Written by Carolin Lenehan
Annie Parker’s journey into the intoxicating world of startups began atop Mount Kilimanjaro, where she pulled out her phone, and in a single text, quit her job.
“I thought I’d get this huge adrenalin rush when I finally made the summit, but instead I fell in a heap and cried,” she recalls.
The sense of achievement wasn’t the cause – instead, the realisation hit that nine months spent trying to fill some missing sense of purpose were over, and now she would have to go back to the job that wasn’t doing it for her.
Six years on, Parker is interim CEO of Australia’s legendary startup nursery Fishburners, with responsibility for 845 early stage tech startup companies.
Here are her five hot tips to surviving the uphill startup trek:
- Take responsibility and make your own path
“When I reached the summit I realised that I had to take responsibility for my own personal development. No one can decide what your future is, and no one should do it for you, because if they did, they’d probably get it wrong,” Parker says.
- You’ll know the tipping point when you feel it
There is an inevitable point of no return with every startup.
“It’s like abseiling down a cliff . . . That moment where you tip backwards and you go, ‘What if this doesn’t work, what if this rope doesn’t hold me?’ You realise you are so vested in the potential of what this idea could become that you can’t bear the thought of finding out later someone else did it instead.”
- It only takes small steps to move forward.
Get over your fears, take that first small step and learn more. Then take another.
“A startup – by definition – has probably not been done before, so it’s OK that you don’t what the whole plan is from day one,” she says.
“Attend some startup events at places like Fishburners – you’ll be surprised how happy people are to share knowledge and experiences. From there, it starts to become obvious what the next right step is for you.”
- It’s OK to not be OK
Starting a business is a risk, and things can go wrong. Annie’s moment came earlier this year. In a raw and brave LinkedIn post, she shared:
I think it’s hugely important not to gloss over the bad bits and call them out for what they are – valuable (painful) learning experiences… I know everything will work itself out in the end, but until it does, I’ll be wrestling with the embarrassment of not being able to make the plan work; the worry that people will think less of me; the concern for others we bought along on the journey and hoping that they’ll be okay too….
- “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”
This line from Finding Nemo’s Dory character was on repeat in Annie’s head as she dug deep to put one foot in front of the other and climb her mountain.
“Starting a business you will have moments where you feel you’re spent and have no energy left, but just give it another half hour, day or that extra week, and you never know- you might still find a way through.”