The following essay is an edited version of an original post I published on my blog (now abandoned). I hope it will inspire you to start making.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor.
I liked pretending to build advanced technologies out of wooden sticks and crayons. Children like to babble about their future job titles, though mine never changed since I was ten years old. At the time, my teacher asked the class to write down some ideas about who we would like to be when we grow up. I vividly remember coming up with two titles, one of them being “architect”, yet only writing down the latter : “scientist engineer”. My adult self still wonders what “scientist engineer” actually even mean, although it was, at the time, the closest I could imagine to an inventor career.
At thirteen years old, I stumbled upon some tutorials on “Le Site du Zéro” (now OpenClassrooms.com) concerning software development. That’s when I wrote my first Hello World program. I instantly fell in love with this idea of making stuff out of apparently nothing, much like drawing on a white canvas. I later did a bit of web development, but nothing extraordinary - mainly colorful HTML rectangles with some text. Still, my dream job went from “scientist engineer” to computer engineer. After graduating from high school, I entered INSA Lyon, a french engineering school. Two bumpy years passed, and I joined INSA Lyon’s telecommunications department.
My time spent as an engineering student allowed me to experiment career-wise. I worked as a webmaster for two months in a humanitarian association. Next, I assumed the role of an IT manager in a student NGO for two years. I finished my degree inside a consulting company as a software engineering intern for six months.
My passion for building useful things triggered my desire to become an engineer. The opportunities offered to me lead me to be an entrepreneur.
Right before the start of my end-of-study internship, Pierre-Alexis, an engineering friend of mine, proposed coming aboard a startup project as a web developer. I quickly agreed to meet the team, and this side hustle project ended up becoming Justinien four months down the road.
In the fifth month, the company was officially registered. I was in the middle of an hiring process at a consulting firm in Paris, revolving around a well-paid and interesting data science job, when I decided to put a stop to it. I realized that I wanted to dedicate myself fully to the entrepreneurship journey, that it was meant for me.
I finished my internship two months later. It has now been 11 months since I have become a full-time entrepreneur.
Starting a company, what more at a young age and fresh out of college, is often considered a bold and risky move. I think it is not, or at least, that it does not have to be. I rationalized my fear of starting in a simple manner.
On one hand, the notion of a “most appropriate time to start” is more flexible than one might think. In my case, I make tech products, so I had no need for either a big network or a lot of money to start. I am currently living in Malaysia under $600 a month without sacrificing my well-being. I saved around $24000 over five years from previous scholarships and earnings. If I were to relocate to Europe, I could still endure another one to two years from this money. Heck, you don’t even need a perfect-thought-out idea to begin with. You can figure out the exact opportunity later. I started with a legaltech startup (Justinien) as a tech cofounder. We made some money but nothing extraordinary out of the 4 products we released. I built another 2 products as an indie maker, not with much success. Now I'm growing 200 Words a Day to make it a beautiful product and a wonderful community. If it doesn't succeed I still have other ideas. All you need is to start doing : get the right issue to tackle, the right people to work with - or, maybe even none ! - and the right mindset to begin with. Not so easy, yet achievable. The moment I choose to go full-time is when I believed I had acquired all three - and I still do.
I believe my products solve the right challenges, considering they solve an important issue, in a unique way, while creating value out of it.
I believe I have the right partners, this community.
I believe I have the right mindset : a full confidence in my skills. I am confident I can learn anything I want. I am fearless I can execute at will without the need for external motivation. I am convinced going all-out will ensure the success of this adventure. There is the fear of starting, and there is the fear of finishing. I wish I had neither of them. However, I can overcome them.
What is the worst case scenario anyways. Having to find a job ? Running out of money ? Moving out with my parents ? Not so bad.
I am positive I can find a job anytime I want, considering the skills entrepreneurship is teaching me. I solve problems. I become a proactive and independent craftsman. I know how to add value to the tiniest detail. More importantly, I am part of a community that is far greater than my own individuality. What kind of business would not want this kind of worker ? Surely not one you want to work for.
If you consider starting a venture, I would give you the same advice Bukowski once wrote to aspiring writers:
Don’t do it for fame. Don’t do it to get someone in your bed. Or to get rich. Don’t even think about it as a way to be free, owing to the fact that you will trade a form of slavery for another. Don’t choose it.
Do it because it’s bursting out of your very soul, and you have no other choice but to give in to it.