My startup journey thus far….

I’ve had a job, a defined role for the last 14 years.  This summer I decided to leave it all behind.

I was MD of a beautiful, niche little business called Unmissable. For all of these 14 years I’ve had a secure(ish) salary and I place where I always felt like I belonged. But there came a point this year when it was finally time for me to let go. Time to start a new adventure. My own adventure. And time to get out into the cold and face some fear. So I gave myself a month off to breathe and went to explore Croatia. And with the help of Airbnb and a grubby little local guidebook I experience the freedom that not having a 9-6pm job gave. It was bliss and the Turquoise Coast was divine.

It’s now become increasingly difficult to deny something to myself; if I really think about it, my calling has always been to run my own business.  But until now it’s just not happened. I’ve been offered several opportunities but never seized them. The family we’d grown to become at Unmissable made it difficult to leave, difficult to move on and try something new, something for myself. Or maybe I was always too afraid to go it alone. The suggestion of a management takeover several years before seemed too aggressive, so I turned it down. My father owned his own business and was on the startup journey long before the phrase was even coined. I often look back and wonder why I didn’t take up his offer to take over his sports shop and health club. But owning and running a shop just wasn’t enough for me at the time, although I loved the community it created. Christmas time was the highlight, it always such a buzz.

So I left my job this summer without a plan. It was the start of a journey into the unknown. But for some reason, once it happened, it felt right. So I rolled up my sleeves and breathed in the air of my own anticipation, awe and reality. I was determined to stay off the path of another full time role working on someone else’s dream, to follow my own.

I knew immersion was the only way and the London Meetup scene became my best new friend. I then joined something called the Escape School Startup Tribe 100 a few weeks ago. I had a desire to be part of their community, one that helps, shares and supports each other through this mad, complex and often un-nerving journey of the startup. Thus far it has lived up to my every expectation. Except one. And this morning, as I sit at home in my leggings and slippers, the subject of brilliance and feeling small is top of mind.

How do they do it?

I just hadn’t anticipated how much brilliance we’d be exposed to. And quite frankly, this morning, I’m feeling overwhelmingly daunted by it. How could I ever compete in this astoundingly successful world of London startups? There’s the Escape School itself, constantly keeping us buoyant and motivated with cheery optimism and ‘just-get-on-and-do-it’ attitude. Hearing about their own journey, their ideas, a never-ending list of inspiring talks to attend and their responses to our constant list of questions. And there are only 3 of them – how on earth do they do it? Then I start thinking. Am I too old for this journey? (I’m 44). Did I study enough at uni? (probably not). Have I mixed with enough A-players in my time? (you can never have enough of these in your life). Should I have gone on that ‘Learn to Code in a Day’ course I fancied a while back? I’m just utterly in awe of the ideas and implementation that is achieved by them on a daily basis.

Ideas + Implementation

Then there’s the talks themselves. Last week it was the guys from Mopp. Wow, what an inspiring story that was. We all thought it, ‘why didn’t I think of that’, it’s so, well, obvious isn’t it? I’m no good at ideas, so when someone says to me ‘ideas are 10-a-penny, it’s the implementation that counts’, it kind of irks me. The guys at Mopp not only had the idea, one that scratched a big itch, but they achieved amazing feats in implementing the technology to match up cleaners to customers, all back to Mopp. And all that without an inch of tech experience. That to me, requires something extra. And it’s that something extra that everyone the Escape School exposes me to at the moment, seems to have.

Information Overload = Gratitude + A Fast Retreat

So this morning, watching the rain from my one-man desk, trying to take in all the information, all the new techniques and all the success stories, leaves me grateful of course. But this morning I’m not inspired, I’m terrified. How can I possibly compete? This morning a friend sent me an article on the next big thing in responsive design (http://www.fastcodesign.com/3036091/the-next-big-thing-in-responsive-design). The sheer volume of information available just makes me want to take a running jump over the nearest cliff. I’m grateful yes, but quite frankly, all this is sending me into the fastest startup retreat in history. Sound familiar?

The Best Way Forward

Yet I know the answer. And how do I know? Because the Escape School has already taught me this very simple lesson. Just launch it. Just get your MVP out there and that’s where the learning really starts. And who knows, maybe I’ll be the next person up there talking at the Escape School about my startup success. So if you’re feeling just like me as you read this. Stop over-thinking and over analysing about the perfection, the audience, the tech.

I’ve never written my own blog before so I hope this all makes some sort of sense to any of you reading this.  And as I close my email, Hootsuite and web browsers and just sit with myself and my idea, I begin to believe in myself once again.

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