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As a budding entrepreneur, it’s easy to get swept away in dreams of becoming the next Bill Gates or Elon Musk.

Though it isn’t impossible, it’s more likely that you’ll find success conquering the small feats that lay in front of you.

Chicago Founder Institute Mentor and Cultivate Labs Co-Founder Adam Siegel, explains why it’s important for entrepreneurs to focus on reaching attainable goals, rather than aiming for “Unicorn” status.

You’re likely not going to be one of the next big companies being written up in Forbes. Instead, focus on more attainable goals in front of you.”

Why have you decided to mentor entrepreneurs?

I’ve had a few good mentors in my life and they’ve made a huge impact on how I think about issues and the decisions I make. Consequently I’ve had my share of successes and failures and I think it’s valuable to pass along those lessons learned.

How would you describe the tech startup scene in Chicago?

Besides a few of the very well funded companies, it’s there, but it feels relatively underground, especially if you’re not hanging out at 1871 (coworking space) all day. That said certain neighborhoods seem to be attracting a lot of tech and it’s increasingly out in the open at cafes, etc.  

How can founders find technical talent in Chicago?

I still believe old school networking is the best way to do this. Contact someone who has built something you like. Learn to code yourself and that will drive a lot of conversations.

What common mistakes do you see entrepreneurs make?

Undervaluing the need for a technical co-founder that is an equal or near equal partner. If your business is focused on technology, and you expect to simply outsource that, you’re going to be in serious pain in short order. It’s relatively easy to get something built these days, but it’s the maintenance and improvements afterwards that people don’t tend to think about.

What advice would you give seed-stage entrepreneurs about fundraising?

I would advise them to think about if they really need to fundraise in the first place, and is there a version of their business model they can pursue that doesn’t require it. I say this for two reasons: raising capital doesn’t equal success. It just means someone thinks your idea can potentially scale. And it may not even increase your likelihood of success - it may lead to a quicker failure. There is nothing wrong with a “lifestyle” business that makes you and a few employees a good living. Just know what you’re getting into and why you’re doing it before you spend the effort to try and raise money.

What's the number one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Learn to be patient and don’t judge yourself by what you’re reading in the press about companies that are “killing it.” The stories you read about a company’s success have been polished over time to sound as dramatic and simple as possible.  You’re likely not going to be one of the next big companies being written up in Forbes. Instead, focus on more attainable goals in front of you. Get your first customer, then get your second. Raise your rates one year to the next. Get a customer to repeat their business. Get your first 100 users. Hire your first employee. Whatever it may be, keep it small and attainable.

Check out what CultivateLabs has to offer!

(Businesswoman drawing strategy plan over ladder leading to success image by Shutterstock)

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