Challenges of a Parallel Entrepreneur

The term serial entrepreneur is fairly common in describing an entrepreneur that successively starts one business after the other. There’s another less common term, parallel entrepreneur, that describes an entrepreneur creating multiple businesses at the same time. If making one company successful is difficult, what are the odds of simultaneously making two or more successful?

For many parellel entrepreneurs, the goal is to have a few different things going at the same time such that when one of the projects starts to take off, all energy is focused on that startup and the other startups are phased out or ignored.

Here are a few challenges being a parellel entrepreneur:

  • While the main challenge with starting a business is to make it successful, there’s also a secondary goal to figure out as quickly as possible if it isn’t going to be successful so that you can move on
  • Multiple projects at the same time results in many little tasks that it becomes even harder to work on the business (most entrepreneurs spend significantly more time working in the business as opposed to on the business)
  • When seeking help from others, networking, or raising money, a parallel entrepreneur can come across as less committed and less likely to succeed (a VC cited this to me personally when I tried to raise money in 2009)

One way to make parallel entrepreneurship work is to be less of a parallel entrepreneur and more of an investor/advisor in multiple ideas you come up with whereby someone else is focused 100% on the startup and you help out without any day-to-day responsibilities. Being a parallel entrepreneur is exceedingly difficult and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

What else? What are some other challenges of a parellel entrepreneur?

4 thoughts on “Challenges of a Parallel Entrepreneur

  1. I call this EADD~ Entrepreneur Attention Deficit Disorder. I met many who dabble in multiple things or start parallel businesses without much success.

    My own admitted quilt at this is that you also alienate your teams.

    When you have more then one start-up and you’re focused on getting the new startup off the ground, your existing teams see this as a challenge for time and resources. Your teams begin to fracture over the performance and commitment of leadership.

    I agree with you that the only way to solve this is to advise, and allow another founder run the new operation if you have existing business to serve.

    Investors are looking for commitment.

    Kick ass or move on. Don’t bob in the water going no where.

  2. I think it’s always better to focus on just one company/project at a time… :-)

    Actually, I like your distinction between parallel entrepreneur vs parallel investor/advisor. It’s a big leap from offering money/strategy/ideas/introductions to actually having an operational stake in a business. For me, that line is crossed if I’m looking at timelines, deliverables, and holding people accountable for getting things done. I think it’s incredibly difficult to have an operational stake in more than one business for any length of time. And not much fun.

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