Starting up your own company is scary! Your safety net is all gone the minute you decide to go for it, you have days, weeks, months and even years ahead of you with 24/7 workloads, your income will decrease (at least for a while), you'll hardly see your family and friends anymore, and -- if you're as crazy as me -- you might not even know the industry you're starting up in. What's driving you is that one amazing idea, and your strong faith that you can do it better that everyone else!
The risk of failure is massive! In fact, 80 percent of new businesses fail within the first five years, according to a study by Inc. and the National Business Incubator. Needless to say the odds are against you, but still thousands of companies are started every year.
I was terrified of failing
I started Bipper in 2007, and remember it all too well. I was 29 years old, had just finished my MBA, ten days after I had given birth to our third child, our financial situation was the worst it had ever been, and my crazy business idea was a parental control service for children's mobile phones. Much needed, yes, but I knew nothing about neither tech nor mobile phones! Nor did I know anyone who did... Starting the journey to bring my idea of Bipper to life made sense to very few, but I had to do it. If I didn't, how else would I get the service I had searched the world for without finding?
But I was really scared. Mostly of failing... The odds were totally against me. I knew nothing about tech. I didn't even know whether the product idea I had was technologically possible to carry out. The alternative of getting a secure high-paid job was so much easier, but instead I quit the job I was supposed to start after my maternity leave before I had even had my first day. I was on my own, and was officially a tech entrepreneur!
There are many lessons from my entrepreneurship journey worth sharing, but from the early days there are two that stand out. Two episodes that made me confident about the choice I made and do the un-womanly thing of taking severe risks.
Lesson 1: Go for it, or drop it!
My business idea was great! I even had a business plan award to prove it, but quitting my job and going all in was not at all easy to do. The obvious thing was to start my job and work on my venture during the evenings and weekends. I had written my business plan during my maternity leave and had found myself a successful telecom entrepreneur as my mentor. When I emptied my heart to him he responded: "Silje, you need to decide whether you want to go for it or not, because no one will invest in an entrepreneur who runs the business as a hobby project. Set a date some months ahead and give it 150%. If you haven`t had a break through by then, you will at least have tried, and you'll never regret that". Without this advice Bipper would not have been here today!
Lesson 2: Failing is not the end
So I went for it -- 150 % -- but I was still scared of failing. One episode made me rethink things. After quitting my job before I had started, PricewaterhouseCoopers tried to recruit me for a really attractive position. When I told them about my business idea and said I had to go for it, their response was not what I expected. "Great!" the manager said. "That makes you even more interesting. If you succeed we want to have you as a client, and if you fail you have a job with us straight away. That you choose to start this business says something about your character and determination, and we want people like that to work for us." It became clear to me that no matter where my entrepreneurship journey took me, it would be the best MBA in the world.
A few months later I was in a panel together with a seasoned high profile entrepreneur. He had just started another venture and spoke that one sentence that has stuck with me ever since: "It can go to hell, but it can't go much worse than that!"
He was so, so right. I don't want to fail, and I now feel certain that I won`t, but I'm no longer scared of failing. I've made big mistakes in my Bipper journey and learn from every single one of them. Each has made me a stronger and better entrepreneur ready for new challenges.
Silje Vallestad is the founder of Bipper, a mobile safety company offering bSafe, a #1 GPS-based SOS alarm for smart phones, and BipperKids, a parental control service for children's mobile phones. Please like bSafe on Facebook here, and BipperKids on Facebook here.
Follow Silje Vallestad on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bippermom