If the past years of entrepreneurship and launching startups have taught me one true thing it's to feign brave, even in the face of uncertainty.

Entrepreneurship is hard. 

There are no road maps, no rules, many ups, as many downs, big wins, crushing losses, wild guesses, giant leaps, incremental joys and plenty of days when you wonder why the F you started. 

No startup comes easy. It's hard, hard work. Relentless. And you've got to really want to do it because no one else is going to push you to get up every day and keep working on your big idea to build a winning team and sticky customer base that enables your (temporary) survival.

It's a race to market, so you've got to get out there (even on the days you don't want to) and bang your drum so you stay visible, keep finding a way to GSD (however scrappy), gain traction, engage with mentors who've navigated the path before you and tap the rich seams and opportunities of the local support ecosystem (we have a thriving hub of accelerators, industry supporters, investor meets and entrepreneurship initiatives proliferating in Melbourne right now, so Victoria is indeed ripe for startups to seed).

Entrepreneurs know all this. That it's up to them to work their secret sauce (and the talent they can convince to come along for the ride). 

Entrepreneurs also know it's hard work because they've already made their first difficult choices, stepped away from safety, challenged status quo and begun to smash their own glass ceilings because they've seen an opportunity where others didn't, a better idea, a white space. (Ideas are the easy part, of course).

Many of the exceptional individuals I met in the University of Melbourne's Master of Entrepreneurship last year (you know who you are!), any of whom could use their abundant talents in traditional workplaces, had already decided that their passion for entrepreneurship, business acumen, quest for innovation and incurable curiosity combined with a healthy risk appetite meant traditional work pathways weren't going to cut it. (Watch this space as their stars rise in the years to come.)

But the facts remain. The odds are stacked against entrepreneurs. 

Nine out of 10 startups fail*, the market is full of products no-one wants, founding teams regularly implode, funds atomise and customers need to be insatiably wooed and squarely won which often takes a critical combo of cash, luck and rapid pivoting for product market fit. (And let’s face it - if the dog won’t eat it, you go hungry.)

So you work out pretty fast that you need to use the ecosystem to give yourself the best chance at success. 

Yes, you need to pitch. Yes, you need to hustle. Yes, you need to do your homework. (And yes, you need to prove people are actually willing to part with their dollars for your product.) But mostly you need to use your networks, and use them well and wisely.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet with and learn from Silicon Valley front runners (on Katie Mihell’s Women In Focus Innovation Tour in September 2017) and many of Australia's leading startup game-changers, VCs and industry leaders over the past years. Taking the hard-won advice of those who’ve started, survived and scaled is invaluable. You can’t get it unless you seek it.

But so too, the hard lessons learned from the unique starting, stopping and painful skinning of your own startup ventures is how you learn where your own roadblocks are.

Entrepreneurship can be taught and, more importantly, learned, but it would seem that much of what holds one back from startup success is not our businesses but ourselves.

The startup ecosystem right here in Victoria is full of people with varying talent and drive and dynamism but who, like all real entrepreneurs, have significant imposter syndrome and self-doubt when they fall down startup rabbit-holes. 

The critical difference between those who can and those who can't is their willingness to be brave, back themselves, challenge status quo, use networks, weather startup stumbles, and to keep getting up, pushing hard, pivoting, validating and pivoting again til they eventually land on a market. 

Then they swim like mad. Without the maps.

It's the mindset that makes an entrepreneur.

Make yours a brave one this year.

Madeleine x

#juststart #beashark #startup #stepup #girledworld @girledworld

*Forbes 'Entrepreneurs' 2016

Building a generation of female leaders and founders, one girl at a time. Proudly supported by Airbnb.