Facing Rejection

Facing rejection as an entrepreneur can be pretty scary. Having founded a nonprofit and now being in the process of starting my first company, I can say firsthand that starting something is much less genius moments of scribbling equations on whiteboards while people gasp in awe in the background than it is having people reject you again. And again. And again. I’ve had my entire volunteer team quit on me. I’ve had a professor shake her head in dismay while sighing that “there’s just nothing special”. Cofounders have left. Thousands of people have told me no. Within all of this failure, how is it possible that a successful startup can emerge? I argue that functional ideas don’t emerge despite these naysayers, but because of them. At every point in my founding journey, disenchanted people have forced me to reconsider my ideals and turn them into practical ways forward. They have grounded me in reality while my head has consistently drifted into the clouds, considering new possibilities and opportunities with unabated eagerness. This definitely doesn’t mean I’ve always done what these critics have suggested. Had I implemented their suggestions, my nonprofit would have never come to fruition and I wouldn’t be working on my current business, as their insight was typically along the lines of this is dumb and stop this madness soon. What they did force me to do was explain, over and over, exactly why my idea would be successful, refining my judgements with each iteration. To do careful user research to prove just how viable my vision really was. To build a prototype and test it with user feedback, so that I could base my ideas on strong evidence. Rejection is an opportunity to focus on our vulnerabilities and carefully reevaluate our assumptions. It encourages us to consider ways for improvement and forces us to shift our perspective dramatically when our ideas aren’t up to par. It’s one of the biggest tools an entrepreneur has and, if used correctly, can do a much better job of leading us towards a solution than any amount of encouragement.

Swib University