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It’s no small feat to abruptly quit your job and jump straight into entrepreneurship. Yet as a 26-year-old with no more than a Wharton degree and a handful of years of investment banking experience, I traded (pun intended) job security for life on the cliff edge. For the first time, I would be my own boss. Every decision I would make or every opportunity I would choose to pursue was my choice and my choice alone — or so I thought.
Over the past few years, I learned firsthand how being a young, budding entrepreneur is more than fancy board rooms and firm handshakes. If nothing else, I learned that entrepreneurship is about unrelenting sacrifice — of your pride, ambitions, time and basically everything else.
Being your own boss and calling the shots has always been considered the ultimate liberation. The idea of answering to no one but yourself and deciding your own working hours is a reality that virtually everyone climbing the ladder seeks to realize. Through the looking glass, it appears that this may be the case for startup founders. Still, I would argue that this lifestyle eludes the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs, including those that have theoretically “made it.”
Astoundingly, 90 percent of all startups fail, with ten percent crashing in the first year of existence. There are several explanations for this, but the most common include a lack of funding, a weak founding team and subpar market demand. As such, founders are constantly burdened with the prospect of failure and continually work to avoid such a scenario at all costs.
The reality is that — to build a successful business — you must surround yourself with a wide range of stakeholders, filling your days connecting with co-founders and fellow C-suite executives, employees, advisors and investors on a plethora of topics. Whether ensuring that your company remains legally compliant within an ever-adapting regulatory environment or rushing across town to shake hands with even the most likely potential partner, entrepreneurs can sometimes feel more like a taxing internship than anything else. Once you enter the field as your own “boss” and safety net, you quickly see that the most successful CEOs struggle to find a sliver of time for themselves.
Chief everything officer
In companies with low headcount, CEOs are typically the most overworked individuals in the organization. For the most part, every employee or service provider you bring into your business will require a scope of work and job description. Even with a growing workforce, it’s likely that there will still be gaps within the company that cannot (and perhaps should not) be filled. As archaic as it might sound, it’s the harsh reality that some roles aren’t worth hiring for when the workload can be shifted elsewhere internally. Bearing this in mind, it isnt uncommon for odd jobs or tasks to end up on the CEO‘s plate.
As such, it should be no surprise that most CEOs and founders suffer from burnout, with a recent survey finding that the condition impacts 66 percent of business leaders. The triggers are no secret: a deep passion for their work, social isolation, limited safety nets and high uncertainty. Employee burnout, as a phenomenon at large, costs the US economy anywhere from $125 billion to $190 billion in healthcare spending, putting additional strain on workers’ expenses and resources.
Growing headcount does not always address the issue of employee workload. I’ve found that the greatest companies are the ones that only grow when the market or product-market-fit developments force them into scaling up. Beyond being an added strain to a young company’s runway, the increased production that comes from an expanded headcount can sometimes be counterbalanced by increased workplace politics. We’ve all heard the saying “addition by subtraction,” but in this case, the addition may come from staying put.
The “why?” factor
While social media has brought about endless distribution opportunities for young businesses and entrepreneurs, it has also become a breeding ground for misinformation and embellishment. One of the least talked about aspects of entrepreneurship, despite being a defining factor of social media, is that you are pressured to appear “perfect” all the time.
There’s hardly any room for vulnerability or personal weaknesses on social media, given that your complete character profile significantly influences whether or not stakeholders believe in your ability to do your job effectively. 84 percent of entrepreneurs agree that there continues to be a stigma around mental health in the startup community, forcing many to suffer in silence.
Unfortunately, or maybe, fortunately, the majority of founders out there aren’t spending their days on an exotic island with a name you’ve never heard of. Instead, most focus on raising that next round of funding or shipping a product or service to market. Most of them also lack sleep, family time and general rest, wishing that their lives were even half as laissez-faire as the masses are led to believe. Founding a startup in a volatile and unpredictable economy doesn’t get you out of the rat race. It just puts you in a more competitive heat.
Earlier this summer, I spearheaded A raise of $26M for Calaxy — a watershed moment in both our roadmap and my professional career. When I learned that this figure is relative to 8 percent of the total venture capital Funding awarded to Black startups for the year to date, this spurred me on to continue my journey as a Web3 founder, despite the challenges I face daily in this role. For those committed to the cause, entrepreneurship is about grafting — not only because it might make you rich or famous one day — because of the rush you feel when you break barriers and see the extension of your creative psyche finally come to life.