Most Entrepreneurs Don't Know What They're Doing

CEO and founder of Dropbox Drew Houston was on to something when he began work on his company, he had no idea what the hell he was doing. In fact, most entrepreneurs have no idea what they’re doing when they begin work on their start-ups.

While some may argue that getting several degrees in business, finance, computer science and more can help prepare you for the path of The Start-Up, that would mean, most of us wouldn’t be entrepreneurs until we were well into our 50s and 60s. In fact, if you account for any experience a professional requires from other companies, such as working for Google or Amazon for a few years to gain insight and knowledge, suddenly you’re about to retire before you can become adequately prepared to start a business.

But if you look a little deeper, Houston notes, you’ll notice that these big companies you want experience from such as Google and Amazon all started the same way most start-ups do—two people who have no clue what they’re doing are hoping and praying that a business takes off. Google was founded by two guys working on their graduate degrees and was run from a dorm room before it took off. I think it’s safe to say that waiting until retirement to begin The Start-Up path is probably a mistake.

The fact that these companies were started by first or second time entrepreneurs who were figuring things out as they went along is a comforting feeling to those of us looking to take the plunge; especially given how successful they are after years of dedication.

In this hour-long presentation at Stanford University, Drew Houston talks about his experiences starting Dropbox, other entrepreneurs and his college career. After graduating from MIT, Houston realized that people didn’t really have a way to access files without sending them as an email attachment or carry a physical USB drive.

Starting a business can be a mysterious process in which not many professionals have any idea on what to do or what their first step is. We’ll always wonder whether this is a good time to start up a business based on an idea we have, and more often than not, we don’t have a definite yes or no answer. In fact, some people who make the plunge do so in tough or uncertain economic times, which can be just as smart and business-savvy as starting up in a booming economy.

Most people who start up small businesses aren’t business geniuses and they don’t know a secret formula that the rest of us are missing. Just like in Houston’s talk, most entrepreneurs have no idea what they’re doing when they get started--they simply commit and take the leap.

What do you think? What are some tips all entrepreneurs should share with potential start-ups, or what are some tips you wished someone had shared with you when you started your business? What mistakes have you made that you would caution others to avoid?

Creative Commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by jdlasica.