By Tiffany Liu (Co-Founder, Logrado)
Ah, the grand lure of a startup company. Companies with young, hip people wearing sneakers to work. All of them well on their way to making millions after just scribbling down one of their brilliant ideas on a napkin while strolling through the vineyards of Napa Valley.
I was intrigued by this seemingly exclusive world that few could access. Here was a world where one could unleash her full potential and build something that would have a positive social impact and reap financial rewards in the process. It was an unbelievably inspiring idea.
The last time I’d felt as inspired was when I moved to the United States as a teenager. I was presented with new opportunities in an unfamiliar country with some of the best educational institutions. I soon came to notice, however, that when it comes to education, not everyone has access to an equal playing field.
I developed the firm belief that education is the key to releasing every person’s inner creative genius and limitless potential. This has been the impetus for my co-founding of Logrado alongside my friend Brian; an attempt to make a difference for aspiring students everywhere. Together, we created a student success coaching platform that allows colleges to effectively engage students and impact outcomes using mobile, social and gaming technology.
By outlasting self-doubt and continuously confronting unexpected problems until you’ve finally generated the right traction, you’ll give your company a far higher chance to succeed. That’s not to say there won’t be tough times; you may find yourself (as I did) sitting in a chair bawling hysterically wondering why you ever decided to create a startup in the first place. This is your chance to step back, sip a glass of wine, and accept the realities of dedicating yourself to a startup.
Reality #1: You will have to make sacrifices.
Your startup will have to be your priority. I’ve said goodbye to vacations and my beautiful condo to deal with the financial burden of my startup. You will have long hours, you will lose sleep, and there will be time away from family and friends. The stress will be high and so will the risks. You will have to change your lifestyle; however, the reward in pursuing your passion is invaluable.
Reality #2: You’ll question yourself no matter how big your ego is.
You will face seemingly insurmountable hurdles along the way, and your convictions may waver. There have been many points where my own passion dims. I’ve found it most helpful to go out for a run when this happens, remind myself of my overall purpose and trek forward with a positive outlook.
Reality #3: You’ll make mistakes, and they’ll make you wiser.
After dedicating many months to a startup based on special dietary needs, I refrained from pursuing it further because a well-known entrepreneur told me my idea would never take off. I stifled my gut instinct and assumed he knew best. Turns out another company did the exact same thing except unlike me, they had successfully raised their first seed round from VCs. I was obviously crushed with disappointment upon finding out; but in that lesson, ascertained the value of truly sticking to my instincts.
Reality #4: You’ll need an army of people to get things off the ground.
There are innumerable amount of things to do in a startup. I consistently face the challenge of determining what should be done with limited time and resources. While I dream of being Superwoman, I realize that even heroes have their limits. It’s important to have a strong network to support, guide and accelerate your vision. Until you’ve developed an established team, look to the people around you for support. You’d be surprised by the help they can provide, one relationship may be all you need to overcome a hurdle or gain the traction you need.
Reality #5: You’ll only face bigger challenges as you move forward.
It may sound cliché but challenges are just opportunities in disguise. The opportunity to be where you are and make a meaningful difference is a blessing and an extremely powerful tool.
Knowing that you are contributing to a greater cause is what will give you the bravery to go against the grain and explore unchartered space. You’ll never regret accepting nothing less than what is truly meaningful and worthwhile to you.
Women 2.0 readers: What have you found about running your early-stage startup? Let us know in the comments.
About the guest blogger: Tiffany Liu is the co-founder of Logrado, a student success coaching platform that uses mobile technology to increase college retention. Upon graduating from USC, she spent many years in business development and sales in the IT industry. Tiffany previously managed worldwide operations for Hewlett-Packard where she was responsible for designing and implementing global operational solutions. She is also a graduate of the Silicon Valley’s Founder Institute. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanywliu.