Should I become an Entrepreneur?

When to become an entrepreneur is a common quandary for many despite popular wisdom to the contrary, age is not a major factor in the decision to start a company. The Kauffman Foundation reports that the median age of founders is 39 right at the midpoint of a typical professional career and 69% are 35 or older.

  1. Do you have an idea no one can talk you out of?

    When you bounce your start-up idea off your spouse, friends and trusted advisors, are they able to raise enough objections that you begin to doubt whether the ideas merit. Getting honest, objective advice can be hard because the people you are likely to go to care about you and may be afraid to tell you what they really think for fear of offending you. Thus, you need to get feedback from objective parties (e.g advisors, experts, prospective angel, VC investors with whom you don’t have a deep personal relationship).

  2. Are you prepared to endure with modest or no salary for a few years?

    Founding a company often means making personal sacrifices and below market cash compensation. All the talks about “lean start-ups” sometimes obscures the practical reality of what it means to eat through your personal savings.

  3. Do you have a partner you trust with complimentary skills?

    Staring a company is a lonely adventure. Having a partner that you can trust and whose skillset and experience is complementary to yours can be a huge functional and emotional benefit.

  4. Are you bored with your current work environment/life situation?

    There is nothing boring about being an entrepreneur. More apt adjectives might include simulating, engross-ing, obsessive, exhilarating, nerve-racking- but not boring. If you are tired of viewing your work as a chore and if everyday is a bit of a grind, then entrepreneurship is for you. I find that the intrinsic motivation behind an aspiring entrepreneur is sometimes the simplest-because it’s fun. Seeking fun can transcend all other factors.

  5. Do you perform best in the absence of structure?

    In my book, Mastering the VC game, I described a metaphor for the three stages of a start-up: The Jungle, The Dirt Road and The Highway. In the earliest stages of a venture – The Jungle- there are no clear paths available and the skills required are to thrive in the midst of chaos. For those who possess that makeup, being a start-up executive is an excellent fit. But for those who like clear paths with little uncertainty and a great deal of structure – The Highway. Celebrating  entrepreneurial success stories in our culture and putting folks like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page and even more accessible, heroes on magazine covers and in front of audiences is obviously a huge factor. Every college kid in America look at MarkZuckerburg (Facebook) and thinks, “Why not me?” Why not indeed?

By Jeffrey Bussgang