Forcing Entrepreneurship Doesn’t Work

I love hearing the origin stories of successful founders. Most people think they’re usually overnight success stories. The truth is that people hear about those founders after journeys that are commonly at least ten years long.

Today I began reading about the background of a founder who reportedly personally realized over $1 billion from his start-up. As I would have expected, he formed his start-up over a decade ago. And it wasn’t his first start-up.

This founder watched all his friends and siblings begin to have professional success while he struggled to find his footing. He felt like he was being left behind. To keep up, he decided to start a company in a space he knew nothing about. He thought it would be cool if a certain product existed. He did no customer discovery before he created the product, nor did he really understand the problem. As one would expect, the product was a disaster and never got off the ground.

He still wanted to keep up with his friends and family, so he started another company—again in a space he knew nothing about. This company had some success and got to seven figures in revenue, but it ultimately folded.

He was making a common early-founder mistake: instead of trying to solve a problem, he was creating a solution and forcing it on customers. He wasn’t passionate about what he was doing; he was trying to keep up with those in his social circle. In other words, he was forcing entrepreneurship and pursuing it for the wrong reasons. That was why his first two endeavors didn’t scale.

He learned from those experiences and changed his approach. He found a problem he wanted to solve, spent time understanding his customers, and started a decade-plus journey to solve the problem. The result was outsize success.

I applaud anyone who wants to pursue entrepreneurship and be a founder. It can be a life-changing experience. Before you go on the journey, consider asking yourself: Am I focused on being a founder or on solving a problem?