The Trough of Disillusionment for Entrepreneurs

There’s a Hype Cycle is a methodology invented by Gartner about technologies whereby expectations start out in grand fashion only to fall off sharply into the trough of disillusionment. Then, slowly, over time the visibility and impact grow creating tremendously productivity and value. Entrepreneurs follow a similar path on the personal level when building a new company.

Over the last week I’ve talked with two different entrepreneurs that were in the trough of disillusionment. Of course, they didn’t volunteer to me that they were in the trough of disillusionment. Instead, they said that they were down because they’d been pushing hard on their new startup for the past year and haven’t seen the results they expected. Worse, results on the revenue side were almost none existent. With the advent of the New Year, and the typical reflection time, more stress is self-inflicted around achieving success.

Here are a few thoughts on the trough of disillusionment:

  • Startups always have highs and low lows, so attempt to keep perspective
  • Business models like the Software-as-a-Service / cloud model are beautiful, but the time to build a customer acquisition machine is often excruciatingly long
  • Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as expected, so plan accordingly
  • Gut checks are critical throughout, and sometimes the right move is to keep moving forward and sometimes the right move is to give up

The next time things are going poorly, think about the trough of disillusionment and figure out where things stand. Much like Seth Godin’s The Dip, sometimes things get worse before they get better.

What else? What are some other thoughts on the trough of disillusionment for entrepreneurs?

6 thoughts on “The Trough of Disillusionment for Entrepreneurs

  1. As I was reading this I was thinking Seth Godin’s “The Dip” would be helpful here, then there you go and recommend it!
    Great minds think alike ;)
    Nice thoughts on the trough. It’s good to be able to recognize these things and take appropriate action.

  2. I read somewhere when I started my business back in July 2012 that it takes up to 2 years for a new business to turn a profit, and then last year that they now expect 5 years in the current climate. I also heard it takes 10 years to be an overnight success! I’m hanging on in there. The only way to get perspective on how you’re really doing is to talk to similar enterpreneurs. Social media is a bad way to test the competition, because everyone embellishes on the truth.

  3. You make a very valid point here… I guess most of the startups lose their vision at the trough of disillusionment only. Being consistent and patient is one of the key to success in a Startup.
    Thanks for sharing. Would like to read “The Dip”.

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