Two months ago I was applying to medical schools, working at a great biotech company and had every intention to stay on that track. Fast forward two months; I've written off medical school, quit my job, and am a co-founder on an app called Supshot.
It's been an interesting ride so far where I've learned a bunch, and am learning more every single day. There has been a bunch of surprises so far though, many of which I truly didn't expect. Some of them were things I expected, but I was still caught off guard by them in some ways.
Here are the top five things I've learned in the last few months:
1. A start-up will take over your life.
The relationship between founders and the company is very intense. A startup isn't like having a job or being a student because it doesn't stop. It's not an idea that can really be understood till you're in the situation. I spend every hour of the day thinking about working, or actually working on my startup. Most of my conversations with people have started to revolve around it. It's a different way of life when you're working for your own company as opposed to someone else's. It doesn't matter if it's a weekday or weekend, morning or night, vacation or workday, because I'm always in the mindset of thinking how I can improve the company.
2. It's a true emotional roller coaster.
The ups and downs of this lifestyle are not something that should be taken lightly. Things can seem amazing one moment, and then you feel completely hopeless the next. The time period between the two could be less than a day. Of course, what's difficult about it is that you can't predict how long the highs and lows will be. You also have to deal with the lows, because well, they're lows, and it's very emotionally draining in that sense. Also, what seems to be the case so far is that it's like a sine wave. Sorry for bringing in science, but it's the best way to explain it. You have to understand that there are going to be constant ups and downs. The amplitudes of these waves are determined by where you are in the company. In the beginning the highs and lows will affect you less, but as you progress they can be more significant because the project itself is so much further along that each setback hurts more. The thing about it, though, is that you just realize that it's a roller coaster so, like all roller coasters, you can enjoy the ride or be screaming in fear each second of it.
3. It's the little things that count.
It's not likely that one day you'll have some genius idea, and the next day you're having an IPO. There's no magic involved in startups. You have to do tons of different little things. It's much more hustling than people realize, and its not glamorous work at all. Sending out 100 emails, trying to track down what's causing the bugs in your app, doing constant research or figuring out the one error that's completely destroyed your Excel spread sheet is what it's really like. You can be sure that there won't be one small thing you do that ensures your success, so what happens is doing a bunch of baby steps that you trudge along with until something does work. Basically, there is no silver bullet. It takes some time to come to terms with this, but the sooner you do, the better.
4. You must be persistent.
It's a trait that matters more than I realized when walking into this. It's both good and bad how determined you have to be. Persistence alone is what gets you through the tough times because even the problems that seem like they can't be solved end up working themselves out in the end if you keep hammering away at them, but it's bad in that, it's not easy to be that persistent. It's sort of like that saying goes, "tough times don't last, but tough people do." I can't emphasize it enough: Perseverance, perseverance, and perseverance.
5. It's fun.
Here's the good part about it all though: It's really fun. The highs that you experience are very high. I'm almost surprised by how fun doing this is. The uncertain nature of startups makes each success feels monumental. You see something you've built from the ground up turning into something and getting positive feedback, which is joyous. It's a really fulfilling feeling having your own company, and being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Most of all, I love the freedom of it all. Sure, I work more than most people, but I also get to make my own schedule. No one is telling me what to do, and they don't need to either because no one wants the company to succeed as much as I do. It's creative, engaging, and challenging yet extremely rewarding. It's definitely not for everyone, but that's the case with everything.