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  • Writer's pictureLaurent Notin

5 Lessons That Can Make or Break Start-ups

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

I have been mentoring start-ups for years, from Cambodia to Finland.

I ha ve always enjoyed the passion, energy and creative mindset start-up founders possess. I’m truly amazed by some of the innovative ideas they can come up with.

Creating a company requires much courage and faith. It’s a jump into the unknown.

The chance of success is minimal, and yet the global pandemic has boosted the entrepreneurial spirit. The number of people who have decided to start the adventure has been increasing over the last few years.

I find it both fascinating and scary. Fascinating, because being an entrepreneur is the toughest job ever. New business owners have yet to realize it. Scary, because I see the same mistakes being reproduced over and again.

Let me share 5 lessons I have learned throughout the years.

Lesson #1 – Prepare For The Long Run

Entrepreneurs usually start from something that does not exist and build it up piece by piece.

The construction never ends though. There is always an extra piece to add.

That is why it is important you first understand entrepreneurship is a journey.

It is like watering a plant. First, you do not see too much progress, but if you continue to do it properly, feed it, and take proper measures to make sure it is growing strong, eventually, the plant will blossom, and you will yield results.

It can begin as a part-time hobby while you are testing your idea, but at one point it will demand that you go all out.

You are in for the long term. It will become your life.

You may or may not be successful, but expecting quick returns will lead to desolation and frustration.

Instead, learn to cultivate patience and resilience. That is how you build an entrepreneurial mindset.

Lesson #2 - Don’t Worship Money

I do not know if you realize we have reached a point where VCs have turned start-ups into commodities for their own benefit.

A commodity is a raw material that can be bought and sold, like coffee or copper.

Is your start-up a commodity?

Well, that is what most start-ups have become though, and most founders do not see it.

VCs glorify money because their job is to get high returns on investments fast. And return on investment is their measure of success.

So they talk about it a lot. Then, start-up founders follow their lead with eyes full of stars. They start worshiping money as the solution to all their problems. All of that is amplified by TV reality shows and social media where being a millionaire seems to be the only criterion to live a successful life.

Are Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates happier than you because they are worth hundreds of billions of US Dollars? Both got divorced by the way.

VCs and other start-up incubators or accelerators have created a system to push start-ups to constantly seek funding. For them, it is a giant supermarket, where they shop start-ups instead of groceries.

They even invented terms for it like unicorns. And the race is on to discover the next one.

For founders, it can turn into a big slap in the face because while they are dreaming about being the next unicorn and focusing all their energy on that elevator pitch they think will change their life forever, they forget one thing: everything else!

Your primary source of funding will always be your customers, never VCs. Instead of preparing for one round of investments after the other, you should focus on building your start-up's foundations.

Otherwise, it is like building a house without foundations. You are doomed to collapse even before starting.

Money is always a means to an end, never the end.