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What Do Startup Founders Fear Most?

Launching a startup is not a journey for the weak at heart, especially in this economy. But even founders who are brave enough to create new products, find investments and lead teams have fears – and it’s completely normal. More than that, fear is something that makes them more centered and focused – and sometimes skeptical. We asked founders what they are most afraid of – and how it helps them stay productive. 

199 million Google requests on fears that founders have show that the topic is relevant. The people who got tired of the unpredictable politics of corporations are deciding to take matters into their own hands and embarking on a journey to make it on their own. 

We’ve evaluated the fears they have and divided them into categories to show you how these fears can help you stay grounded and productive. For each fear we gathered advice on how to beat it and keep moving – because that’s what we’re here for. 

Fear of having a product no one needs

Most startups appear because their founders needed a product that didn’t exist on the market – so they decided to make it themselves. And of course, every startup dedicates time to research the market fit and user research interviews – but if they don’t get immediate sales, doubt comes into play. 

“I’m scared that everything we do is useless” 

“What if all our hypotheses are wrong?”

“What if we chose the wrong market?” 

All of those thoughts result from doubting the value of your product. 

Man with light

How does this fear help? 

It helps the founder stay grounded and rely on numbers. A gut feeling is something all founders have and need, but when the economics of the project start to drift far away from what they’ve expected, it helps to go back to the core product and re-evaluate. 

How to beat it: 

  • Collect positive feedback from your users and save it into a folder. When in doubt, turn to it for emotional support.
  • Stay in connection with your customers. If the amount of negative feedback grows, turn to your clients and ask them what can you do to make it better. Come back with feedback to your team and discuss how you can implement it. 

Fear of running out of money

Each startup operates on the initial funds they got – whether it’s the savings of the founder or an investment round, they can only plan as far as they have funds to operate on. 

“I’m scared we won’t get another round of funding”

“I’m scared the investor will change their mind and leave us” 

“I’m afraid we’ll get into the death valley – when our money runs out but we won’t be able to get another round because of no sales” 

How does this fear help? 

It helps the founder have clear financial planning. When it comes to money, it’s great to have three possible scenarios: an optimistic one, a realistic one and a pessimistic one. Having sufficient funds to survive all three of these scenarios is key when it comes to success. 

How to beat it? 

  • Be realistic with numbers and continue counting finances. It helps to prevent from overspending;
  • Be extra careful with unexpected expenses – like unplanned marketing campaigns.
  • Be transparent with your investors. Keep an open and consistent communication with them:
  • Get a financial manager who will be in charge and will be reporting to the team frequently. 

Fear of having competitors with a more successful product

We’re living in a world where it’s all been done before – and startups are operating in a highly competitive market. Fear of having a competitor launch a similar product but getting more investments than you is reasonable – but it shouldn’t stop you from developing your own vision.

Red competitive ocean

How does it help? 

This fear helps to keep an eye on the competitors market and keeps you constantly thinking: how are we different? It also helps to be more adaptable when you see competitors approaching in your field. Being on your toes here helps you come up with new creative ideas for new features – or for guerilla marketing. Anything works. 

How to beat it? 

  • Have someone in your team responsible for constant competitor overviews. If you’re aware of your competition, you won’t miss a move they make.
  • Keep your core product and keep in contact with your core audience. There is a product for everyone out there. Regardless of what anyone else is doing, stay in contact with your core audience and broaden it as you go. 
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Fear of missing out on life

Being a founder is a 24/7 job with no days off – so while developing a product, many founders have to literally put their life on hold. 

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to stay connected to my partner while I’m always at work”

“I’m afraid my children will grow up without me while I’m building a company” 

How does it help? 

Even this fear can be helpful because it shows founders how to make their life more balanced and fulfilled – and prevent burnout. Having a work-life balance (yes, we know, it’s proverbial – but it doesn’t hurt to try finding it) leads to being more productive. Because according to studies, happy people work better. 

How to beat it? 

  • Count your work hours. If you’re seeing that you work 14+ hours a day, you’re at high risk of burning out. And a burnt out founder has no chances of leading a team to success.
  • Delegate. Not only does it give the founder time to breathe – it also makes the team stronger. Don’t know how to motivate your team? We’ve put together a few tips on it here

Having fear as a founder is completely normal. After all, it is a responsible and challenging job. And if you’d like to find people who are facing similar fears and doubts, you always can join these discussions on Intch

Intch is a community where you can always get support for your ideas, you can find advice or just ind interesting people to share your thoughts with. Join us today! 

Miriam Rawles

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