Most entrepreneurs I know that have been successful tell me that their real success came on at least their second venture, and well after their learning phase. Phase one is learning from another successful entrepreneur or business leader and gaining serious domain expertise. This could be in the form of starting a company that doesn’t succeed or it could happen working with someone else — it doesn’t matter. What matters is that the entrepreneur works hard and learns as much as possible.
Mark Suster has a great post up titled Is it Time to Earn or Learn where he outlines this phenomenon in greater detail. The earning phase of being an entrepreneur is when you co-found a company and have a serious equity stake. Most employees, even in a wildly successful startup, don’t make enough money to retire. As a co-founder that owns a meaningful chunk of equity, raises a modest amount of money, and the startup turns into a base hit or double, there’s a very real chance of making enough money to never have to work again. Now, making money isn’t always the goal, but it’s an important component for many people.
The next time you talk to an entrepreneur, ask if they’re in the learning phase or the earning phase as there can be a serious disconnect between reality and wishful thinking.
What else? What are your thoughts on the learning and earning phases of an entrepreneur?