Do You Have the X Factor… or the Fear Factor?

In last week’s blog we touched on the importance of entrepreneurs having all-important drive and determination if they are to succeed. It might sound obvious but actually, being in the right frame of mind is just as important as having all those tangible aspects – like funding, branding and intellectual property protection – lined up. There are all sorts of alarming statistics around small business failure rates (and mountains of advice about how to avoid the common pitfalls) but it got us thinking: is it simply fear of failure that holds people back from running their own business and ultimately realising their dreams of financial freedom? Or something else?

Under30CEO reported on some research carried out in the US by the Young Invincibles in conjunction with Lake Research Partners and Bellwether Research into what prevented young people from starting a business in the new millennium. Their report revealed that 38% of potential young entrepreneurs blamed the economy, saying they were waiting until they felt that it was in better order. The same research also highlighted access to credit, too much risk and lack of business knowledge as the top three barriers. Insufficient knowledge and experience, overcoming personal doubts and a lack of role models also featured heavily.  Whilst this is US-based research, these barriers seem to universally apply no matter what your life stage or where you live. Many would-be entrepreneurs simply sum up all of these thoughts and fears into a three simple words: ‘I’m not ready’.

Those who did take the leap and go on to become successful entrepreneurs often talk about the fact that it’s unlikely that you’ll ever feel ‘ready’ and that you have all the skills and knowledge you’ll need to succeed. They say that it will never feel like you’ve gained enough experience – and a life in business throws curveballs that you won’t have come across before in any case. Ultimately, there’s a point when you just have to go for it, ready or not!

Over the past few years, the companies that we’ve welcomed into the Catalyst Centre have come with all the usual fears but, for differing reasons, they decided to just go for it! Catalyst aims to overcome many of the barriers that start-ups face. Although it can’t claim to create stable global economic conditions, the programme mentors and workshop leaders work hard with resident start-ups to facilitate access to funding and key influencers, reduce risk and overcome a lack of business experience through focusing relentlessly on the Value Proposition. As a result, the fear factor that holds many back simply melts away and confidence builds in tandem with the business itself.

Angus Webb from Catalyst graduate business, Dynamon, told us: “Entering an incubator is always good for your start-up business. It is a very consuming six months so you need to be able to manage your time, but if you can get that right it is a worthwhile thing to do. During this time, I’ve basically learnt how to run a business. I’m an engineer so I know a lot about maths and physics but then all of a sudden I’ve joined the business community and Catalyst. It was like being back at school again. My learning curve has been steep, but the seminars have been very useful in understanding the processes needed to run a company.”

He continued: “You’re surrounded by people with the same aspirations which, for me, makes up 90% of the benefit. Being able to meet as many people as possible, and asking as many questions as I can think of, cannot be underestimated. There are other added benefits too, such as the office space, the facilities, the resources, but it’s mostly being able to share the experience with others on the same journey. Catalyst was definitely helpful and has with a doubt contributed to the gradual growth of my business.”

Other programme graduates were similarly upbeat. Adam Kingdon, founder of Utonomy, said: “Being part of the Catalyst programme has propelled my business forward in a way I couldn’t have previously anticipated. I came into Catalyst with an idea that was just a few months old; I now have a solid value proposition, a great team and £400,000 worth of funding to push it to the next level. I’d encourage anyone thinking of taking the leap into entrepreneurship to apply to the Catalyst programme today.”

If you’ve got an interesting business idea and the drive and determination to succeed, but you’re not sure whether you’re ready to start up in business, ask yourself three questions: First, what is holding me back? And, then, why shouldn’t I apply to enter one of the UK’s best start-up incubators?  Write down your thoughts and then ask the third and final question: are these really valid reasons?

If the answer is no, get online and take that all important first step and apply at

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