Unicorns are mythical creatures we all wish were real, but they are also the representation of the rare and wildly successful startup business.
Businesses such as Airbnb, Snapchat and Uber are a few of just over 200 startup unicorns – defined as a startup company valued at at least one billion dollars. Success like this is desirable for obvious reasons, but shouldn’t be the goal of young entrepreneurs.
Millennial views of entrepreneurship can seem a little shallow, which doesn’t help our reputation for having a low work ethic and possessing an overinflated sense of self esteem. Plenty of 20- and 30-somethings have proven the stereotypes wrong, but we’re struggling to prove that our tolerance for risk and failure isn’t low.
Many young businessmen get an idea they are convinced is brilliant – this is where the high self esteem comes in – and when they pursue the idea and find out it’s not going to make billions right off the bat, they give up and move on to the next thing, reinforcing the idea that we aren’t ready to put in the work over time.
With this startup mentality, it’s easy to become discouraged when success doesn’t come within the first six months of a business venture.
Steve Blank, Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur, said a startup can be defined as a “temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. A scalable startup founder doesn’t just want to be her own boss; she wants to take over the universe.”
This mindset, however ambitious, can be detrimental to our already wavering confidence as entrepreneurs and to our creative process. If we fail enough times, we’re likely going to give up completely and settle for a regular nine-to-five job to pay off our student loans.
“I think every Millennial wants to start the next Airbnb, and really the vast majority will not, but that does not mean you can’t be an entrepreneur,” said Spencer Woolfolk, senior marketing major and president/CEO of Wildcat Ventures. “I think that it is very harmful to assume that building the next big company is easy or attainable. Instead, it has a lot to do with timing and even a little luck, but entrepreneurship is not about how big your company is or how much money you make, rather its about following passion and building things.”
It’s sad to think our resilience can be worn down, but there is a way to combat this downfall of confidence and stifling of our creativity, and this is to switch our mindset to creating a small business, not a mystical startup unicorn.
A small business mindset focuses more on hard work and progress over time, unlike the startup mentality.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, the definition of a small business is one that is independently owned and operated, organized for profit and not dominant in its field. In other words, small business starters aren’t aiming to take over the universe.
“Small businesses are driven by profitability and stable long-term value, while startups are focused on top-end revenue and growth potential,” said Neil Thanedar, CEO and founder of a mobile health startup in Forbes.
Small businesses allow you to focus more on keeping your goals personal – and attainable – as well as time to build into a bigger business, if you so choose. Aiming to create a small business instead of a startup provides you more options to pursue what you desire versus having to keep up with the latest trends and needing create a new market. By focusing more on long-term value, you are putting less pressure on yourself to create something completely unique and completely successful.
Failure is a part of any process, but there is little room for failure when you’re trying to create a billion-dollar business in the course of a few months. After all, good things take time.
“I think the best indicator of a true entrepreneur is how many times they have come back from failures,” Woolfolk said. “For entrepreneurs failures are not bad, in fact it strengthens their case as they try a new idea. The idea may be trash and entrepreneurs have to pivot the idea or completely come up with a new one, but giving up on entrepreneurship is the worst thing they can do.”