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Startup Funding: be empowered but not complacent.

Entrepreneurship is one tricky path to manoeuvre.

One needs an abundance of spunk and resourcefulness, and an appetite for challenge in navigating this rocky course littered with uncertainty, obstacles springing forth when you least expect it. Having said that, it’s also an incredibly exhilarating journey, if one were to enjoy the climb by pausing intermittently to inhale the invigorating air of progress, and to exhale disappointments as they arise.

If you’re like me, you’re probably in it for the challenge. I get bored way too easily. Embracing challenges is my way of keeping myself alert. The moment I start feeling bored or too comfy, alarm bells go off in my head, signalling me that something needs to change.

Now here’s a confession.

I had a bit of beginner’s luck during my first year of venturing into the entrepreneurial realm. For the first 6 months I stumbled along rather cluelessly, trying out different things, not knowing how long I would be able to cling on to my new-found liberation. There were moments when I feared the worst. That I would run out of money and be forced to return to my corporate roots. A prospect that, as it turns out, armed me with the nerves of steel I needed to weather the storms and keep my spirits up. For I had no intention of relinquishing my new lifestyle. Ever.

My beginner’s luck kicked in when I unintentionally and single-handedly raised a modest amount of seed funding for my then week-old startup venture. The investor was a client from my personal projects. Little did I know that he would go on to invest a second round of seed funding, within the next 6 months. That funding kept me afloat for a whole year. It allowed me to focus full-time on building our little startup without financial distractions.

I felt on top of the world! And extremely grateful to have met such generous individuals who believed in me enough to bet on my success. For he was the second person to have invested money in my entrepreneurial efforts. The first invested US$100 in me. And mind you, my first backer didn’t know me at the time. Had never even met me or spoken to me. Only corresponded via emails. That’s another story I’ll reserve for another post. But suffice to say, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have met people who believed in me enough to take the leap of faith in me. I felt accountable to them. In more ways than one.

But……?

Yup. There’s a catch to it.

Startup funding, while empowering, can also lull one into a false sense of security, if left unchecked.

And that’s exactly what happened to me. Unwittingly, I found myself getting more and more complacent as the weeks and months flew by. Until about two weeks ago. That was when it hit me that I would run out of the seed funding in a little over a month’s time. And I have next to no savings, having splurged on a 3-week holiday in Germany last Christmas. The alarm bells went off, sending me into a flurry of decisive activity. And it made me realise that I had allowed myself to get too comfortable. Rookie mistake!

But, one month is plenty of time, if one is resourceful enough. I figured to myself, I’ve managed to survive 18 months of scaling that rocky path. No way I’m going to let this minor setback get the better of me. When there’s a will, there’s always a way. And so I got back into my proactive groove, and I’m already seeing the ripple effect of my efforts.

It feels great to be uncomfortable again. That’s how I know I’m on the right track.

“…comfort nudges us dangerously close to complacency, and nothing good comes from that. It kills businesses, dulls lives, and encourages nothing better than ordinary. Our greatest blessings come from people who refused to be complacent, whether it was Beethoven or the Beatles.” - Harry Beckwith

So while being able to secure funding for a budding startup can take you a long way, it can also set you back if you’re not careful. It’s natural to heave a sigh of relief when someone offers us a hand up, but staying focused on our personal goals is imperative if we’re to stay the course and keep the fire burning.

For entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve certainly learnt the importance of pacing myself in this game. And I’m just getting started!

Have you been disempowered by funding before? Pray tell. I’m all eyes.

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