There is no application for entrepreneurship (and I hope there never is.)

Posted: August 18, 2013 by Kevin Rustagi in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

kevin-RUstagi-hustle-playThere are applications in many areas of our lives. School. Politics. Driving. Grad School. MBA. MD. PhD. Jobs. And heck – even Love (eHarmony).

And of course there are!

I mean – would you want some random person adopting your kid or performing heart surgery? No! I wouldn’t either. I would want someone vetted. Someone screened and screened again.

But there is one thing for which there is no application. Starting a company.

At least in America. If you are a citizen who is not a criminal, who can afford a very small fee, you’re good to go. Success – we can never be sure of that, but when were we ever?

In 2010, two friends came to me to start a company. It was destined to gain, at the very least, significance, though we didn’t actually know that. We were all finishing college, and so we decided to take advantage of programs meant to encourage entrepreneurship: MIT $100K, MassChallenge, Y-Combinator.

We applied and applied until we were blue in the face. And it pushed us to think hard. What is our business about? Do people really want this? Surveys? How do we do those? Who with? How do I pitch this? And we did achieve a few things – office space for the summer in MIT’s entrepreneurship center.  Two weeks left to go before graduation, they saved us from the specter of working from my buddy’s fraternity.

But what about all those other prestigious entrepreneurship competitions that the ‘right’ startups win? (you see where I’m going here.)

We didn’t. Not for a good long while anyway.

But for a solid year + our friends and networks loved us, but we got no love from APPLICATIONS.

What’s more? That lack of achievement and a whole host of other circumstances cost us our 3rd teammate. And that’s OK.  You learn. It didn’t feel good for us either, because no one likes rejection. Getting told no a lot and growing a thick skin, doesn’t mean I like it either. I enjoy winning. We all do.

Rejection is a part of life. And it is also a part of starting something new — especially if it’s disruptive. All along there was that small speck of a really optimistic voice that said, Screw You to the ‘failures’ and ‘rejections’. It told me that the experience of getting told “No” would toughen us up. That it would push us to innovate when we were hungry. That it would make me ‘angry’. The same kind of ‘anger’ (read: failure-driven motivation) that got me into MIT after being deferred.

I refused to believe and I now know for a fact: There is no application for entrepreneurship.

But why am I talking about this at all? Being only two years out of college and I talk to a lot of students, I have been hearing one thing:  “I’ll do a startup…. IF I get into MassChallenge or YC or Techstars or get $100K or my grandfather’s pension fund, etc.”

I threw that last one in to show how ludicrous that statement is. ARE these good sources? Yes! Why not! But should this prohibit you from pursuing your dream, your passion, and your desire to create in an unabashed, crazy, insane way?

NEVER. Yes. You need to eat. Yes. You need to have a basic place to work (if you have employees) – if not you might just work at Starbucks, or a school, or library. My favorite price is $0.00.

But please never let a single ‘No’ stop you from pursuing your dreams.

Go for it. Prove us all wrong. And please – if you want to be an entrepreneur – be an entrepreneur. We’re all excited for your next company.

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