a problem for me, it is not one that I care enough about to pay money to have fixed.”
After the weekend with Rob Fitzpatrick I feel more determined than ever to start conversing with potential customers. And as exhausted as I felt, when I climbed into bed that night, my mind would not stop buzzing – a bit like an ‘uber-smart, geeky, twenty-something year-old man‘.