What if it doesn't work?

Entrepreneurs always have a lingering question in their minds about everything that they do. "What if it doesn't work?"

Entrepreneurship is a lottery of efforts. A gambler buys lottery tickets in the hopes of winning someday. But he doesn't understand that the house mostly wins. The odds are stacked against him. He just can't play it long enough for the odds to favor him. The chance of winning might be well below 1%.

Entrepreneurship to some extent is gambling, but with higher chances of success. And an entrepreneur doesn't buy lottery tickets, instead, he puts in efforts where there is a 90% chance that his efforts will go to waste. However, a 10% chance of success is very high, high enough for an entrepreneur to continue his grind. If you can buy 10 lottery tickets and there is a very high chance you will win with one, even I would buy lottery tickets. The chance of failure is what makes entrepreneurship so rewarding.

The chance of failure is what makes entrepreneurship so rewarding. 

If it was 100% predictable that once you start a new company, in one year you will raise a seed round, in 2 years a series A, in 5 years have a total buy out or go public, no one will celebrate entrepreneurship. And there will be significantly higher competition for such predictive outcomes.

Join a medical college and you can become a doctor in 4 years. Become a CA and you can earn a decent living in 5 years. Become an engineer and be jobless forever. All these are highly predictable and no one celebrates them anymore. There is no risk in choosing a path that has been taken by so many people.

A high social status has always been reserved in history for risk-takers. For the previous generation, a parent spending 80% of his net worth for the medical education of his child than buying real estate or saving the money was a great risk for them. That's why parents enjoy a high social status when their children are doctors - than the status enjoyed by the children themselves.

In this day and age, becoming a doctor or a CA is not much celebrated (though respected) is because it is not a high-risk career move.

As an entrepreneur, you are 95% wrong and 5% right when you start your business. Maybe in 5 years, you can change it to 70% wrong and 30% right, and that's more than enough to give you enough black swan events that will make you far more successful than a working professional.

The problem with entrepreneurship is that most people are not ready for such volatility in their income during the initial stages of their career (because the priorities include getting married and having children). Needs drive decisions, needs drive the need for stability, needs don't go well with volatility and needs kill dreams.

I was married from 2011 to 2017. I graduated in 2008 and until 2011, I was an entrepreneur. I could do anything, travel anywhere, and if things didn't work, I could always choose to live at my parent's house at no cost. I started BikeAdvice in 2008 and sold it in 2012. Strangely enough, 2012 to 2017 was exactly the time I was a working professional. After 2017, I started PixelTrack - a digital marketing agency and in 2019, I started LearnToday - the Edtech company that's gonna change (my/the) world.

So what does it mean? It means that being single is a FU to the world and the need for stability. And that mindset is needed to take risks - such as building a startup where I would try to make something work for years and still have no returns.

What if you are getting old, want some stability, and still want to build a startup? What if you want to raise a family and still build a startup?

Take all your savings and put them in fixed deposits. If your monthly expense is $1,000, make sure that you get a liquidation of $1000 every month. It creates an artificial sense of stability for a few years. It will help you work on your startup with peace of mind.

If you are lucky enough to inherit money, then create passive income sources that are equal to your monthly expenses. Because as long as you have to work for your monthly expenses to pay your bills, you will never be able to take risks - like taking a few years off to build a startup.

As an entrepreneur, you do not need to be worried too much about savings and investments. Save a bit but don't expect to strike it rich with your investments. If you focus well on your startup, that would be the best investment that will beat the returns of any other company that is outside your control.

If you focus well on your startup, that would be the best investment that will beat the returns of any other company that is outside your control.

I seriously wish I had bought Bitcoin in 2013, but it's ok. I started DigitalDeepak.com in 2013 and have been blogging on it ever since. And just like Bitcoin hardly did anything for 4-5 years, my blog hardly made any revenue until 2016.

I launched my first course in 2016, and things went parabolic. Since then DigitalDeepak.com has given birth to many projects and startups such as PixelTrack, OptinChat, LearnToday, and a few more to come.

To build a company that would make $20m a year in revenue, you need to start with around $135,000 a year in revenue and grow the company at 30% YoY consistently for 20 years.

Just like no one could predict Bitcoin would be worth tens of thousands of dollars in 2021, no one could've predicted that DigitalDeepak.com will bring multi-million dollar revenues by 2021.

However, I could. That's the magic of it. While Bitcoin's growth is outside my control, the growth of DigitalDeepak.com was in my control.

To win in life, you need to stack the odds in your favor and play the game enough times to get that irrational disproportionate reward from the little bit of risk that you are taking.

I started this blog so that I can attract investors and team members to LearnToday. Some day, I might, because it gives insights into the workings of my mind (and the company) and I heard investors invest in the founders, not the idea. A-team members join to build the vision, not the company.

A-team members join to build the vision, not the company.

However, it is also a risk to expect something guaranteed out of my efforts. I could be writing like this for the next 5 years, and no one might approach. But I am completely ok with that. Because first and foremost, this is a platform to clarify my thoughts by putting them into words. And I enjoy writing. It is the best form of therapy. The same mindset applies in building my startup too. Take risks, but also enjoy the process.

A startup straightens you out. I gave up smoking, smoking up, drinking, and many other vices because I didn't see how I could be ultra-productive while I am trying to "chill" with substances. Building the startup, slow and steady, over time is my chilling.

And still, if I run a startup for 10 years, and I have nothing financially to show for it, the kind of person I become while trying to succeed is a reward in itself. Isn't it?

Deepak Kanakaraju