Okay, I’m going to come out and just say it.
I’m not a real entrepreneur.
Sure, I have a successful side project that’s a SaaS. And I’ve started a few revenue-generating projects before this too — hey, something that generates revenue is a business, right? I like to think I’m an entrepreneurially-minded person who has ideas and makes them happen.
But I’m not a Real Entrepreneur, and here’s why:
- My company is, well, a side project. (Real Entrepreneurs work on their projects full-time, and don’t call them “projects.”)
- My company is, as the cool kids say, “bootstrapped.” Which is a fancy way of saying not funded. (Real Entrepreneurs have venture capital funding and know how to raise Series A to Series Ü.)
- My company isn’t based in Silicon Valley. (Real Entrepreneurs do not live in the suburbs of the godforsaken swamp of Washington DC.)
- And, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m the non-technical co-founder. (Real Entrepreneurs are engineers and scientists. My measly degree in the dismal science simply won’t cut it.)
- And my technical co-founder is my husband, which translates to Real Entrepreneur speak to mean that my “contributions” to the company are probably limited to wearing hausfrau dresses and doing customer support.
- I actually do a lot of accounting and strategy for the company, though not at the same time — hi, IRS! (Real Entrepreneurs know that accounting is not cool, and “strategy” is codeword for wearing hausfrau dresses, see above.)
- And lastly — and this is really the hammer on my not-Real-Entrepreneur coffin, trust me — I’m a female with a toddler. (Real Entrepreneurs are 20-year-old college dropouts who subsist on Red Bull and don’t know when their next Tinder date is, never mind when they’ll get married and have kids. Parents, on the other hand? No admission.)
Okay, so I’m clearly being tongue-in-cheek here, and have a lot of friends who are “real” entrepreneurs, sweating it out with a new startup every 18 months and pounding the pavement to raise capital. You guys and gals are awesome, and the “Real Entrepreneurs” described above are caricatures that are far removed from reality. And believe it or not, this post isn’t actually aimed at you. Not one bit.
Instead, I wrote all of this — and really debated whether I should even do so in the first place — for everyone who has a horrible case of impostor syndrome. And while impostor syndrome can strike anyone, it’s especially prevalent among women.
It’s no secret that women are at the bottom of the tech hierarchy, with technical women at the top of that lowly group, followed by non-technical women, and, lastly mothers. Women tend to have a very high bar for when we feel “qualified” for something — take a recent study that found that women only apply for a job when they meet 100% of the qualifications (men, 60%). Some of us shy away from labels like “entrepreneur” or “founder” because we’re afraid someone will have a critique — however small — that questions our legitimacy to that title.
How do I know this? I’ve experienced this — and one could say, imposed this on — myself, and seen so many other women do it. Even in the #femalefounders Slack channel — a wonderful group of female entrepreneurs connecting with one another — I’ve seen people couching their experience or projects, careful not to apply a title unless it fits 105%. Impostor syndrome is a form of unconscious bias against ourselves, and it has to stop.
We live in a golden age of entrepreneurialism, when anyone with an Internet connection can become an entrepreneur. Whether it’s on the side, full time, or just for fun, it’s amazing. Adam Smith is probably doing a jig up in heaven watching all of us post our wares to Etsy and spin up new servers on DigitalOcean. And we should celebrate that.