You aren’t ready to be an entrepreneur

Its been a little over a month since I quit my job and started down the entrepreneur path.  Along the way, I’ve received many congratulations and positive compliments on risk and courage.  The Bay Area is such a great place.  I’ve lived all over the states, and the entrepreneurial spirit here is amazing.  But people’s reactions haven’t all been positive.  Occasionally I hear doubts from others.  Usually they sound something like this:

“Are you sure about that?”

“You are good at some things, but missing other stuff.”

“You’re not ready to be an entrepreneur.”

You know what?  They are absolutely right.  I’ve never done this before.

To date, this is what I’ve done:

  • High school: Run, sprint, jump.  Study a little.  Set a brush fire behind Foothill College.
  • College: Basketball, Starcraft, and more Starcraft.  Look at computer architecture.
  • Grad school: Computer architecture, compilers, systems research. Publish, publish, publish.
  • Qualcomm Research: More arch/systems research.

Here is what I’ve never done:

  • Develop a serious web or mobile app, both front-end and back-end.
  • Build a product.
  • Launch a product.
  • Test a product.
  • Customer service.
  • Raise funding.
  • Hire people.
  • Deal with legal stuff (other than being on probation after the Foothill College incident).
  • etc.

If there was a SAT-prep-like class for this whole thing, I obviously missed it.

Beyond missing experience:  I may also miss certain personality traits.

Beyond experience, there is also what is personal.  As with everyone in the world, I have my strengths as well as weaknesses.

If you subscribe to Myers-Briggs personality types, I am an INFP (The Idealist), bordering on ENFP (The Inspirer).  I am in the middle between the I (Introvert) and E (Extrovert), but very strong in the N (iNtuition vs. Sensing), F (Feeling vs. Thinking), and P (Perceiving vs. Judging) parts of the personality trait.  This means that when it comes to the Sensing, Thinking, or Judging sides of life, I am sometimes not quite there.  My good friends can probably attest to this.

Before leaving work at Qualcomm, we did the Strengths Finder 2.0 questionnaire.  The questionnaire has 34 strengths in it, and it picks out your top 5 strengths.  Mine are Strategic, Positivity, Woo, Ideation, and Connectedness.  Chances are, I am deficient in half of the other 34 strengths.

What else?  Well, here’s a start:

  • I am bad with planning.  But good with uncertainty.
  • I find the mundane to be boring.  But can work passionately towards any mission I care about.
  • I’ve never been much of a specialist.  I’m closer to a jack of all trades, master of none.
  • I think top-down.  Not bottom-up.

What does this mean?  I will excel in some parts of entrepreneurship, and may initially suck at other parts.  So when people tell me I may be missing personality traits that a good entrepreneur should have, they are probably right.

The good news.

Yes, I don’t have the experience.  And yes, I might be missing some personality traits.  The good news is that it doesn’t matter.

I doubt Mark Zuckerberg was ready for the rocketship growth of Facebook. Or expected to be Time Person of the Year at age 26.

I bet that if you point to any successful entrepreneur, they were not totally prepared for their first venture. I bet Steve Jobs and Woz weren’t prepared when they formed Apple Computer. I bet Larry and Sergey weren’t prepared when Google took off. I bet Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t ready either. Most likely, they just worked on something they cared about, and figured out the rest along the way.

Everyone also has their personal strengths and weaknesses.  And all entrepreneurs are different.  I believe the only important thing is to truly understand yourself.  If you understand and acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, you can work with them.  For me, this means accentuating the strengths, working on glaring weaknesses, but most importantly, finding awesome people to work with that cover your weaknesses.

The good part about this entrepreneurship thing, and really life in general, is that you are free to make whatever you want out of it.  There will be supporters, and naysayers. There are things you will naturally excel at, and others that will be difficult. But none of that really matters.  Just go do whatever you care about whether you are prepared or not.

11 thoughts on “You aren’t ready to be an entrepreneur

  1. If you need someone to tell you you’re ready to be an entrepreneur, you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur.

  2. Whomever is telling you rubbish about not being ready is a massive butthole!! Why would someone try to quell the greatness of others. Be steadfast Alex! And prove all of them wrong!

    • Many people do not like someone stepping out of the pecking order. I’ve seen many try to quell the greatness of others until they have “earned” the right to be great. Sad but true. Don’t let it get you down.

  3. I agree with Manish. I’m an entrepreneur, owning my own IT business for 30 years. I know I’ve been released from projects from people that are jealous that I’m independent or that I know the answer where their task force of 5 people researched for 6 weeks and couldn’t get something working. Those people hate brains, organization, honesty, experience, and people that write ‘How To Do Something” down and file it so they can find it again. They hate people that answer their phone immediately and fix things in a timely matter. We’re not like them. I sleep well at night. haha.

    • This is strange. I’m an INFP as well, my dad was a software engineer. I inherited that engineering skill. Have my own startup that is doing well.

      But I don’t have any of these traits Mitchell mentioned. I am smart, but was always a D student (just never saw the point in school). I cannot organize if my life depended on it. Never answer my phone immediately, or file things. I do value honesty & experience though. But never sleep at night.

      Then again, I have ADHD like most of the ‘business entrepreneurs’, and enjoy business. And people like me don’t ‘hate’ smart people. Maybe you should ask honestly why they feel that way about smart people and organization.

      Underneath the business entrepreneurs, you’ll often find horror stories of childhood, endless struggles, being kicked out of classrooms for thinking differently, inability to sit still or pay attention, people always label them as liars simply because they don’t understand. Seek to understand that stuff, then you’ll understand why they resent ‘smart people’.

  4. Hey Alex,

    I somehow stumbled upon your blog by googling “entrepreneur INFP”. I am also an INFP and everything you typed on this blog post connects with me big time.

    I recently quit my career as an accountant 6 months ago and so far it’s been a hell of a ride (good and bad).

    I hope all is going well. If you’re ever in San Diego let’s grab lunch and talk. I’m going to San Francisco next month for Lean Startup Machine, if you’re near the area maybe we can chat there.

    It’s always a pleasure bumping into a fellow INFP, especially an entrepreneur going down the same path.


    • Great to hear from you Irwin! I checked out your blog and looks like you are also having one heck of a ride. It’s difficult, but worth it, right?

      Keep in touch when you come up to SF. I’m a little south of SF, but try to make it up there every so often. I don’t make it down to SD much, but will keep you in mind if I do. In any case, good luck on your journey!

  5. Can you post a status update? One of the most important things towards doing anything is accountability, and it’s VERY east to not be accountable to ourselves :-D. I’m an INFP although my I and P sometimes go E/J. I’m also about to make this leap into self employment and entrepreneurship. I hold you accountable, if you hold me accountable 😀

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