Surviving the entrepreneurship roller coaster (Part 1)

Marek

We asked the Managing Director of one of Africa’s biggest online travel agencies, Jovago.com, Marek Zmysłowski, to share some thoughts on entrepreneurship and he gracefully agreed to share tips on how to set, even if the roller-coaster isn’t about to let you catch your breath. Zmysłowski has been involved in different startup growth for several years and we thought he’d be great inspiration to our readers. – Ruth Olurounbi

One of the most important and fundamental experiences I had while I worked in startups at different growth stages was observing how the entrepreneurs evolve with the changes of their business’s life cycle.

Everyone who makes investment decisions is looking for the recipe for an ideal entrepreneur. The person that will always be on the winning side; the person who will achieve a lot; and of course the person that would make the money. The sad part of my experience is that: the more I know… the less regularities and rules I see (I know, Socrates noticed that circa 25 centuries ago).

For sure, I learned that one should not take for granted the enthusiasm and the seeming self-confidence that characterises the early-stages of company making. The entrepreneur has it only when he or she can maintain this state while confronting his/her expectations with the market; when he/she is able to confront his/her illusions with the competition, and with the clients that don’t give a damn about the product.

Every time I see a young (not particularly in terms of age but entrepreneurship experience) self-confident guy, somewhere in the back of my mind flashes the stories from the books about WWII. The stories where young recruits with smiles on their faces are heading for the front while being watched by pitying old sweats.

I often see people who lose their self-confidence – people who start as self-confident players and end up as something that is the antithesis of this attitude. That is probably the saddest part of startups.

The most commonly repeated cliché about being an entrepreneur is to compare it to riding a rollercoaster. Unfortunately, this cliché is true. Permanent up/downs and hope/despair, all of this is too familiar to everyone who wants to make a business. It is especially true when you are an innovative type.

A friend told me once: “I see that you are at the informed optimism” stage. I remembered what he said and it motivated me to give this topic more thought and do some research.

I’ve found a theory, a chart. It is called: Entrepreneur’s Transition Curve. It shows how the attitude of every entrepreneur to his/her business changes with time. It clarifies its transitions in various business stages.

The easiest way to describe it is to use the following chart:
entrepreneur roller coaster chart

One is the optimism that comes from ignorance. The blessed state in which the future is bright: “our idea is groundbreaking and the competition is so weak that it can be destroyed in three days after the product’s launch”.

This stage’s lack of problems (the seeming one of course) is most often due to the simple lack of knowledge. “Lack of knowledge” – it sounds very negative but in spite of that it’s not that negative.

Without that lack of knowledge (ignorance) the majority of great businesses would not have developed. There is a theory that by using only rational criteria one should reject every single new business idea. This initial ignorance is very often the blessing.

To be concluded

Acknowledgments and Sources: I drew lots of concrete info from Cameron Herlod’s blog and I strongly recommend it to anyone willing to dive deeper into the rollercoaster case.

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