Is "entrepreneur" a dirty word?
Imagine it, the year is 2038 and your 10-year-old turns and asks you “what did you do for a living years ago Daddy?” & you sit young Tommy down and regale him with all the stories about how you were a wonderful entrepreneur, that you broke new ground and did things the world had never seen before. You expect his little face to light up as you list your accomplishments but instead he turns away disillusioned, bored by your answer before replying: “Isn’t everyone an entrepreneur now though?”
Timmy puts his head back in his iPad without another thought to the subject while your entire world has been shattered. It took a 10-year-old to tell you something you should have already known, you are not an entrepreneur. You are full of shit. Cue a mental breakdown, a messy divorce and now Tommy gets to have Christmas at two different houses every year.
This is what the world is going to look like in the not too distant future. Everybody is an entrepreneur now and if they aren’t they are probably in the process of getting there through a side job, their blog, Instagram, Depop (excuse me while I vomit), YouTube channel, cryptocurrency seminars, fitness classes, influencing or something else. People are so terrified they will be the ones to miss out on this hustling bubble that they have started referencing themselves as entrepreneurs like that means something when in fact all they have managed to do is turn a word I once respected into something I now despise.
There is a very simple reason for this and our idiot snowflake generation is to blame. According to the Wall Street Journal the number of people under 30 who own a business has fallen by 65% since the 1980s and is now at a quarter-century low but that has not stopped millennials from claiming to lead the way in entrepreneurship. Every hot girl that starts a blog claims herself to be an entrepreneur. According to the highly respected Roy Morgan Research Agency, nearly 90% of female Instagram users with followings that exceed 1000 people, identify themselves as “entrepreneurs”.
Men are even worse than this. The same study confirms that millennial men are looking for the “steadiness” of a job opposed to the risk of entrepreneurship. They want the so-called glamour of entrepreneurship but not enough to walk away from their safe 9-5 where they have the next 40 years of their vanilla life planned out. There’s a genuine term linked with it called “Wantrepreneur.”
These are the people who want “it” but aren’t willing to do what it takes to get it and to keep it. It is the easiest thing in the world now to declare yourself an entrepreneur, you can fake it pretty easily. How many Snapchats/Instagram stories do you see a day of people either going to “meetings” or have some exciting news coming up that they just can’t tell you about yet? Probably because of the time difference between them and their Chinese supplier.
It is easy to spot who is in it for the love and who's in it because it's a trend. If I told you I was a rapper, you could easily see that I was not. Entrepreneurship is hidden, and you can look the part. You can go to the conferences and look the part. Instead of doing this, go and figure out who you really are instead of who you think the gram wants. Ireland is currently going through a strong phase of hatred for “influencers” and there is a good reason for this. A lot of them just seem entirely detached from reality and are more interested in portraying this “show” of being an entrepreneur than actually accomplishing anything.
The majority of people can see through this, hence the “get a real job” argument” that dominates the comment sections on the majority of posts you see online (For the record, I go back and forth on the argument, this blog generates a huge amount of traffic for Avalanche so I am technically in the blogger camp, I even get free stuff from companies so I may actually be in danger of influencing some poor soul myself. That being said, this is my first time blogging in nearly 3 months, so my real job comes first but I can see the merits of both sides).
This era of Instagram entrepreneurs really cheapens the entire process for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have the utmost respect for anyone who goes into business and has the courage to back themselves. There are people I don’t even like, but I respect for having the spine to go for it, but don’t run Instagram stories declaring that you are starting “another” company. You are getting a website designed lad, sit down. You’re not Elon Musk and therein is the problem.
I see my feeds dominated by people making videos about the “multiple six-figure businesses” they run all while travelling the world and it nauseates me. I have to call bullshit on this, because you would not be selling rehashed videos at €30 a pop if this was the case, you would just be getting on with your business, but no, who wants to do something good if they can’t tell the whole world while they are at it? More importantly, anybody real that I know who has been successful does not feel the need to showcase it, if anything they are humbled by it because they know the journey it has taken them to get to the top of their field. Everybody thinks they are going to be Zuckerberg, everyone thinks they will build Snapchat, everyone thinks they have the next big thing (myself included) but it just does not happen that way.
Data shows that the majority of people will not succeed when building a business and I don't meant to be downbeat, but the 75th employee of Facebook will make more money than the founder of 95% of companies that will be created in the next 30 years. The one piece of advice I give anyone who is going into business is to cut your expectations in half. The world is just not going to care about your exciting new venture as much as you do. In many ways, becoming a successful entrepreneur is a lot like becoming a professional athlete.
Athletes train for years - though only a few ever make it to sport’s highest tier - in the same way that entrepreneurs work away at ideas that are much more likely to fail than to succeed. So, if you wouldn’t think that a few hours of soccer practice would grant you a spot alongside Lionel Messi, why on Earth would you think that building a successful business could be accomplished on the merits of an idea alone?
The sad truth is that, in 99% of cases, being an entrepreneur is hard. It can be back-breakingly, mind-numbingly hard at times, and really, if you aren’t questioning your sanity every so often, you probably aren’t doing it right. Wantrepreneurs need not apply, so check your expectations of a quick and easy ride to the top. That is why this era of fake Instagram entrepreneurs is so frustrating, they are all buying sprinting shoes when they should be prepping for a marathon. They all need to get there first, to show the world how great they are, it doesn’t matter if it’s bullshit, it will look good on the gram, right?
Most of these people are in their 20’s/early 30’s and would happily sell whatever shred of integrity they have left for some more teeth whitening strips because they think that is what being an entrepreneur is.
The fact that we so saturated with instant news all day has also led to this unrealistic picture of entrepreneurship. Every time an entrepreneurial success story (particularly an Irish one) hits my radar, I’m always happy for the people involved who have seen their dreams turn into something bigger than themselves. It’s incredibly rewarding to bring a product or service to the market and see your ideas rewarded so whether it’s my success or someone else’s, I get a thrill out of seeing entrepreneurs do well & achieve their goals. However, it’s also frustrating to see media sources focus on these entrepreneurial successes and not the tremendous amount of hard work and effort that’s gone into reaching these heights. Take the founders of Instagram as we are on them, who cashed out with a $1 billion acquisition from Facebook.
Plenty of mainstream news sources wanted to paint them as “tech whizkids” who struck it big with a lucky idea. Very few of these stories pay more than a brief lip service to the hours upon hours of brainstorming, planning, testing and promoting that would have gone into their eventual success. As a result, too many people see an unrealistic picture of entrepreneurship as something that anyone can do. They see the big wins, but not the mountain of resources & effort that goes into making a business venture successful.
Realistically, this isn’t the case - entrepreneurship, like any other career in the world, isn’t the right fit for everyone. In an age where attention spans are dropping all the time, Vloggers & YouTubers have popped up as a new profession, and rightly so, quality video creation, and production is among some of the most time-consuming stuff you will do but as ever, our idiot generation has fucked it up. Vloggers and influencers are all showcasing all the “epic” stuff they are getting up to.
This, is of course a problem in of itself, because if all days are epic then it stands to reason that no days are epic. You see idiots dying because they climb skyscrapers for content and the need to get more dangerous for clicks is getting out of hand. This is how kids now consume content, television is dead. YouTube is now king (Check Jack Whitehall’s recent move to a full-blown YT channel instead of TV work), and they are being exposed to all types of unhealthy idols.
We now live in a world full of celebrity vloggers like Logan Paul. I genuinely did not understand why people were so shocked about Logan Paul’s dead body video. I, along with 99% of the world was of course, horrified but did you honestly expect a camera-toting Logan Paul to stumble across a dead body in a forest and not post the footage he took?
That isn’t how YouTube - at least the YouTube built and inhabited by superstar vloggers, who’ve built small empires on posting, and dramatically overreacting, to every little thing that happens in their day-to-day lives works. In this new fake entrepreneur world, the more shocking a video, the crazier the title, the clickier the headline, the thirstier the thumbnail, the better. Logan Paul’s legions of fans watch his videos because they want to see his reactions. They want to know exactly what he’s thinking and feeling in the face of dramatic situations. (Situations that, of course, set him up to constantly be one-upping his previous pranks, stunts, and videos.)
It has been put to me to vlog many times, but I don’t think there is anyone in the world who wants to watch me sit at a screen for 12 hours a day (I also, don’t think I would enjoy it as much as writing). That is what real entrepreneurship is, it is hard work and being prepared to sit in and do it for months/years on end. I am lucky in that I get to build things for people every day and I am in high demand all over the world for my talents due to years of building a portfolio. Doing the boring administrative stuff is just as crucial as creative talent to succeeding but that doesn’t make for exciting content does it?
You need to learn how to deal with failures and setbacks but going ahead anyway, I have started 4 businesses in my life and I am proud to say I have a 50% success rate. That sounds good and I tell myself it’s above the standard, but on the flip side, I also have a 50% fail rate. You could literally flip a coin. I will be joining a start-up later this year, so I will either be a success or failure based on this as my 50% rate will shift in one direction, but I am not frightened by that, I am excited by the prospect of learning something new and testing myself in a new business.
This new era of attention seeking entrepreneurs simply cannot dig in for the long haul, one setback and they give up. You ask someone a question on a post that is not 100% positive and you’re blocked and accused of being a bully. I grew up on a council estate as a cry-baby (still am), you have no fucking idea what real bullying is you D4 snowflake, so toughen up. You’re 29 years old for God’s sake. From smashing workouts, to smashing food prep, to smashing meetings, to smashing tying your laces in the morning. Why does everything need to be smashed in 2018? Just get on with it, you don’t need to tell everyone every aspect of your day.
People seem to have forgotten that you learn by listening not by speaking, I spent 12 years reading business books, watching videos and soaking up knowledge like an addict before I became Avalanche and had the balls to tell anyone how to do anything. The amount of 22-year-old business people and marketing gurus on Instagram is astonishing and cheapens the legacy left by the giants of entrepreneurship. It is time to do something instead of talking about it. I believe it is a simple fact, fake entrepreneurs will not succeed because they don’t care enough. They want the quick win, so there are no long-term goals in place.
Followers are more important than cold hard sales. The ROI on social media is still a massive issue for major conglomerates worldwide and this generation confuses 1000 followers with 1000 customers. I have worked with several large influencers in Ireland and some major individuals worldwide and they are all shocked with the ROI on Snapchat/Instagram. People will watch a Snapchat story because it is free, whether they like/trust you enough to part with their cold hard cash is another case. The amount of people I have worked with who can’t make this correlation would astound you.
At the end of the day, the reasons that motivate you to pursue entrepreneurship will play a tremendous role in how successful you become. If you get into the game with money-making as your primary focus, you may find it difficult to sustain the level of energy needed to build a winning organization. On the other hand, if you’re growing a company out of a burning desire to make your world a better place, you’ll never lack the passion needed.
Anybody who reads this blog regularly knows I recently lost and regained this company and it nearly broke me as it is almost my entire identity. So, I know that when it is taken from you, it hurts. It physically fucking hurts. With literally every heartbeat you are in pain. It is comparable to losing a loved one. That is the level of yourself you need to invest to become successful.
The average age for a successful start-up founder is about 40 years old, according to the Kauffman Foundation, a think tank focused on education and entrepreneurship. (In their words, one’s 40s are the “peak age for business formation.”) The reality is that the typical entrepreneur isn’t that person online pretending because they think it’s cool; it’s his mom or dad. The bottom line is this. Entrepreneurship is essentially trading your knowledge, your experience, your wisdom, your time, your weekends and your energy for a slim shot at making it big. It requires incredible fortitude and drive, so if you aren’t in it for the right reasons or willing to ride out the failures you’ll certainly experience, I’d strongly recommend seeking out another career path.
If you are reading this and are intent on proving me wrong, I would be delighted to hear from you, but the fact remains that the media portrayal of young people casting off the shackles of employment to start their own companies is, for now, an illusion. But unlike other popular illusions in the press, rising Millennial entrepreneurship is a vision of the future that I believe we should be hopeful of.
Good for you if you can build an Instagram following but you are sullying a once revered word. I mean, what if Instagram disappears tomorrow? Think of all the “modelling careers” that would instantly end. Who would feed these poor models? Downloads of Facetune would cease overnight. What a terrible idea.
I have no choice but to declare that entrepreneur is now a dirty word.
My snowflake generation has ruined it for me.