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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Entrepreneurs of the World, Unite

With this high tech era paraphrase of an old Soviet rallying cry Victoria Silchenko, founder and CEO of the U.S.-based Metropole Capital Group, joins our Marchmont bloggers and raises an important question: is the start-up success rate of just 5% normal in the world that has an estimated 400 million entrepreneurs? The story was first posted at Huffington Post.

It was a wake-up call for me -- not that I was sleeping. In fact, it is three a.m. as I write this and I've just finished sending out emails as part of pitching and promoting an event that I am organizing here in Los Angeles -- the Global Entrepreneurial and CrowdFunding Forum. I am an entrepreneur helping other entrepreneurs and this forum is my very personal attempt to assemble and create a cross-border exchange of fundraising ideas among entrepreneurs and investors in a tough economy. BTW, the slogan I've arrived with might sound to you a bit "red": Entrepreneurs of the World, Unite, but hey, I am a native Russian and hope you have a sense of humor too.

But back to the "wake-up" -- well, I just read that according to a new study from the know-it-alls at Harvard, 95 percent of start-up businesses fail. That's ... a lot. Further findings come from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which points out that the number of entrepreneurs around the word is growing at an astonishing rate and now numbers nearly 400 million across 54 countries. Fascinatingly, the intent to start businesses is highest in emerging economies and in some middle-stage developing economies like China, Chile and Brazil. Don't they read the Harvard Business Review too?

The fact that the success rate of "making it" is just 5% annoyingly stuck in my head and made me wonder. Are we all delusional for being inspired by the stories of Mark Zuckerberg, the legendary Steve Jobs or my personal hero Richard Branson? How many stories for the past two years do I know where success was a result of someone's dream come true, in other words, someone was able to take their idea to the level of business project and the business project to the stage of product or service which has a price tag on it? Let me think. The guy who was trying to find investors for his travel website idea has just moved to SF, landed a job at Google and seems quite happy (so is his wife). The young woman who was pitching her media company disappeared from my radar once she got married.

Myself? Well, just like any entrepreneur I am my own cheerleader, educator and self-founder. BTW, being a self-founder wasn't really on my business plan but my consulting business has proved that it is not a recession-proof business and the price of this discovery was equal to the price of my beautiful car. I did have a choice -- but would you give away to an "angel" investor 40 percent of your company for just a few thousands bucks? Me neither. And why are people who take away the junk piece of what you built for years called "angels" anyway? The interesting thing is that I wasn't even looking for an investor! So, keep in mind that "if-you-build-it-they-will-come" happens not only in movies.

I suspect that many of us entrepreneurs believe that through being an entrepreneur we can discover WHO we really are and what we HAVE doesn't really mater. Most of our aspirational moves are about the desire for dignity, freedom to make a choice and believe that we can change the word to a better place. We share and we bond together because we know -- we can lose with a high probability, but we can never lose enthusiasm. Yes, we are dreamers and we are artists painting a picture of success without having to pay tribute to the folks who see the world in black and white and don't recognize the colors. It is a struggle -- but we are in it together. There are 400 million of us. Entrepreneurs of the World, Unite!


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