Having been involved with three Internet start-ups, I can say without reservation that being an entrepreneur is the most thrilling thing I have ever done.

It is also the most terrifying.

The thrills and fear come in equal measure.

When I’m on an up, I can take on the world.

When on a down, it feels like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.

The Entrepreneur Rollercoaster

I have just read an article written by Tim Ferris, author of the best selling Four Hour Work Week and Cameron Herold, former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK, a very successful US company. It was a real eye-opener. It provides the most valuable insight into the entrepreneurial start-up process I have ever read. Below, I have described how this process could impact an entrepreneur setting up an Internet business for the first time.

The full article can be found at "Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic Depression Making The Rollercoaster Work For You".

So these are the five stages as described by Cameron Herold . . .

  • Stage 1: The first stage of the concept is called “Uninformed Optimism”. At this stage on a rollercoaster, just getting to the top of the rollercoaster you experience feelings of an adrenalin rush, characterized by excitement and nervous energy.

  • Stage 2: The second stage is called “Informed Pessimism”. As you ride over the top of the curve you now have a bit more information. Feelings of fear, nervousness, and frustration begin to set in. Perhaps you even want to get off of it.

  • Stage 3 – The third stage is called “Crisis of Meaning”. You’re past scared. You feel despair. It’s as if you’re standing on the edge of a cliff ready to jump, and you begin to think “Today the rollercoaster’s going off the bottom of the track for the very first time.” You feel helpless and terrified.

  • Stage 4 - At this point, you face a critical juncture. You can come off the bottom of the curve and crash and burn, or you can get around the corner and enter an upward swing call “Informed Optimism”.

  • Stage 5 – "Informed Optimism". You’re calm. You’re informed. You start to understand how your business works and what you need to do to make it grow. You might even say you are cautiously optimistic about success!

Any experienced entrepreneur reading this will probably be nodding their head in agreement. I did.

Now I’ll go through the stages from the point of view of a new entrepreneur setting up their first online business.

Stage 1 – Uninformed Optimism

Some event, conversation or something you read will have sparked your interest in setting up an online business.

Your first action will probably be to scribble down your ideas. As you do so your vision will either become clearer and more exciting, or too challenging to pursue.

Your second action will probably be to undertake some research online to see what other people are doing. This will either boost your enthusiasm further, or lead you to decide to throw in the towel.

By now, if you have not been put off, you will be really excited about the potential. You may even have written a business plan, which shows the revenues and profit heading towards the stars.

Further research on the Internet will help you find a development company, or better still a fixed-price managed service (like SubHub!), which will enable you to launch a website without technical knowledge. You invest your savings or borrow some money to fast track your launch.

All the pieces seem to be slotting into place. 

During this time you’re brimming with confidence. You talk with enthusiasm and brush aside the naysayers.

It’s a pleasure getting up in the morning to pursue your dream.

Stage 2 – Uninformed Pessimism

Then things change . . .

Maybe you overspent on your website and the development firm didn’t deliver what you were expecting.

You launch your site and nobody comes.

You immediately buy advertising, pay an SEO consultant and scour the web for help. You keep trying new things but nothing seems to work. You spend money on some marketing, but if you don’t see quick results you stop before it has a chance to succeed.

The naysayers start saying ‘I told you so’ and you start to listen. You don’t argue with them any more because your confidence has gone.

You look around for people to blame. Your developer, advisors, so-called friends . . . anyone.

During this stage you don’t appreciate the valuable lessons you are learning. It’s the knowledge and experience gained during the darkest days which will be the cornerstone of your business.

Stage 3 – Crisis of Meaning

Eventually you hit a critical tipping point. Your funds are all spent, you’ve stop sleeping at night and you have run out of ideas. The website is performing, but not to the level your plans had forecast.

You dread getting out of bed in the morning.

You sit for hours at your PC like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.

Stage 4 – Crash and Burn … or Rebirth

Once you hit crisis point . . . and most entrepreneurs do . . . you will go one of two ways.

You will either grit your teeth, bang your fist on the table and shout “I will not be beaten” . . . or you will crash and burn.

Sometimes at this stage it is worth walking away. If your family life is breaking under the strain, or your health is deteriorating, you may be better to give it up so you can fight another day.

But many people walk away just as the sun is breaking through the clouds and darkness.

Stage 5 – Informed Optimism

Many entrepreneurs just don’t realise how much they achieve and learn during the early stages of setting up their business. In MBA speak this knowledge is called core competencies. This is stuff you learn from doing. It can’t be got from books, courses or research. It is these skills which set a successful business apart from its inferior competitors.

It is during the informed optimism stage that you realize how your business works and what you can do to make it grow. As you tweak the right levers and see it respond your confidence grows.

You can’t sleep at night, but not because of worry, but because of excitement. You know what you have to do; there are just too few hours in the day to do it. You can’t wait to get up in the morning.

Your customers respond and start to recommend your service. Suddenly sales are growing faster than your costs and ‘+’ sign appears in the profit column of your accounts.

People are turning to you for advice . . . rather than the other way round.

Naysayers . . . bring it on!


If starting a business was easy, everyone would be doing it! It’s tough and needs real courage and determination.

Understanding this cycle is extremely important.

If you know where you are in the peaks and troughs, you can manage yourself accordingly.

You’ll never stop the rollercoaster; it’s as predictable as night following day. But you will be able to accelerate through it and keep your head whilst all those around you are losing theirs.

I can’t remember how many times I have seen entrepreneurs give up just before their online business starts to turn the corner. Remember it’s always darkest just before dawn.

I wish you the very best of luck with your endeavours, whatever they may be, and always remember what Richard Branson said: “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious don’t live at all”.
Just do it...and keep doin’ it till you succeed!