Are You a “Cereal” Entrepreneur? (No, That’s Not a Typo.)
Remember being a kid on Sunday morning, groggily eating your Lucky Charms, and staring at the back of a cereal box? Remember being momentarily hypnotized by the simple mazes, the connect the dots, and the word search puzzles? Remember the enticing promise of free prizes and pouring heaping, sugar-packed bowls in the hopes of reaching the prize at the bottom in record time? Maybe you were the kid who, with the mischievous smile of someone who had just discovered the solution to a magic trick, opened the box upside-down to pluck the prize from the top.
Even as an adult, strolling through the cereal aisle has the nostalgic power to pull you back to simpler days, but, at the same time, you know if you were to pick up a box of Cap’n Crunch today, it wouldn’t be the same.
You know that if you were to find a glow-in-the-dark action figure in your breakfast today, it might sit on your shelf for a week, then be forgotten, only to be thrown in the garbage during the next spring-cleaning purge. And although you could probably find some creative uses for the x-ray glasses, it’s not like those things ever really worked.
Not to mention that if you were to eat a full bowl of cereal of Trix for breakfast, it would leave you feeling sluggish and starving just a few hours later.
That’s why cereal is the perfect analogy for serial entrepreneurship. It speaks to our childish desire for easy prizes and instant gratification. It’s all sucrose and no substance.
Cereal Entrepreneurship: Devoid of Nutritional Value
What is a serial entrepreneur?
Simply, it’s someone with a long history of entrepreneurial ventures. Often, a serial entrepreneur gets the ball rolling on an idea for a product or service with the goal of selling out as quickly as possible — for as much money as possible — freeing them up to move on to their next venture. The lifestyle promises all of the glamour associated with being an entrepreneur without thought for the actual work that goes into building and nurturing a company over time.
We’re in a fair-weather economy at the moment. It’s all blue skies and overeager venture capitalists. That’s part of why serial/cereal entrepreneurship is thriving right now. Investors are lining up to throw money at over-hyped, under-developed ideas and promises of future potential that never come to fruition.
Short-lived companies like “Ship Your Enemies Glitter” or “Juicero” are prime examples of the causalities of the new start-up culture. They’re like a sugar rush — generating a lot of energy early on but crashing hard. And that’s because they rely on virality, not execution.
Virality promises that you won’t need to go through the difficult steps of actually needing to acquire customers. It assumes that all you need for overnight success is good “buzz.” But really, the business world doesn’t work like that. Buzz alone isn’t enough to sustain a business in the long-term, and you can’t rely on ideas without execution.
So, what impact does the serial entrepreneur have on society? Does he create jobs for others? Not likely. Does she aspire to more than personal wealth and glory? Not often.
Promoting the practice of selling out for personal gain is the entrepreneurial equivalent to eating nothing but Lucky Charms and calling it a healthy diet.
Flipping the Cereal Box: How Serial Entrepreneurship Encourages Impatience
Modern start-up culture tends to encourage a childish “I-want-it-now” mindset — not unlike those kids who pilfered the toy from the bottom of the cereal box and ruined it for the rest of us. It prizes non-commitment and places impatient and childish wannabe entrepreneurs on a pedestal.
The truth is, however, that serial entrepreneurship demonstrates an unwillingness to push through tough times.
Serial entrepreneurs love to chase the fantasy of a million-dollar buyout. Their dream is for some bigger company to come along and acquire their business so that they’re finally free from the difficult daily work of actually running a successful company.
When that doesn’t happen, they simply move on to the next “million-dollar idea.”
Whether they abandon their idea or hand it off to someone else, the serial entrepreneur doesn’t care about creating a lasting impact as much as they care about an easy payoff that, ultimately, contributes nothing to the greater good of society.
A Balanced Breakfast
Yeah, cereal tastes good, but you can’t live off it. The same goes for these short-lived, get-rich-quick startup schemes.
While serial entrepreneurship seems particularly appealing in an economic upswing, it won’t last forever. When the economic environment becomes less favorable, we’ll see that those “million-dollar ideas” aren’t worth the price of the notebook they were written in.
However, when you focus on a product that responds to a real need and combine that product with a sustainable business model and expert execution, you’ll have a business that can endure through economic hardship.
So, it’s time to grow up. Eat a vegetable. Create something that actually brings value to someone’s life.