80-hour weeks. Constant stress. Strained relationships and issues with your sex life. These are just some of the challenges facing some startup founders today.
British venture capital investment firm BGF Ventures teamed up with market research firm Streetbees to survey 500 founders across the UK, to understand what life is like for people who have launched and run their own company.
The data is fascinating, and worth looking at in detail, highlighting the extreme stresses – and rewards – in store for people willing to go it alone.
Bear in mind throughout this: The data definitely skews towards small businesses and recently launched startups: 36% said the business was just them, and another 36% said it was between one and four people. Just 3% of respondents have between 50 and 99 employees, and 1% have more than 100. 37% of respondents’ business have been running for between one and two years, and another 36% for less than a year. 51% of respondents were sole founders, rather than cofounders, and 68% of all respondents said their current startup was their first.
So these are very much the experiences of people just starting out, rather than those running larger, more established enterprises.
But why do it in the first place? The reasons for launching the business range from solving a problem in the market (22%) to being their own boss (21%), or just a desire to make lots of money (9%).
Startup culture can lionise long hours, and true to form, just 9% said they worked less than 35 hours a week. 7% said they put in more than 80 hours a week.
Meanwhile, a whopping 70% said that compared with working for an employer, being a startup founder is much more work. (10% said less work!) And 53% said that they never “switch off.”
Stress is a near-constant feature of founders’ lives. 41% said they felt stressed “pretty much everyday,” and 33% opted for a couple of times a week. Just 7% said they were never stressed.
When it comes to work worries, 50% said they were feeling anxious about cash flow, and 49% about raising funding for the business. Their management skills came in at 29%, followed by recruiting skilled staff at 25%.
That said, it’s by no means all negative. 53% of the 500 respondents said that being a founder had made a positive impact on their fulfillment, 52% on their happiness, and 35% on their mental health.
On the flipside, 34% said founding a business negatively affected their social life, 31% their relationships and family life, 27% their mental health, 23% their physical health, 15% their alcohol consumption, and 12% their sex life.
The upshot here is the rewards that can be on offer for founders. A massive 95% of respondents said being a startup founder is more rewarding that working for a regular employer. (3% said equally rewarding, and 2% said less rewarding.)
And 76% people said that, even knowing what they know now, they’d do it all again – with another 23% saying maybe, and just 1% responding “no way.”