Learn from those who have done it before

Entrepreneurship is not a job, it’s a lifestyle

I get it, the title is cliché. Yet, most people seem to miss this point.

I don’t want this article to be yet another ‘My Entrepreneurship Journey to Success’ because I’m not even close to my subjective version of success.

If you are reading this, then you are likely a young person or a student. You feel like you want to start a business and think it may give you a whole lot of freedom. You may have ideas of grandeur, of being called a “CEO” or being in some way important.

Well, like most over-hyped nonsense that is peddled by our media, this too is untrue. Honestly, most of the time it’s just a lot of hard work, confusion and uncertainty.

Being an entrepreneur is not a role that you are taking on, or something to dabble in. You are either fully, 100%, ALL IN, or you’re out. It’s not something to do because you feel like you can’t get a job.

If this sounds too daunting or unappealing, then I suggest you consider another career path. For most people, entrepreneurship will be too stressful. They won’t enjoy it. It doesn’t mean they aren’t as good, or that other ways of living life is not valid.  It just means that this isn’t for them. And that is completely OK.

There is nothing wrong with living a life with some safety, certainty and sleep.  If the idea of working 12-hour days (even on weekends) sounds terrible to you, then I don’t think starting a company is a good idea. I want to save you time.

Time, after all, is our most precious commodity.

All that being said, starting my own company is the best decision I have ever made. At this stage, I don’t think I want to become an entrepreneur, I simply am an entrepreneur.

I didn’t get to this point easily. Only six months ago, I was exactly where you are right now. Unsure of my future, having a feeling that I wanted to do something different. Be someone different. Building my own company was always on my mind, but I could never find the right time.

It was always, “when I get this degree, or when I get that skill, then I can start my own company”. I was a badge collector, and there was always an excuse.

Silicon ValleyI wanted to speak to Reuben since I was planning to start my own company in San Francisco at some later stage. During our conversation, I distinctly remember him saying something like:

“Start your company now. Don’t wait. Your first startup is very likely going to fail. You need to fail so you can learn and start another one.”

I was impressed. Even though I didn’t have a good idea of the sort of company I wanted to build, he believed that I could actually do it. He believed that I was, in fact, an entrepreneur. I decided to believe him.

I walked away from that meeting even more certain that this is the path I wanted to take. I then built my own company, became successful and here I am.

No. Of course not. This is not a neat story where all doubt vanished and everything worked out. Remember, this is life we’re talking about and nothing in life is that simple.

Just to skip past the details (and to avoid boring you), for the next six months the following happened:

I worked at Imperial College as a Research Assistant, I got accepted into Entrepreneur First (EF), Brexit occurred, and my US Visa got accepted.

All this meant that I had to make a big life decision. Either I moved to the US, worked for SAP, or stayed in the UK and joined EF to start my own company.

pexels-photo-29821I knew the safe route was to just join SAP and move to California. I had worked there for a year, I was going to get paid a lot of money and I would be in the startup capital of the world. I had received a rare visa and could always start my company at a later stage in my life. Plus, it would give me more experience in industry.

Finally, I had no idea of what sort of business I wanted to build anyway, so rationally EF was not a good choice. I accepted SAP’s offer, got my visa and was ready to start in October 2016.

A month before starting my job at SAP, I was invited to join EF on their ‘kick off weekend’ at a location outside London. I decided to go on the trip, just to see what EF is all about.

During this trip, I spoke to a huge number of people in my cohort (around 100 tech entrepreneurs).  It was amazing. I really felt that these people wanted to change the world. It was a place full of very smart, ambitious and like minded people. I had never experienced anything like that my whole life. It was truly amazing.

Yet again, I was unsure. I was split between EF and Silicon Valley. Between safety and uncertainty. Once the weekend finished and I came back home I just didn’t know what to decide.

I then thought:

If I don’t do this now. I will never do it.

That was it. I decided to drop everything, decline SAP’s offer, reject my US visa and join EF.

To put this in context, all my friends back in the US, and all their friends had never heard of anyone declining their visa. It was a seemingly stupid, irrational decision. Everyone was surprised at my decision to decline such an amazing opportunity for something that has less than a 1/1000 chance of success.

In my mind though, I wasn’t risking anything. I had decided that I wanted to live life my own way. I had already won.

Even if my startup fails, I would just start another one. Or write a book, or make documentaries or do something. In any case, I wanted to spend my life simply doing things I enjoyed doing.

I didn’t want to spend my life avoiding risk. I’m completely happy to be broke and living with my parents than be ‘successful’ at something that I don’t really enjoy. Life’s too short. It’s not going to last forever. It’s just a ride.

So what is the takeaway?

Just do it. You won’t starve if you fail. You won’t die. Everything won’t go horribly wrong. And even if it does, so what? I mean, really, who cares. Trust me, most people care about their own failures, not the failures of others.

Once you fail, do it again. Love the process and the struggle. Not the outcome.

Anyway, those are my two cents.


PS: I suppose you still don’t know what my company is about. Well, my co-founder Sven and I created the world’s first software to diagnose a deadly condition called Deep Vein thrombosis (DVT). You can learn more about that here: www.thinksono.com.

Get in touch with Fouad Al-Noor

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Fouad Al-Noor

Co-founder, ThinkSono

Fouad is CEO of ThinkSono, a startup working in advanced ultrasound diagnosis. He has created the world’s first software to diagnose Deep Vein Thrombosis alongside co-founder Sven Mischkewitz. Fouad has a Masters in Electronic Engineering with Nanotechnology from the University of Southampton. He was born in Iraq, is a Norwegian national and has lived in England for over 10 years.

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