The Fears of Startup Founders.

Don’t let them stop you from living your dream.


Vidhya Prakash Ravi

3 years ago | 7 min read

Jumping into the world of entrepreneurship is scary. To become a startup founder, you have to sacrifice. Those sacrifices might be small, like changes to your daily routine to accommodate time to work on your startup.

Or they can be significant, like investing your entire savings into something that you hope will change the world. Those sacrifices come at a cost — your free time, your financial safety, your sleep — and you want those sacrifices to be worth it.

My whole adult life, I’ve wanted to be a startup founder — but five main doubts would stop me in my tracks every time.

  1. I will run out of money.
  2. My idea isn’t as good as I think it is.
  3. I don’t know what I’m doing.
  4. I’m giving up too much to do this.
  5. If I fail, I will be a failure.

Finally, the desire to start something of my own began to push me out of my comfort zone and into my fear zone — where I had to learn to make friends with my fears. Despite starting this journey several months ago, nearly every day, I have a moment of panic where one of these fears takes over my mind, and I think,

“I just can’t do this.”

But, the reality is, I can do this. And so can you. Here’s how I talk myself down from the ledge of fear.

I will run out of money.

… and end up broke or filing for bankruptcy. This is particularly scary if you are at a stage in your life where financial ruin could majorly impact not just you but others that depend on you. If you’re like me, you spent time figuring out how much money you needed to get started.

Depending on the business you’re trying to start, you may have been able to save and set up a test budget to create trial products, or a simple MVP (minimum viable product). But there are no guarantees that things will work out, and it’s easy to end up pouring more money into your business than you thought.

If you left your day job to work on this, money might be tight for a while until you can figure out how to make a living off your business. So how can you get over this fear? I did a few things:

  • Decide how much of your own money you are willing to put into the business. Don’t go over that number, ever. If you think you want to discuss it with a trusted mentor or advisor. This way, no matter what, you will not end up in a worse place than you budgeted yourself to be. Yes, that means you may have to give up at some point, but remind yourself that you put thought into what it takes to build a viable business and you tried. If you find yourself with more money, consider your options before you invest it in the same business that hasn’t gained traction.
  • Don’t give up your day job even if you give up your day job. I knew I couldn’t dedicate the time and energy I needed into my business idea while working full time and raising a family. So, after much thought (and monitoring of my savings), I left my full-time job to work on my idea. It was the right thing for me; however, I still work full time, but as a consultant and contractor to keep bills paid. My hours are limited to about 40 hours a week, and my mental energy is available for my startup during early mornings, evenings, and weekends.
  • If you run out of money, it’s ok. If you set a budget and you spent that budget to start your startup, that means you did everything you could to make it a success.
  • Spend as little as possible when you’re starting. Don’t register your LLC until you have to. Don’t buy extra software licenses or access to research until you have to. Hang out on startup forums for advice. Make friends with other founders and learn how they were savvy when just starting. Don’t spend more money on development unless you have to or you know for sure that the extra money is worth it for the end product.

My idea isn’t as good as I think it is.

… well, maybe it’s not. This is a hard truth I had to come to understand.

When I start to doubt my idea itself, I take a moment to consider what early-stage startups are inherently doing: trying to land product-market fit.

If my startup idea isn’t proving to be as good as I think it is, I need to rethink what “good” means to me. If I have metrics in place and they aren’t moving, maybe this is the right time to start pivoting the idea to something that has more resonance with my target (or find a new target).

Another thing I think about is if there are other startups with similar ideas working in a similar space. While some people may find it scary to know that another startup is working on the same idea, I find it comforting.

To me, it means that my idea is generally in the right space; it just isn’t refined or landing exactly where it needs to yet. I can also look at the competition to help me learn what to try (or what not to do) next.

As you start to work on your startup, if you inherently lose passion in the industry or category you’re working in, that may be a red flag to consider. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a founder, but it may mean that this particular space or problem doesn’t have your mental commitment the way it needs to to be successful. Consider pivoting your idea to a new category or deciding if you want to do this for the long haul.

I don’t know what I’m doing.

Of all the fears, this one is the one that hit me the hardest. Over the last twelve years, I’ve quickly started, abandoned, or dismissed five or six viable startup ideas by simply telling myself that I didn’t have the experience to do those startups — essentially, I didn’t know what I was doing. I finally caught on to the biggest secret in the corporate world.

Everyone feels like they don’t know what they are doing, at least some of the time.

This is so true; many companies talk to their employees about imposter syndrome. I had to realize, when it comes to your startup, there is no one better than you do to the job. No one has your vision, your ideas, or your commitment.

And while there may be people that have more functional expertise than you in a given area, they don’t have any more experience than you at doing exactly what it is that you want to do. When this fear hits, I tell myself that it may feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, but there is no one better than me to do this.

I’m giving up too much to do this.

The hardest part of transitioning is staying transitioned. As soon as I let go of my job and started focusing more aggressively on vetting and launching my startup, I got distracted by a recruiter ping. It took everything in me to say no, that I’m not looking for a new full-time role right now.

It’s hard to say no to something that was bringing financial security and known career growth to try something new. For many of us that are trying our hand at entrepreneurship mid-career, we are giving up a lot to do this, and we have to come to terms with it.

At other times, I wonder if the time, energy, and effort I put in on weekends and evenings is worth it. That is time that I take away from my family and friends. It’s time I take away from leisure pursuits like working out or playing the cello. It’s a persistent fear that I’m giving up too much to try to build a startup, but I quell the fear by putting a timer on it.

I have one year to get something off the ground with some directional traction — and if that doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to iterating my product part-time, by going back to a full-time job and spending all of the weekends with my family.

If I fail, I will be a failure.

Failure is hard, but it’s an imminent reality. As a startup founder, it’s easy to associate yourself, as a person, with the failure of your startup. But startups fail for many reasons, and just because yours didn’t (or mine doesn’t) work out, it does not make us failures.

There are few paths in life that can teach you the lessons and or help you gain the experience you get from building, launching, and scaling a startup. You’ve probably built connections and deepened your network. You’re more resilient. You know how to influence and convince.

You know how you get others to follow you. You know yourself, your strengths, and your limitations better than ever. It breaks my heart when I hear from someone who’s startup didn’t work out that they now feel they aren’t going to get a job or be able to do another startup.

As much as being a failure is a fear that lives in every founder, it’s simply not true.

As part of the greater workplace ecosystem, we need to rise up and value the risk, effort, intelligence, and grit that every founder has to go on this journey.


Created by

Vidhya Prakash Ravi







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