I come from a lower-middle class family in which every month my parents had the challenge to make it to the end of the month financially. We weren’t rich but we had a good life, food was on the table, we lived in a nice neighborhood and I enjoyed a decent education. My father was an army guy for basically his whole life and he was proud of that, even though his long life dream was to be a farmer. To make/save some extra money he worked his ass of in his ridiculously large garden he rented from a farmer, but he loved it. Every now and then when there was a lack of rain the kids had to help out in the garden and to be honest, we both hated that. I had nothing with gardening and thought I could spend my time better than carrying around 15 liter water cans. But it learned me the concept of working.
When you’re born as a nickel you will never become a dime
My father used to tell me “When you’re born as as nickel you can never become a dime” and he advised me to choose for certainty by following his footsteps in joining the army. I guess this was a fundamental difference inopinion. I refused to believe what he said was true, I refused to believe that my life path was already roughly set. Looking at the era in which my father grew up I can understand why he said that, but I lived in a different world where I saw opportunities all around me.
I did quite some startups in my life and failed or semi-failed many times. Probably the lack of a solid business education and the perception that companies will take off by themselves made things at times really hard for me. My solution back then was compensating it with working hard till late at night. My customers appreciated me for that but I could hardly call the situation sustainable or healthy. Every month I was on the verge of bankruptcy, every month I HAD TO get new orders in to make it to the next month but I guess I always succeeded in that due to an extreme sense of urgency.
Basically what my father said was “No you can’t”, accept your fate. And while being labeled as “Digital Rockstar” and “E-commerce hero” in my Tokobagus time, I’m now hearing a lot of versions of “No you can’t” again. I guess it’s part of startup life, and I’m sure many startup entrepreneurs experience the same. Right now I’m starting a travel company and the thing I hear and read in people’s faces most is that I’m (again) destined to fail. Booking.com! Agoda! No way this is gonna work.
It’s kinda frustrating and at times I want to defend myself. “I’ve started a web development company right after the bubble bursted and look where it got me now”. But I tend to keep my mouth shut even though the lack of faith at times hurts a bit, but again I refuse to believe in “No you can’t”. Basically I translate “No you can’t” in “I don’t get it but that’s uncool to say”. All credits I guess I’ve earned with Tokobagus seem to have vanished almost entirely, back to square one.
Obviously saying “No you can’t” or “That will never work” has an average 95% probability of becoming the truth and that also goes for me though I tend to believe my percentage might be a bit more favorable. That despite the fact that I realize I still know little about the travel industry. But my goals isn’t to make another Tokobagus sized company, my goal is to make a solid bootstrapped company in which everyone has fun working and which can provide an income for me. Money really isn’t a motivator for me and I realize now it’s never been, but obviously money is a necessity in life.
But I gotta say thanks to the people who don’t believe, who’s faces clearly reveil they think I’m heading for disaster. I gotta say thanks to the people who say “That won’t work because there’s already Booking.com and Agoda”. (Really?? As if I didn’t notice that but thanks for mentioning.) It’s proving people wrong that’s probably my biggest motivator. If it’s one thing I learned in life is that money is the most relative thing in the world and that I can always make enough money to provide.
Disaster? Been there done that. One of my earlier companies went bankrupt, it was definitely a hard period but definitely not disaster. Something I’ve started failed (actually only partial because that same company enabled me to create Tokobagus with Arno), so you take responsibility, learn from it and move on.
Not money, but showing something can be done when all odds are against me and people around me think and sometimes hope I’m heading for disaster is my biggest motivator. I know it might be kinda childish and very much an ego thing but there you have it. And if I fail it’s not because it can’t be done, it’s just because I didn’t manage to do it, big deal!.