Entrepreneurship · Entrepreneur

Is Entrepreneurship the loneliest profession in the world?

Saurabh Saha Co Founder at Talent Pegs

April 21st, 2015

Entrepreneurship definitely qualifies to be the loneliest profession in the world.You'd always find yourself lonely. Be it in the company of friends who make no sense at all or in the company of people who'd always be cynical of your venture.What's surprising is that when you're in the company of people you'd crave for your loneliness but when you're lonely you wish there was somebody who could understand you.I guess that is perhaps the biggest battle an entrepreneur has to face while he is building his company.The other battles that he faces seem minuscule to this.All this seemed quite theoretical to me 3 years back but now when I am running my own venture which is still to see the light of the day loneliness seems very real.Perhaps its my greatest asset as of now.Any ideas on this are more than welcome.

Melissa Rich Passionate, Mission Driven, Strategy, Growth & Impact Leader - Founder, CEO, President, Executive Management

April 23rd, 2015

Thoughts from a "failed" entrepreneur:

I think I worried so much about failure that in the end I failed. I worked my butt off for eleven years -so much that I was so burnt out that I felt I had to shut down my company because one investor, then another, stopped believing. Yet, I still believed!  I fought so hard to avoid the exact outcome that eventually came to pass.  I did not want to be the one that "closed it down".  But know what?!  I survived. I learned a lot. I am grateful for the experience. And, I am proud of what we accomplished!  No one can take that away.

I wrote this note to myself one evening in the depths of despair shortly after closing down my award winning social venture business (some referred to it as abandoning my "baby") after 11 years...

I am sharing this here because indeed entrepreneurship FEELS lonely.  As the leader, there are things that are hard to share with staff, investors, board members, family, friends etc.  Note the word "FEELS".  I agree with all comments above to seek confidants wherever you can find them.  Like personal friends and family, extend your network beyond the obvious choices so that you an decide who you can go to for which conversations.  

Shortly after I wrote this note to myself, I sent an email to my "network" letting them know of the decision to close the business. The outpouring of support from my network (near and far) was incredibly cathartic.  I had no idea how much support I had along the way.  It was always out there, but I had failed to believe in it - instead focusing on the "loneliness" I felt at the time. 

Try not to let the loneliness overpower you.  There are people out there that may not be able to help you directly address your challenges, but they may be will more than willing to be a sounding board!  Just look at this community - people do want to be supportive of one another!

Keep on trucking! :)

Tim Bichara Helping businesses get the most from mobile technology - Consultant at Nimble Mobile, CCO at Conscious 2

April 22nd, 2015


I agree that being an Entrepreneur is a lonely road.  But it sounds like you might actually be depressed.  

I think you might need to reach out for some help.  

Tim x

Kate Hiscox

April 21st, 2015

It's important to build a team, even a single co-founder. This provides balance on several levels. Thanks for posting this, I suspect it will strike a chord with many. Sent from my iPhone

Lane Campbell I baked a unicorn cake once.

April 21st, 2015

My father has been my pillar of support throughout all the different endeavors I have undertaken in life. I try to pay the lessons he taught me forward by helping others as much as humanly possible. No one is alone, there are tons of others out there either going through the same horrible experiences or who have gone through them already. If you need to talk please don't hesitate to reach out to chat with me (iam at lane dot ninja is my email).

I'll never forget an experience I had when I ran my consulting firm. Within a 48 hour period I had a customer tell me that they loved my team and couldn't imagine their life without my company helping them grow, followed by another customer who sat 10 feet from me and told them they hated me and wished they had never heard of my company.

My team didn't treat either of those two customers differently. The customer who professed their love to us had spent $300k in the previous 12 months and the customer who hated us had spent about $100k that year. The happy customer had integrated our consulting team into their business at a decision making level and we delivered what they expected every time. The relationship we had was amazing. The problem was the smaller customer had purchased a solution that they didn't understand the limitations of through my company. We were implementing this solution and it wasn't doing what they expected and it was negatively impacting their business.

At the time there were a number of challenges we were facing in the business and it all felt overwhelming. Life goes on though. The business challenges you face today will fade into the successes earned by learning from your experiences.

Don't let the challenges of running a startup get you down. Even if you fail you aren't a failure, you learned a lot and you will apply that to the next one. Successful people are persistent. Don't give up! Don't give in! Go get yours!

Fermin Alvarez Program Manager at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center (Marin)

April 23rd, 2015

If you see entrepreneurship as a lonely profession, think not. Quite the opposite, entrepreneurship is about leadership and leaders far from being lonely, lead tribes. True entrepreneurs understand that in order to create the world they want to live in, or a small part of that world that is, they need to find others who crave their same dream, but are waiting for someone to lead them. That goes for both your team and your customers. So, if you find yourself working too much, well, by yourself, my advice is start anew. Here is a tip, if you do not have them yet, gather a group of people you like, trust, and believe in you. Answer your most important questions before you meet with them, as a group, and let them know your plans, failures, and successes in an all day strategy session. Get feedback. Rethink your ideas on you own later. Then act. You will never feel better equipped and more grateful. You will find lots of good company and maybe even ever so feel popular. Try it and let me know how it went! 

Boku Kodama Managing Director of Renaissance Marin Entrepreneurship Center

April 28th, 2015

Let me bring a perspective from an "old" entrepreneur coming from nearly two dozen start-ups over 40 years. You may understand this at a logical level but not necessarily at the emotional level because it takes time and experiences  to fully grasp this. In fact, there's tons of research on how long it takes to gain an expertise (10 years) in any particular subject which helps dramatically in becoming less lonely.  As a young entrepreneur in my 20s, launching a business was a lonely endeavor because 1. I didn't know what I was doing and didn't want people to know especially my potential customers and 2. as a young man, our society didn't see entrepreneurs as they do now so failing was seen as failing not just in business but in life. But with each new startup, I got better at understanding how businesses worked and two things stood out: networking (and gaining that emotional connection) and self education in specific areas of business and more importantly, in how people think and act. The understanding of human motivation and purpose are the most important factor in business because regardless of technology and what you're selling, it's still interfacing with people. (See The Self-Determination Theory by Edward Deci). There's also a recent study conducted by Forrester Research on the most popular websites and what they discovered was that those creators who journeyed to meet potential clients and decision-makers in person were the ones with the websites with the most traction.  So lonely is not really communicating effectively or the trait of a successful entrepreneur. Even if you're a technical engineer with lousy people skills, you need to hone your people skills or partner with someone who has it.  But, I think it's better when you get out there and get people to know you. Listen, I'm a total introvert but when I'm passionate about my purpose, I can talk your ear off. (Read "Quiet" by Susan Cain, also a TED Talk) When people feel your passionate, you'll find potential clients, referrals and supporters. But you also have to constantly research and implement because even with a great personality, you still need to create something that people want and will pay for. (Check out the Kauffman Foundation's research). Successful entrepreneurship requires that it  become a way of living and since prehistoric times, living has been a social activity. 

Lane Campbell I baked a unicorn cake once.

April 29th, 2015

Aaron, great name! As for your website, I think 1997 called and wants their website back.

Alex Konov

April 22nd, 2015

I think it was Ben Horowitz who said that "managing their own psychology" is among the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs. You could google that up and read more on what he said there.

Yes it could be lonely, esp if you are a solo founder.

What works well for me is going out to local entrepreneurial events (you could find them at meetup.com) and talking to people, growing my network, practice social skills, etc.

I guess you have not launched your product yet? B/c once you launch, it is all fun for a while, and does not feel like lonely at all b/c you go out and talk to people / users / customers and it is very social.

So the loneliness would most likely become less of an issue once you launch. How far are you from launching your MVP?

Rajat Saxena

April 22nd, 2015

I totally agree with you. I am also starting up and busy with getting the prototype ready. I have been building the product since last one year and it's still not complete. During this journey I met a few people who really loved my idea and were ready to share my load but it takes only 10-20 days for them to realize that this much amount of work was not what they were expecting. 
On the basis this I've come to the conclusion that most of the people you meet "just want to share your profits but not your pain".  My gf keeps blaming me that I am busy all the time no matter what day it is. But I guess that's okay if no one understands you while you are building your product, once you become successful those same people will come back to you again.

Lara Feltin Founder/CEO at MyFive; Cofounder/CEO at Biznik

April 22nd, 2015

Gathering a good executive team and advisors you have a rapport with is crucial for sure -- but if I hear you right, Saurabh, you'd benefit from people outside your company.

I've never been without an informal group of 4-5 fellow startup founders, that I meet with monthly. One group met consistently for 8 years before it disbanded. My current group of 4 has been meeting monthly for 2 years. In essence we're an ad-hoc "peer advisory board." We met at various networking events and decided to form our own group. The business, leadership, and personal support I get from them is simply unparalleled.

They've been where I've been and are going where I'm going. They understand the challenges like no one else in my life does. I can talk to them about sensitive confidential stuff I can't discuss with my team. They've also made crucial introductions, helped steered me from people who might not be what they say they are, and are deep wells of resources and insights relevant to my job. In some ways I'm closer to these folks than my closest friends.

Our meetings are casual -- we gather at a booth in a bar. We each take 20-30 minutes to check in and discuss something we're dealing with. We use a private Facebook group to share resources and get support in between meetings. And we get out of town together for a weekend retreat at an AirBnB once a year, where we can stay up late, get drunk together, and share the personal stories that fill in the gaps of our business stories and strengthen our rapport.

You'd find your peeps inside your current network and at networking events. You can start by reaching out to a founder you've always liked, invite him/her for a drink and toss this idea pass them. Each of you could then pick one other person to join in and you pick an evening each month that you can all commit to. I'd recommend the group stay under 5 people, because you'd each benefit from a 30-minute turn each month, and recurring monthly meetings that last longer than 3 hours are untenable.

Hope this helps!