Wannabes exist in any occupation, hobby, profession, or undertaking. It's like a variation on the old joke that people who can't do something, teach it. Except in this case instead of teaching, wannabes talk. And just like everything else, entrepreneurship has its own set of wannabes, which JP Mangalindan at Fortune cleverly calls wantrepreneurs.
He's referring to a certain type of person in and around Silicon Valley:
I'm not talking about the hardworking folks who live and breathe their ideas, sleeping on shared office sofas, paying themselves just enough to scrape by. I mean the rest. Ask them what they do, and they'll say they're working on a startup. Ask them what the startup is, and the answer can be comical. One first-timer said he was still working on the idea, that he'd think about it, and that he'd get back to me. Well, thanks, buddy, but people don't say they're mothers or fathers before they even have kids.
Being an entrepreneur is tough. You can usually bet on very long hours and hard work early on with no promise for success. It can be much more glamorous to imagine that you're an entrepreneur and skip the messy part.
However, the line between entrepreneur and wantrepreneur is blurred. A little bit of the latter won't kill you, but stray too far and you could find yourself one of the modern lotus eaters, stuck in a dazed state while others are off on the real odyssey. Here are some clues that you may have started to step over the line.
- Too much talk--Entrepreneurs are excited about their ventures and naturally enjoy talking about them. Some amount of conversation and discussion is necessary. But talk can drain you of the necessary energy for actually accomplishing something. The more time you spend in meetings, conferences, and networking events, the less you invest on creating the product or service you should be selling, meaning that you stray further from having an established business.
- Too much focus on ideas--How can ideas be a danger? Don't entrepreneurs trade on having a better idea? Yes, to a point. But ask experienced and accomplished entrepreneurs and investors and you'll likely hear that ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is turning them into reality. If you keep focused on the theory of what could happen and not an actual implementation, you never learn what works and doesn't and won't see if your idea can actually sustain a stable business. More doing, less daydreaming.
- Too much focus on raising money--Surely I've gone off my rocker here, right? Lack of capital is one of the big hurdles for the entrepreneur, and I can speak from experience how difficult it can make life. But if you spend all your time raising money, you're not building something that an investor might see as evidence of your ability to bring a business to fruition. If you don't get the money you want, are you going to give up? No? Then actually get to work and raise the money in addition to everything else you need to do.
Notice that all three points involve the words "too much." Not all the inclinations of the wantrepreneur are automatically bad. It's just when they become unbalanced that they can scuttle your efforts. Forget about fame. Forget about prestige. Work hard to bring your sensible idea (and not the pitch Mangalindan got for the "Airbnb for medical scrubs") into fruition. Get something working. Challenge your assumptions. Make your business real.