Serial Entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal on Finding the Courage to Start a Business
In this special feature of 'Ask Entrepreneur,' several Facebook fans asked: When planning a business, what is the best way to get over the fear of the unknown?
Fear is your worst enemy – risk is your best friend. The best thing about the unknown is the meaning itself: If success were guaranteed, the journey wouldn't be the same. And the journey is actually what inspires and shapes us to understand that success isn't supposed to be easy, it's supposed to be worth it.
At 16, when I became an entrepreneur, I didn't really grasp the meaning of fear. But, over time I acknowledged it as an entrepreneur's worst enemy. The truth is you don't know if you'll be successful. But if you consume yourself with thoughts of failure, you've already lost without even trying.
I know too many people who have big ideas and big dreams, but are stuck in fear or the dream itself. Don't get caught in that trap. The only way to achieve your dreams is by actually doing something about them. Decide whether you want to be a doer or just a dreamer. Start by spending 100 percent of your energy on just doing something – taking that first step. The natural byproduct of that is you'll be on your way to step two.
Next, the most important thing you'll need to conquer your fears is passion. Without passion the first step will always be a daunting one. I've found that positive energy leads to positive outcomes. When I was starting out, I researched the advertising and media space and started building something almost immediately that I thought would be attractive to advertisers.
Thomas Edison didn't get the light bulb right on his first try, and chances are you won't build the next great company or product on your first try either. But Edison ultimately achieved success by rapidly iterating and trying lots of ideas. You can start by building something small as a test to see if it gains traction.
When I started ClickAgents, I tried a lot of ideas and pitched them to people in the marketplace. I used the external feedback to validate the ideas that were working and quickly improve them. The ones that were not getting good feedback were pushed aside. One of the lessons from iteration is to keep moving ahead quickly, even when the idea is not perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect product or perfect decision. However, speed in decision making and product iteration is as close to perfection as we will get.
Finally, be ready to jump in with both feet. Many people believe they can take that entrepreneurial leap and still keep their day job, but would you be happy if you achieved only 50 percent of your goal -- half a dream? If you don't go all in and let your intuition guide you on which risks to take, then I say don't go in at all. It's all or nothing. The road to success can be described as a painful journey with the highest reward. It's never easy, but it's always worth it.
Serial entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal sold his first online advertising startup ClickAgents at 18 for $40 million. His second company BlueLithium was purchased by Yahoo Inc., for $300 million. His latest venture is RadiumOne, a fast-growing ad network that leverages social data on the Web. Chahal also published a memoir, The Dream (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008).