No, you don't wanna be an entrepreneur

A few months ago, I gave a very last minute talk at Barcamp Shanghai. I decided to try and walk people through what I think of entrepreneurship and why I recommend most people not to do it.

I hadn’t prepared anything prior to giving the talk and had no adapter for my laptop anyway, so you get awesome last minute shitty drawings in lieu of slides.

Who am I?

I’m no Elon Musk.

I do have a business, a consultancy (Wiredcraft) that creates digital solutions for some of the largest brands in the world).

With that being said I don’t consider myself a big success or an expert in entrepreneurship (God I hate this word).

What I’m gonna talk about below is based on my experience and what I’ve learned from other entrepreneurs.

The topic

I’m gonna try and explain to you why most of you shouldn’t try to start their own business.

I’m sure most of you will ignore my advices anyway and learn things the hard way, but hopefully you’ll get a bit of perspective.

So, most weeks I run into people who ask me for advices about their startup or business. It usually goes something like that:

The advice

Should you start your own company? Nope.

You’re a student and want to drop off because your friend has this great mobile app idea?


Stay in school and spend your weekends building it.

You’re a designer who wanna work for yourself and think of creating your own agency?


Start freelancing on the side and see if you like that.

You’re a project manager and think you have a great company. You’re already thinking of raising money and take over the world?


Build a proof of concept on weekends and see if it sticks.

Why not

Some people think I’m trying and discouraging them on purpose. That I want to keep all the sweet sweet entrepreneurship for myself.

If you’re really determined, you’ll do it anyway.

But in my experience:

  1. You don’t know what it actually is

  2. You’re probably not cut for it


A lot of people think startups are like The (Fucking) Social Network:

Sounds cool right?

What it actually is:

Being the CEO

But you get to be CEO, right? There you go:

What it actually means to be the CEO:


A tad more about outcomes: for many, it’s a gamble.

There are definitely a possibility for you to cash out or even build a sustainable business for yourself.

However, many people don’t quite understand how that works:

  1. Even if you actually end up making it, it takes years.

  2. Even when you cash out, it may not be in the range of what you could have made at a regular job.

  3. The odds are way more fucked up than you think and it will take a lot longer than you think. Don’t get fooled by what you read online. You will not make 100 million dollars after 2 years of hard work.

Why did I do it?

Well then, if it sucks that much, why did you I it?

Story time.

  1. I was managing the Chinese branch for a Canadian company.

  2. Our CEO was arguable a coke head. A great sales man, but terrible at managing a company.

  3. He grossly mismanaged the finances and put the entire group in a tough spot.

  4. I had the pleasure of; a. Not get paid for 6 months. b. Working my butt off. c. Liquidating his company. d. Paying off employees out of my own pocket.

  5. After that I decided that maybe I needed money. You know, to pay for things.

  6. I started freelancing.

  7. Somehow, 2 months in I had a couple colleagues.

Along the way, I wasted years trying things that didn’t work out.

I’m better off now, but these were expensive lessons.

Why did I do it?

So, what made me do it?

Mostly, I was a huge idiot and stumbled into it.

Folks I meet

I basically meet 4 types of folks who are interested in starting a company (and probably shouldn’t):

If you’re one of these people, just don’t.

Why you should do it

So, why should you do it?

  1. You have no choice.

  2. You need to get it out of your system.

  3. You’ve already validated your idea.

If you’re young and have money, it helps (I know it’s not fair). But being desperate is also a good motivation.


Let’s wrap this up.

I may be wrong. Some folks get lucky. But luck is not a business model..

Ultimately, the ones who do just do it. They may brag about it once it worked and often only because they have to.

I don’t have any advice about what you should or should not do. If I had, I would charge you for it (I’m an “entrepreneur”, remember?). But I do often recognize entrepreneurship when I meet it, and it does not start with wanting to be “an entrepreneur”.

Most of you shouldn’t be entrepreneur, and that’s fine. It’s neither admirable nor desirable. I’ve met a great many businesses, and most of them are started by one or a few individuals, but they ultimately succeed thanks to a team.

Being an entrepreneur is neither cool nor fun. And it’s nowhere safe.

And if you’re set on it, just shut up about it and go do it.