I live in Mexico, and come from a middle-low class family (and that's third world middle-low class) and all my life I've had in me this entrepreneurial dream which I have not been able to make true. Three years ago I left my full-time work to pursue a freelancing career as a web developer and I'm doing ok (I was doing great before the recession, though).
Now, I don't want to be a freelancer all my life. I really want to be an entrepreneur and have a startup but I'm feeling like I'm doing everything wrong. I'm starting to think that I aim very high for a guy in my position. Two years ago I launched Twimbler (a service that turns your twitter stream into a tumble blog) and this past year I started a WordPress Theme Store with a very innovative perspective. None of this projects have really taken off.
I know that if I've put more time and effort into those ideas they could be great, but I don't have the necessary resources and down here we don't have VCs or even YCombinators. I can't even think of moving to the valley because USA won't give me a visa.
Today I'm a bit depressed. I have so many ideas and I know that I'm talented and eager to learn but I don't know where to go from here.
Do you think that I should give up already?
Sorry for the long message.
There's no reason to give up in my opinion. You seem to fit the mold of an entrepreneur - with multiple projects going, etc.
You can succeed without the US and without VC and without YCombinator.
Accept the fact that it is not easy. Accept the fact that you will hear many more "NOs" than "Yes-es" and do what you find interesting. It won't guarantee success, but it is better than the alternative.
I think a few of the stories in "Founders at Work" mentioned the founders were on an emotional roller coaster and ready to give up at some points.
Many successful entrepreneur blogs will bear this out as well. One of them is active on this site and will probably (hopefully) chime in
You're not alone - it is common and comes with the territory.
In the mean-time be practical and do the work that pays the bills. Keep looking for those other ideas.
As for "aiming too high" - I think it is unrealistic to expect to turn out like Sergei Brin or Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.
It is certainly reasonable though to have hopes to end up making a great living working for yourself with hard work, luck and persistence.
Consider how you might turn your situation into an advantage.
For example, you can sell products into the US for a US pricetag, but you live in Mexico and more to the point, you can hire people who live in Mexico. That means with less revenue you can afford more help. That's an advantage we don't have in the US!
Not only is trying to be the next Steve Jobs silly for you, it's silly for me and anyone else!
Maybe consider focussing on just one project rather than spreading your time among several.
The beauty of entrepreneurship is that there are no set steps to becoming one. It's not like a career in corporate america.
Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. You are one simply by persevering.
Learn from your past attempts. Improve, repeat. Either it's in you or it's not. Don't listen to other people that tell you how you should lead your life.
And don't fantasize too much about Silicon Valley. You can succeed anywhere nowdays. I especially recommend Jason's reply: charge in $US, spend local and you'll bootstrap yourself faster.
Perhaps you are lacking the marketing skills ? I know I did. If you feel that's the case, why not teach yourself marketing through books, blogs, etc. or get a partner who is good at it ?
Carlos Slim Helu., the worlds third richest man is Mexican. I don't think country has any factor on being a successful entrepreneur.
Play with the cards you have been dealt. Maybe you should initially focus on the Mexican market. The lack of resources would be equally apply to all your competition (other mexican enterpreneurs) and so a nonissue.
And anyway you have access to the biggest/ most useful resources of all .. the Internet and Google. Think of how things where 10 years back when all this sharing of information wasn't there.
It is easier now than it has ever been to innovate and succeed. Why?
You no longer need much money to develop a product
This is very disruptive. You could essentially take on and topple big companies because they can't compete with your nimbleness and cost structure.
To compete the larger companies are going to/have to layoff people.
The only way to succeed in the future is being an enterpreur. You have no choice.
Don't give up yet! You answered part of your question when you said "I was doing great before the recession".
I've been through two recessions now. They really hurt a startup, particularly a service company. Customers just close their checkbooks for a while.
Keep working hard and your business will pick up again...just give it more time.
Keep in mind that a 'freelancer' is an entrepreneur -- You already have a business, why not take what you have learned about your freelance clients and make a business around it. Perhaps there is a common problem many of them have, or an industry that you can focus on. Leverage where you are instead of starting from scratch.
Don't worry too much about your failures, Thomas Edison failed hundreds of times trying to invent the light bulb, each one helped him learn what not to do. When you no longer have the will to fail, you no longer have the will to succeed.
In any country there are opportunities, but what is an opportunity for Mexico will be different than what is needed in the US.
So, start with meeting needs of those around you, so that you can have money coming in, and then you can see about developing solutions to sell in the US, by leveraging the income from your earlier successes.
Just keep your eye on your final prize, but look at where you are currently, and build up a business model that will help you to get to where you want to be.
Everything that you described is completely normal within the entrepreneurial field. One day you wake up feeling like you can conquer the world. Two hours later, you check your Google Analytics page and consider quitting. Five hours later, you finish a really cool feature prototype and you're back on top of the world.
However, from your post, it sounds like you're trying to keep your eggs way too far apart. Why don't you try to incorporate some of your start-up ideas into the designs free of charge to gain traction? For example, when you do design, show your client the cool Timbler idea you've been working on and offer to integrate it into the design for free? If they say 'no', you're no worse off than before, but, if they say 'yes', someone may notice it and try to actively acquire it.
If you're doing well for yourself, there's really no reason to quit unless something about your life situation changes. Today you're feeling low, but tomorrow you'll be feeling awesome again.
One of the literal translations of the word "entrepreneur" from French is "builder". This is because your businesses have to start from a small base - you don't suddenly get success overnight, it takes years
The key to being a successful entrepreneur is that you enjoy the everyday nature of the work you are doing. We all want to make a ton of money but you have to enjoy the journey and not just focus on the destination because you tend to find this destination or goal shifts as you progress through life. Therefore, you need to enjoy the now. Steve Jobs set out to make some cool products, not make a mass of cash - that was just the result
Also, failure in business is not something to be scared of - it is a vital learning tool. Two of the best British Entrepreneurs prove this. Sir Richard Branson had to sell his record company to avoid going bankrupt and was almost sent to prison for tax evasion - look where he is now. Sir Philip Green had three failed businesses and didn't see success until he was 40. He is now 58 and paid himself a $2 billion bonus two years ago!
My advice would be to ensure you enjoy what you are doing and focus on making the best products you can rather than just focussing on "success".