Don’t Slip Into The Entrepreneur Entitlement Trap


It was one of my most painful learning experiences as an entrepreneur.

Around 3 years ago I was invited to be an investor/co-founder in a mobile startup. We were four people. The resumes of my co-founders were dazzling – Ivy League degrees, corporate stalwarts, multiple successful ventures. I signed up immediately. I also proceeded to make the most sizeable investment I’ve ever made (not my usual fare as a passionate proponent of bootstrapping and  minimum seeding)

We met once a week.

On Skype.

There was no one fulltime among the founders. The company was everyone’s second or even third priority.

The deadlines were soft, chewy, and unaccounted for.

We were burning money per month on expenses. I felt my money burning away.

But hey, we’ll turn it around soon enough though! How can we, the super-awesome Fab Four fail?

Soon enough, that company folded.

I ended up actually paying more money than I invested because it turns out closing an LLC (in the US where the company was registered) is not something cheap.

I fell into the entitlement trap.

This is when I-am-so-awesome gets in our head.

As an entrepreneur, we typically become symptomatic of this when we taste some degree of success.

“Success” here can totally be subjective. To wit:

I’m making a million buck a week! I AM AWESOME!

My FB company page was liked 10 times this week! I AM AWESOME!

My dad founded a big company – my very blood flows with entrepreneurial awesomeness! I AM AWESOME! (and redundant)

We then let it get to our head. We forget why we got there: hard work, entrepreneurial hustle, starting from zero, other people helping out, God.

I have heard/read these actual quotes from entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs:

Our competition sucks. They don’t know what they’re doing. (the very typical adjective I hear a lot regarding competition is “bulok”)

No one in the world can mentor me on this because what I’ll be introducing will be first in the world.

I’m pretty sure I can get funded for this.

This sense of entitlement, this sense of “the world owes me” is quite dangerous for the entrepreneur (and frankly, anyone else).

For me, the two most important traits of an entrepreneur are hard work and learning. This whole new entrepreneurial paradigm that the likes of Steve Blank and Eric Ries are championing revolves around these two traits.

It is also precisely these two traits that entitlement slowly chomps away at:

I am so awesome, I don’t need to work that hard. 

I am so awesome, I don’t need to learn from anyone else. 

Don’t fall into this trap.

It can be easy to fall prey to this because confidence is one trait all entrepreneurs share. We HAVE to be confident if we want to survive in this unforgiving industry.

But let us not confuse confidence with arrogance.

Stay hungry. Stay humble.

Peter Cauton

Entrepreneur, writer, speaker, startup advocate, HR guy. Husband, father of 6, teacher, unabashed follower of Christ.

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