From February 2017 to June 2018 I worked on a project called ChineseMe, an online method to help people learning Chinese.
This had to be a success. I have an MBA from Peking University and a MSc in Economics and Management from ESSEC Business school. I studied Chinese since I was 14. I learnt web development as a hobby since 2014. I’ve read books, followed classes, met many entrepreneurs and discussed about every possible dimension about how to make an Internet-based business. In February 2017 I met a friend who is also passionate about Chinese language and was ready to finance the ChineseMe project and allow me to work on project full-time from Stockholm. I quit my job and went all-in, thinking that nothing could go wrong. I knew that most of the time, first-time entrepreneurs fail. But hey, what could go wrong? I was so well prepare and I had the best possible profile to make a breakthrough in the industry of online Chinese learning.
What happened next? Of course I failed. Big time. Or more exactly, the project was a fail. Believe it or not, I did almost all of the most common mistakes that you usually see in articles about entrepreneurship:
- Focused on fame and results instead of caring for people
- Released the first product way too late.
- Over-complicated product.
- No real differentiation.
- No real market.
Even if I knew about those things, I was blind to them. This is another hint at one of my rule: I can only learn by experiencing it myself. At the end I was completely depressed, staying at home (I lived in the office) and not seeing a lot of people. How did this happened? I gave everything I had on the project, but I wasn’t doing it with my heart. I did it mostly for the adventure, because I wanted to show others that I could do it and because it seems to be the logical thing to do given my educational background. I didn’t truly do it to help people learning Chinese. If I cared about this that much, I would probably be a Chinese teacher. And I’m not.
What did I learn?
- Do it. You will never be as prepared as now.
- There is no failure. ChineseMe didn’t bring me money nor fame. But I learnt a lot about myself (precisely that I don’t and shouldn’t care about money nor fame).
- Do not “create a startup” or “be an entrepreneur” because it sounds cool.
- Do something that you like, and very likely, this will lead to something good. Money and fame are not ends to follow. They are just the potential outcome that may happen when someone does what they like. And even if it doesn’t happen, at least you’ve done something you like.
- Ask yourself: do you see you doing this for the rest of your life? If the answer is no, don’t do it.
- Do not think about what other will think. Do it for you.