Before succeeding, being a startup founder sucks big time

Update: For greater accuracy on facts, we made minor changes to the fourth paragraph based on information we learned from Alvin Yap.


At the Founder Institute Singapore graduation event yesterday, TMGamer founder Alvin Yap dished out some practical advice to a room of hopefuls who are embarking on their own rollercoaster startup ride.

He’s been there before: After graduating from Founder Institute, his company, which distributes games to emerging markets, has gone through both triumphs and setbacks.

Last we heard from him, the company had about six million gamers playing over 26 games. It also raised $1.46 million from SingTel, Singapore’s largest telco.

Yet he recently had to execute a re-organization to focus the company on key projects which led to losing 40 percent of his workforce. As the CEO, it was a horrible decision that only he can make.

It’ll suck before you become successful.

Alvin shared three stumbling blocks founders will encounter:

1. Nasty relationships

Co-founder agreements are essential. Close relationships may turn toxic once you realize the company has outgrown them.

Ultimately, founders have one singular goal: to keep the company going until success comes to them. That means firing close friends if necessary.

2. Emotional stress and insecurity

What doesn’t kill you fucks you up mentally.

Before succeeding, you’ll wonder why you turned down that lucrative job and have no social life. Pressure aside, the biggest problem you’ll face is insecurity, wondering whether you have the goods to make it big.

“But only you are good enough to take the company to the next level. You’re the light that people turn to. If you’re not good enough, nobody else is,” he says.

3. Flat periods – really flat.

Startups will encounter the occasional spike from being TechCrunched, followed by long periods of stagnation. The key to dealing with this is to celebrate the small things.

Freebies for founders

In addition to the challenges, Alvin shared three things founders will get when starting up.

1. Balls of steel

Founder Institute’s founder Adeo Ressi once told Alvin that as long as you have money for next month’s salaries, it’s really okay. Founders go through shit that other people at their age won’t go through. That builds fortitude. Running a startup comes with a lot of close shaves.

Alvin himself only received investments at the last minute when his company was low in cash-flow. Twice.

2. You’ll get real friends

When everyone is leaving or badmouthing you, real friends will stay by your side. “They’re attracted to your craziness.”

3. Ride of a lifetime

While many entrepreneurs have failed, none of the people Alvin has spoken to would have chosen a different path.

Final thoughts from Alvin

  • Nobody can truly teach you what to do. Being teachable is important, but so is taking advice without losing yourself. Ultimately, you know the company best, so there are certain decisions that only you can make.
  • Take it one challenge at a time. You will faint if you know right away all the obstacles that will come your way. That’s why breaking down large goals down into smaller pieces helps.
  • Have a fellowship of founders. “If there’s nobody who can truly replace you, at least have people who can understand you.”

(Edited by Steven Millward)


The post Before succeeding, being a startup founder sucks big time appeared first on Tech in Asia.
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