Caveat Entrepreneur: When Passion is a Problem
By Phil Nadel, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Forefront Venture Partners.
This is a short warning to entrepreneurs. Founders often start a company based on their passion for something. That’s fine as long as they are also solving a problem or otherwise addressing the needs of a clearly defined target market.
The advice that is dispensed too often these days is to pursue your passion, do something you love. That’s all well and good as long as your passion intersects with a problem that customers will pay you to solve. But don’t start a business for the sole purpose of pursuing something you’re passionate about. That’s called a hobby. Hobbies are great, but don’t pitch me on investing in yours.
Passion can cloud your judgment. Listen to the market. If the market is telling you to pursue option A, but you’re more passionate about option B, pursue option A. If the market is not buying what you’re selling, it’s time to pivot. Or shut the company. Don’t continue to pursue something just because you love doing it. That’s a sure-fire way to go out of business.
True entrepreneurs love helping their customers. They love making their customers’ lives easier, better. They love to save their customers money. Or help them increase sales. Or help them reduce headaches. Or manage more effectively. They are passionate about these things, but only if they can make money doing them. Because helping customers and not making money is called a charity, not a business.
Learn to be passionate about making money to help your customers. And be even more passionate about making more money to help even more customers. Stop before you leave your job to pursue something you’re passionate about. First, do a rational assessment of whether you have a real plan for making money. And if you can’t do a rational, dispassionate assessment, find someone who can. Just because you love sushi, because you’re passionate about sushi, doesn’t mean the world needs another sushi restaurant. The truth is that there are a lot of sushi restaurants and the restaurant business sucks. Be passionate about eating sushi, not selling it.
I don’t want you to leave your job, invest your life’s savings and all your time only to set yourself up for failure. I urge you to not let your passion cloud your judgment. Focus on the market and its needs. Solve a need in a better, faster, cheaper way and make money doing it. Be passionate about that. Otherwise, work for someone who is.