I’ve always wondered why typical first-time employees go through something similar two to three years into their careers. You start to have doubts, feel like you are not growing fast anymore, find the temptation to jump to another company, or start studying again in a graduate school. I’ve felt it and many of my colleagues and friends have went through something similar. Some people call this (roughly translated) worker puberty, where one feels like she needs a big change in her career.
After working on my first startup for a bit more than four years, many of the entrepreneurs I’ve met seemed to have gone through something I’d like to call entrepreneur’s puberty. Assuming the pressure coming from doing a startup is bit more than that of a typical employee at a big firm, it seems like entrepreneur’s puberty hits a bit earlier in life — usually around 1.5 to 2 years into a startup.
Many of the founders face severe stress during this period, leading to founder break-ups, quitting altogether, going to work for another company, pivoting, etc. After talking to many founders who’ve managed to survive for more than a few years, whatever the reasons, however rational the reasons might be, most of them felt something similar around this period: between 1.5 and 2 years into a startup.
This may be is a coincidence or something fundamental to the human character that causes this kind of behavior and thinking to emerge around this period, but I’ve found this to be true over and over again.
One case: A friend who started a location-based service company sold his company in 2 years (somewhat prematurely) because of stress.
Another case: An acquainted entrepreneur decided to quit 20 months into his own startup, went back to his previous employer.
There are countless cases that pops up in my head, but the reason I bring this up is, so many entrepreneurs seem to rationalize the reason for their quitting or changing, when basically or even congenitally, it may be the case that they are just simply stressed out and need to relax a bit after a couple of years into a startup.
I’ve managed to get through my first entrepreneur’s puberty with support from friends, investors, fellow entrepreneurs, and looking back, it was a difficult time and felt like I close to loosing my mind.
In retrospect, I can see where I could’ve done better, manage my stress and pressure more gracefully, and hopefully go through it with less amount of tension. Now that I’m doing my second startup with other co-founders, I’m sharing this experience and reminding ourselves that whatever the reason might be, we will probably have another set of rough times around this period, so rather than rationalizing ourselves of how hard it is for us, just bear through the period acknowledging that puberty is something we can’t avoid, but must grow out of.