There are two types of wantrapreneur: Healthy and unhealthy. People mostly know the unhealthy kind.
If you constantly dream of building a startup or breaking out on your own to launch your own business… But the timing just isn’t right… You may be a healthy wantrapreneur.
However, if you’ve already started your business, but you’re not willing to do the hard work (most often overcoming the fear of sales), or sacrifice anything to make the business work, or you’re trying to raise money for your startup just for the sake of raising money, you might be a truly unhealthy wantrapreneur.
Do You Want To Be An Entrepreneur?
Being an entrepreneur is glamorous… No doubt. This sucks a lot of people in. People think the grass will be greener on the entrepreneurship side.
Especially thanks to the survivorship bias promoted by the media that covers Silicon Valley action.
Survivorship bias means that we’re liable to think that the successful entrepreneurs we hear about reflect what entrepreneurship is really like…
Because the success stories are really all we hear about.
Rarely if ever do you read stories about people who failed as entrepreneurs, who killed themselves because they had substance abuse issues or had lost all their money and were so ashamed, or those who lost their friends and families.
Instead, you read about the legends like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Marc Andreessen and Elon Musk.
They all struggled, suffered and risked it all… But these entrepreneurs are heralded for risking it all – and winning.
They persevered and ended up at the right end of the Pareto Chart.
What we don’t focus on is that for the entrepreneur there is always a terrible sacrifice. There is always a loss. They gain to lose something. It is always a tradeoff…
What IS A Wantrapreneur?
A wantrapreneur is simply someone who wants to be an entrepreneur but cannot, won’t or chooses not to do what is necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur.
There are two types of wantrapreneurs:
- A Poseur Wantrapreneur (Unhealthy): Someone who starts a company but is not willing to do the work (to sacrifice themselves) to get the job done to build the business (meaning they don’t really want it badly enough). This person might try to raise money from others for the sake of raising money. So they can say they did it. This is the wrong entrepreneur philosophy.
- A Dreamer Wantrapreneur (Healthy): This is someone who wants to start a company, and is dreaming of it all the time… But to actually do so would be unwise, unrealistic or result in harm to family, friends, capital, etc. that would be a Pyrrhic victory1 if he or she succeeded. But they also understand that having your own successful business can lead to a better life outcome than working as as an employee your whole life. At least they have the right philosophy about life…2
Again, there always has to be a sacrifice. You are either sacrificing yourself in some way, or sacrificing others.
Mark Cuban often refers to people who are pitching on Shark Tank as “wantrapreneurs” if they are not willing to sacrifice to do the work to get the job done to grow their companies.
But this type of wantrapreneur is always meant to be derogatory…
Why? Because they’re asking for money! They want someone else to take the risk, when they are not willing to do so themselves.
In this situation a wantrapreneur should be called out for what he or she is.
At the end of the day, a real entrepreneur is investing his time and money in his business. But sometimes, the wantrapreneur just has an idea and wants money to make it happen… So if he asks someone else for money, he better be a real entrepreneur.
Otherwise, they’re the “unhealthy” version (#1) above.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Being a Healthy Wantrapreneur
All wantrapreneurs are not created equal.
Frankly, I think as long as you’re not hurting anyone, being a healthy wantrapreneur is fine. Maybe you just really “want to be an entrepreneur”… But the situation for you is just not right.
You may have a family with mouths to feed, people to take care of, a mortgage to pay, debts to work down and/or other common responsibilities of being human.
But at least you have the right philosophy.
You want to be an entrepreneur but the time is just not right… You’re doing hard work to take care of your family… Even if your entrepreneurship dream may be dying.
Sad as it is, in this case, being a wantrapreneur is fine.
Because frankly the chances of success as an entrepreneur are miniscule.
Over 90% of startups fail.
Indeed, if you want some wantrapreneur catharsis, the book “Lost & Founder” by Rand Fishkin provides an excellent, honest account of the realities associated with entrepreneurship.
Rand Fishkin is the real deal. A true entrepreneur. And in this book about entrepreneurship, his candor is amazing about the challenges of entrepreneurship, especially running a venture funded startup.
He describes the glorified venture capital funded startup process first hand from growing Moz from just him and his mom with $500,000 in debt to a $40 million a year in revenue, blue-chip VC backed SAAS3 business.
But in addition to reading Rand’s book, you can expose yourself to the realities of entrepreneurship in a few ways, each with different types of commitment and risk.
Risk always has an upside, no matter what. Here are three ways to add a little more entrepreneur to your wantrapreneur status.
3 Ways To Be A Healthy Wantrapreneur
If you still are crazy about technology and entrepreneurship and the idea of startups, there are safe ways to expose yourself to the entrepreneur’s life in a safe way, with minimal risk…
And the potential for real upside over time.
1) Start A Blog
The first is to start a daily blog. Keep the discipline of blogging every day and you will get a taste of what’s required to show up, day after day and do the thing that entrepreneurs do most:
Not that you have to sell anything on your blog, but you could. What I mean by “sell” is that you’re putting your ideas out there where you can get feedback if you want it. Blogging is the classic “solopreneur” starting point and makes it incredibly easy to start writing about a topic that you are interested in, then slowly start to build a business from it.
Indeed, Rand Fishkin started Moz in more or less this exact way!
Rand began writing blog posts (>1,000 by his count in “Lost & Founder”) about SEO.
He loved (loves) search engine optimization (SEO) and spent hours and hours geeking out about it in so he could help his consulting clients at with their websites. He realized that creating a forum to spread the things he was learning was a great way to scale his audience.
So, even though he hadn’t planned it, his blogging on an almost daily basis helped him and eventually led to him writing The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
This detailed guide led to a lot of publicity that eventually led him to drop consulting altogether and focus on building software tools for people to buy online.
Boom. Blogging turns into real entrepreneurship.
2) Invest in Early Stage Startups
Angel List offers a variety of ways to invest in startups, with various levels of commitment (i.e. money) from $1,000 on up.
Angel List syndicates are a single-deal fund created to invest in a startup. Syndicates pool capital from multiple investors into a single fund.
Syndicate leads are larger individual investors who may invest $200,000 or more in a deal. Syndicate leads are experienced angel investors who have vetted the target investment.
Syndicates are brought to the platform by the syndicate leads… Syndicate leads make personal investments in deals, demonstrating their confidence in the investment’s potential. AngelList has over 200 syndicate leads who are actively bringing deals to the platform.
3) Invest in More Established Startups
You can also invest in more established startups that are on the path to an IPO or an acquisition. You can do this through EquityZen. Again, you must be an accredited investor.
EquityZen offers investments similar to Angel List, but typically starts at around $10,000 per investment.
However, the names available to invest in on EquityZen you may recognize. I’ve seen the following companies on EquityZen… Many of which are household names in private companies that could go public or be acquired, providing investors with a nice return.
- A Pyrrhic victory is one that takes such a massive toll on the winner that it is essentially a defeat. The loss is greater than the gain achieved by winning.
- Robert Kiyosaki’s book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” stated it clearly… When you’re an employee, the government gets paid first, you get paid second… Who the heck wants to work like that all their lives?!
- Software as a Service
- Are qualified as an accredited investor.