When the Going Gets Tough – an Honest Look at Entrepreneurship
It all started back in 2015. When we first launched the Year of the X business, it was all about combining our passion and purpose with a commercial model that would pay the bills. Well, I am sure you guessed it – initially, it didn’t pay the bills. It was a rocky start. Even though the community resonated with the unconventional character of the festival, it was still a long shot to a sustainable business model. So, like any Startup, we struggled along. Doing 3 festivals in 3 different cities at such an early stage didn’t help either – and in hindsight was madness.
Coming from an agency and corporate background this whole thing was one hell of a ride for me. If you are used to your monthly paycheck, a few weeks of holidays and social security then life is much easier. I had some savings of course but I had to make a serious personal cash investment into the business in mid/late 2015 to keep it going. The emotional roller coaster that comes with any existential worries is hard to describe: sleepless nights, anxiety and 60-80 hour weeks. In a talk I gave recently in Hamburg, I called this the Bipolarity of a Startup. The Highs are often really high and the lows really low. Yes, I know this sounds like some sort of hell and it affects everything: your relationships, your family and of course your free time. Talking of which – it is really contradictory. I believe many choose the path of the entrepreneur in order to be more flexible and be in control of their own time. In reality, this is an illusion – all we are getting is the possibility to take off whenever we want to. However, our sense of responsibility and the constant need to solve problems on any day of the week grow exponentially. And so, you never really take advantage of the newborn freedom. And you start realizing that you have physical and mental limits.
However, as an entrepreneur, you can never rest. There were a couple of ideas in my head already but they were vague and still felt “foggy”. So, we dug deeper. Over the Christmas break, I went to Bamberg, which is the city I studied in. I met up with my great friends Peter and Antonio from Australia and we used some of the time to strategize and nut out a cunning plan for the next festival in April. I can’t quite reveal what we will be doing but what I can say is that it will be one hell of an experience. We will fulfill our promise to be the first Innovation and Startup festival with a purpose. Stay tuned!