The Fear & Startups

"The fear is the danger." Steph Davis on free soloing The Diamond.

Let's get this one out of the way: You are going to be afraid in a startup. If you're a founder, employee, investor or even a user you are going to be scared at more than a few points.

If you are going to do a startup, you need a seemingly ungrounded confidence. It isn't often that many people around you support your unbuilt project, screaming out, "That is the best idea I've ever heard! Here is all my money!" Millions of users won't camp outside your office, begging to be let in. You are going to have an idea, build a team - and then fear.

Will I fail? Will I be called out as a fraud? Can I do everything right and still fail?

At the Global Entrepreneurship Congress last month, I got to interview Marc Ecko, founder of an $800 million-a-year apparel company. I asked him which clothing company he was scared of competing with or rising up in the next few years. His answer? "Ecko is the clothing company I'm most scared of."

The fear of not accomplishing what you set out to do. The fear. You can read it in Marc's voice even after years of success. It is seemingly undefeated.

Here is how I combat it.

Have Great Friends.

When I started Startup Weekend I reached out to 10 people to run the idea by them and share my fear. They all shared their advice, which was generally, "Hey, you should do this, test it out and have fun." I launched the first event with no logo, an almost black Wordpress blog and zero money. I look at that first site and cringe, but my friends and mentors at the time saw it as a promising start and supported the endeavor with the most valued thing I could ask for: friendship. The fear died when we all were having fun and I unflinchingly pushed forward to launch 80 events in the next two years. They made me see the fun in the hard work, which was a huge boost.

It Is Data.

Let's say the fear, timing or luck gets the best of you, and you have to shut down your company. You get a meeting with your investor and say the dreaded words, "I failed." The investor, let's just say they know what they're doing, is going to look you in the eye and say, "Fantastic effort. What's next?" You didn't lose their money. You gave it your all in an industry that knows it's risks. If you involve them, listen to them and work your ass off, you win. You learn. You tell fear to go find someone else. The data may be against you, but the future is an adventure where the outcome is unknown and you are the captain of that. Game on.

Change Your Goals.

My goal after graduating high school was to buy my own car in the color I wanted. That was as ambitious as I got heading off to college. After college, my goals changed. After my first (failed) startup, my goals changed. After my first (successful) startup, my goals changed. After traveling the world with 15 things for a few years, my goals changed. When you begin a startup, your goals might be to have a million users that love your product, or to buy that house on the hill or prove someone wrong. Changing your goals might just keep you a bit uneasy of what you can accomplish.

Don't get rid of the fear, just make it scared of you.

The fear is the danger.