(Note: Originally Posted on Medium.com)
The Nontraditional Startup Entrepreneur – Part 1
I am a member of “Generation X”, defined by Google as “the generation born after that of the baby boomers (roughly from the early 1960s to mid 1970s), often perceived to be disaffected and directionless.” It’s a stereotype that many GenX’ers have or had no goals, no direction, no clue what we want to do in life, and actually, for many of us, that is true! I think I struggled with what direction to go until about 3 years ago. But clearly, it is just a stereotype as many members of GenX are in professions they had planned for from an early age or college.
I’ve been unsure about my direction since college. I started out as a math major, then biology. Along the way, I considered being a veterinarian, medical doctor, podiatrist, lawyer, and a pharmaceutical representative. What I actually have done is molecular biology research, life insurance sales, llama farming, web designer, and quality tester — basically all over the place, and so, I could be a stereotypical GenX dude.
Eventually, after breeding/selling Siamese Fighting Fish and llamas, designing web sites for profit, and selling llamas/alpacas in online auctions, I realized I am happiest when I do these types of things and less happy working for others. In other words, I came to the realization that I enjoy entrepreneurial endeavors the most.
Defining the Nontraditional Startup Entrepreneur
The nontraditonal entrepreneur per my definition is anyone that is older than a millenial, currently working full time for someone else, maybe married with kids, and has plenty of responsibilities to deal with but is starting to wonder about being an entrepreneur. On paper, this person doesn’t look fit to be a full time entrepreneur, and although many in this category may have a good startup idea, few will pursue it. And those that do have the odds stacked against them on top of the dismal success rate that is already low for startups. They have more to risk in attempting to do a startup than a traditional startup entrepreneur, mostly financial loss. Also, the nontraditional entrepreneur might find it hard to pack up and leave for Silicon Valley on short notice. And, many of those like me might already have a successful career in a secure, comfy job. Why leave that?
Why Pursue A Startup Now?
Some people are motivated to climb corporate ladders, some are content with a high salary no matter how mundane the job is, and perhaps some just like the predictable. For me, though, none of these options appeal. I work for a company where, if one is motivated, the company is very large and there are many opportunities to climb the ladder. No thanks. I’m just not interested in the internal politics and my fate being in the hands of a hiring team that interviews me and wants me to tell them about a time where I had to convince my boss I was right and spew the details of that in order to move into another position. Secondly, a high salary is great. Many people do not have that, but if the work isn’t rewarding either, for me, that is a waste of my talents. If I am bored, that is not good either. We spend a good a portion of our life in a career, and I when I look back later, if I stay where I am until retirement, I might conclude, “What a waste. I stayed in a boring job that didn’t utilize my skills. I could have done so much more!” That thought scares me. And finally, I hate predictability. My current day at work is very predictable. I know within certain reason that every day is basically the same. I will do what I did the day before. And the day after too. But I imagine a career where it’s not so predictable — that makes things a bit more exciting.
The other reason I would switch now is because I have three projects that are past the idea stage but in different phases and each could potentially be a startup. One is biotech related and two are agriculture related. I am partnering with each of these projects as well. As I mentioned before, some people in my scenario would not act on an idea now. But I am driven by my situation to pursue these projects not for the money but because of the challenge and because they will make things better for the people that would use the services/products of these companies.
In Part II, I will discuss the road blocks I’ve faced on my startup journey and how I am overcoming them.