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).
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 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.