Entrepreneur: To Be or Not to Be, That Is the Question

By Adriano Blanaru (Wharton MBA 2010)

Last Thursday (Feb 7th) I went to the Wharton Entrepreneurship Conference in San Francisco. The lineup of speakers and panelists was impressive and the discussions were incredibly honest, which is always a good thing.

After being in the entrepreneurial space for a few years, the topics discussed weren’t exactly new for me. The panel “How do you know you are ready to take the plunge?”, however, struck a chord with something I’ve been thinking quite a lot about lately: knowing whether or not you should take the plunge. The panelists included:

  • Alexander Suh, Managing Director, California Technology Ventures
  • Andrew Busey (Wharton MBA 2005), Entrepreneur and Angel Investor
  • Mauria Finley, CEO and Founder, Citrus Lane
  • Sam Allen (Wharton MBA 2006), Co-founder and Exec Chairman, Scancafe
  • Moderator: Katie Knepley, Principal, SVB Capital Funds

It is clear that being an entrepreneur is cool these days, and most people in the space are extremely proud to show their “Co-founder at _______” titles, perhaps as much as Goldman Sachs or McKinsey employees showed their pride not that long ago. Seeing what’s going on, however, gives me the feeling that a huge number of these new entrepreneurs are not built for it, and are doing it for the wrong reasons. Maybe they want to be entrepreneurs because they watched The Network or heard stories about people who made a ton of cash from a seemingly simple app, or maybe it is because their former bosses were difficult, or other reasons around the concepts of freedom and riches. If you are in it for the money, try the lottery. If you are in it for the freedom, try becoming a hippie.

Now, if you really want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be extremely honest with yourself about your reasons, because chances are neither money nor freedom will be achieved. Only a very solid reason or a very strong vision will keep you going when things get ugly and you are tempted to go back running to the corporate world, where you know the rent will be paid and health insurance is guaranteed. The problem is that we only talk about the success stories, and that clouds the judgment of those trying to decide if they should jump into the trenches.

Instead of promoting entrepreneurship to anyone considering it, I think we should promote a careful assessment of whether or not this is the right path. I will propose a rather extreme ‘framework’ for it: You should try your best NOT to be an entrepreneur. Avoid it. If you are tired of your job, try to think of something you’ll like better and go for it. If you see an opportunity or a problem that needs a solution, try not to think about it too much. You’ll have a good life. But if you think the system is broken, or if you can’t think about anything else other than that product you think you should create, and if you see yourself researching your business in your spare time even when Breaking Bad is on, then I’m sorry to inform you but you seem to be an entrepreneur. By all means act on it – and act fast, start right now!

Otherwise, drop the wishful thinking and don’t put yourself through unnecessary hardship.

 

Adriano Blanaru HeadshotBio: Adriano is an entrepreneur and tech professional who has co-founded and run two startups over the last 5 years. Currently, he leads product development at Vuact in San Francisco and acts as an advisor for a number of early stage startups. Before taking the leap, he was in finance for almost 10 years, both in Brazil (his home country) and the U.S.