Alexa Seleno

The cost of dreams: Startups

Startup companies have become common in today’s world, as a matter of fact, it can sometimes feel like there is a new one everyday. A new streaming platform, a modern shoe brand, workout and dietary regimes, etc, the list goes on and on. So many put themselves out there in hopes of becoming the next big thing on the market, yet about 90% of startups seem to end in failure (1) .

One might be inclined to think: “Well that makes sense, right? There can’t possibly be enough space for everyone to succeed!”, and while there is some truth to that statement, the reality is that market saturation is not the number one reason as to why startups fail, nor is it being outcompeted by bigger brands, or even a byproduct of selling a faulty product. The number one killer of startups is lack of funding, and depletion of capital; but why is this? Are startups just burning piles of cash? Do new CEOs just not understand how to utilize their resources? To answer these questions let’s first talk a little more about the reality startup companies face on a day-to-day basis.

While startups face a great deal of challenges similar to that of your standard company or business, most times these are amplified in a startup setting, while others are entirely stemmed from such an environment. Here are a few examples:

1-Time Management:

In a situation where the choices you make have to be done fast in order to maintain steady growth, audience interest, or investors’ happiness, time is the single most important asset a startup team has to manage. Whereas other more established businesses might have the resources to take a project slow and carefully, startups ever get this privilege. This typically results in l\long hours and extra unpaid time required for a project to succeed, all with half, if not less, the resources a project might need. It very much turns into a “grind” in which the workers have to not only rush a project, but do so while avoiding any of the issues that come from doing so. This typically results in stress, anxiety, and burnout.

2- Resource Distribution

It is no secret that startups have a limited amount of resources, be it time, as previously stated, money, team size, work space, etc.

Having to work with so many constraints forces startup business leaders to make cuts in team size and payment, while still being put under the pressure of delivering a full project. When your business depends on satisfying customers and investors in order to stay afloat, limited resources becomes part of a long list of logistical nightmares to deal with.

3- Marketing Strategies

With both time and monetary constraints, yet another adversity presents itself: marketing. While marketing successfully is a challenge all companies no matter the size face, startups have it up a notch in terms of difficulty. Marketing not only becomes a matter of finding the best way to be attractive to new customers in order to grow, but it also becomes an issue of how to stand out in a sea filled with big fish. When you have multimillion dollar companies spending exorbitant amounts of money on TV commercials, virtual ads, Superbowl half-time shows, etc, how can a fresh business with limited resources and scarce following stand out and grow? Truth is, startups are forced to develop new and interesting ways to promote their business if they aim to succeed. They’re put in a situation where they have to change the marketing game before anyone else and hope their efforts pay off, with no guarantee it will mind you.

4- A Niche

Nowadays there’s a business for everything. Startups can’t afford the luxury of developing their business in a general market and instead have to turn to specific niches that haven’t yet been fulfilled. If this weren’t difficult enough, they also have to compete with every other startup clinging to similar ideas, and hope that big corporations don’t decide to take an interest in their niche, essentially running them out of business. Making sure that you find a niche and stick to it is one of the most essential tasks at the core of startup success, but it is also one of the hardest. The moment your audience doesn’t resonate with your content/product, you’re one step closer to the door

That’s a lot to take in isn’t it? I mean with so many hurdles along the way why even attempt to launch a startup in the first place? It seems insane, yet, there are many people out there taking this route. It all boils down to passion and commitment.

When you’re so enamoured with an idea, a project, something you can offer to the world that you know deep down inside you can change the world for the better, it seems insane not to try it. If anything I’d call those crazy enough to go down this route brave, for they have taken a chance on their dreams despite the hellish road that awaits them. Because even when put face to face with a nightmare, they choose to instead believe in their dreams and brace the storm.

At the beginning of this I promised I’d tell you the number one reason why startups fail, it’s simple really: money runs out. A project is too expensive for a team to work on, investors drop out after failing to see the future of a company, the expenses overcome the earnings, you get the point. To put it simply, the dreams of those brave souls weathering the storms end up becoming worthless to those looking in.

If you could, I’d like you to take a second and think about how many great minds and ideas have been thrown to the wayside, how many visionaries have had their ideas shut down by advisory boards, how many improvements we have missed out simply because “it wasn’t worth the money”. Personally, such a thought haunts me. To know that great minds are denied an opportunity in the name of “good business choices” is frankly infuriating. To look back at the grand designs of Nikola Tesla and how they were labelled “far fetched” despite the influence we now know they could have had, the impact they would’ve had in the world. I can’t help but ponder on the unsung Teslas of our time.

So, in the off-chance that any investor is reading, or that this reaches someone in a position to help a startup business grow, I’d just like to ask you one thing: How much do your dreams cost? And after you’ve given that some thought I’d like to invite you to put yourself in the shoes of that starry eyed entrepreneur that came into your office with their heart on their sleeves, asking for help. Think about their dreams, what they cost, how you can make it better, how you can help, how you can say something other than “no”.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
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