It is common wisdom that to do a startup you should have passion for your market. But it wasn’t until I did one that I learned what real passion looks like.
It’s one thing to be passionate about something that’s working, about a going concern, about an engine that is turning. It is a different thing to be passionate about something even when it’s not working yet. When you’re not quite at product/market fit. When the users aren’t coming. When the cash isn’t flowing.
Every startup—I think every ambitious creative endeavor—goes through this. Everything looks like it’s failing before it succeeds.
In fact, I think every ambitious endeavor goes through a period where things look so bad that it is, in fact, perfectly reasonable to quit. There’s lots of evidence that it will never work, there’s no proof that it will, and from the outside, no one could blame you for giving up.
It follows that if you always quit when the going gets rough, you are doomed to mediocrity. To achieve anything great, you must continue on even when it is reasonable to quit.
This does not mean that perseverance is always the right answer (it’s not) or that success is inevitable to those who don’t give up (it isn’t). It means that if you want to achieve something great with your life, you will someday have to pull through that cold, lonely period in the middle.
The only thing that will get you through it is a combination of passion and vision. You must see something others don’t, and you must care about it enough to nurture it even when it seems to be dying.
After the initial enthusiasm wears off, and before you reach “overnight” success, there will be months or years of unglamorous execution with little tangible reward. Are you willing to face that, with no promise of success, for the chance to see your vision made real? That is the dedication you need to be a founder.