Taking the first step is tough but it is up to us to stay strong and open for what is to come. The Singaporean startup ecosystem is vibrant and helpful, but that doesn't mean people don't suffer from burnout.
Here is a open letter to you and anyone else you know who needs this.
Dear new bright-eyed founder,
You are already now a very special kind of person. The kind of person who is willing to follow love and passion. The kind of person who is willing to jump in the deep end. The kind of person who isn’t going to let the fear of failure stop them. The kind of person who isn’t going to let themselves wonder “what if” in the future. You are strong. You are brave.
But you are also going against the grain. You might have already started hearing from nay-sayers. Saying you’re an aspiring entrepreneur is seemingly to some people like saying you’re going to be a rock star or Hollywood actress. It’s certainly not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s not for you. And that feeling like it is you-against-the-world has one major effect that can actually cripple your growth as a founder: it makes you less open.
I’m here to tell you to stay open.
Be open to your idea being challenged.
I know this is hard. But embrace it. Don’t be defensive. Consider it a measure of growth for you to get to the point where you can convince a challenger that your idea is great. And this includes people who aren’t part of what you consider to be your target audience. When you’ve got someone in front of you who doesn’t get your product and wouldn’t use your service, and you have them walking away thinking you have a great idea, you’re headed places.
Be open to facing that you’ve got competitors.
Fight the sinking feeling you get when someone feels inclined to tell you all the companies they know of like yours (even when they are nothing like yours). See it as an indicator that maybe your elevator pitch doesn’t make you sound unique right now. And take note of the competitors you hear because there are some things that you can’t deny they’re doing right. I’ve learned a lot from having people play with my competitor’s apps right in front of me.
Be open to pivoting.
This can be extremely painful. But when you’re starting to drown, get out of the pool. Don’t try to force a feature or product to work once you’ve started to see hints that it won’t. The earlier you pivot, the better off you’ll be. Figure out what’s not working and why by talking at length with people in your target audience. What do they wish was different? Where in the process are they getting lost? Keep the conversations going as often as possible, and you’ll never go too far in the wrong direction as long as you listen.
Be open to mentors.
This one actually kind of shocks me to have to bring up, but I still hear of some founders who are too stubborn or too in love with their idea to listen to the advice of mentors, even mentors they seek out. Mentors are rooting for you. They have seen a lot of startups fail and are trying to make sure you consider everything before making big jumps. Be coachable. See them as someone with knowledge to share. Listen to your gut, but consider what they advise. Mentors are not there to tell you your idea is perfect. Ask them about when you should start looking for investors, and whether you should choose equity or debt financing.
Running your startup is going to bring good days and bad days, highs and lows. Always check in on yourself. Remember your goals and why you’re doing this. Stay open as if no one has pushed you down. We are rooting for you.
Another Aspiring Founder