If you’re not an optimist, then you’re not an entrepreneur.

You have to believe you will succeed – or why try?

But at the same time the best entrepreneurs are realists, acknowledging challenges and preparing to overcome them.

So a new survey of Triangle entrepreneurs from NCSU is a mix of dreams and reality.

Which means this is a valid survey.

Plus, this survey is not just based on fresh-faced, naive, full-of-hope-but-no-reality millennials:

  • “The average age of ventures in this sample was roughly 5.5 years (with 54.0% being younger that 3 years).
  • “The average annual revenue year-to-date for respondents was $916,054 with fully one-quarter (27.3%) of this sample reporting being pre-revenue.
  • “Over half (51.8%) of this sample reported average year-to-date revenue of less than $150,000.
  • “A diverse range of industries are represented in the sample (18.4% software/technology, 4.2% health care, 7.2% sales/service, 3.6% financial services, 6.0% food and beverage).
  • “The average number of full-time employees in these ventures was just over 6 with the majority (89.0%) of these entrepreneurial ventures having 10 or fewer full-time employees and 98% having fewer than 10 part-time employees.”

Headlines and surveys boasting about nothing but optimism are misleading and worthless. Let’s talk reality which comes with experience.

And times really are good right now for Triangle startups with plenty of ideas, a variety of funding sources (angels, grants) and corporate backing (accelerators, shared office spaces). So why NOT be excited?

“Among the entrepreneurs participating in this survey, 86.9 percent report that they anticipate the next six months may bring increases in sales. In terms of capital spending, 55.8% anticipate increases, and for employment, 60.3% anticipate increases,” reports the first Quarterly Outlook of Triangle Entrepreneurs from the N.C. State Entrepreneurship Collaborative.

Cute name, by the way QuOTE.

Worries, Too

But what The Skinny likes about the survey is the willingness of entrepreneurs to talk about what worries them.

How many entrepreneurs do you know really sleep well every night? Their drive, their desire to be best keeps you awake because you have to be ready for the unexpected. 

So here are the key concerns:

“The survey also found the issue of growing too slowly to be the most significant with 56.7 percent of entrepreneurs agreeing that this is a concern for their business. Recruiting talent (in operations, management and marketing) was second, with 50 percent reporting concern here. Third, was economic uncertainty with 48.1 percent of entrepreneurs agreeing that this was a concern.”

With the stock market at record highs and the talk about a “bubble,” concern about the economy is certainly justified.

So, too, is the hunt for talent.

Look at home many companies should up at the “Tech Out” the Triangle job fair earlier this week. More than 2,000 jobs were available.

Demand is high and is likely to grow as established companies and more startups pick the Triangle as their place to do business. 

The survey covers projections for the next six months. Nearly 200 entrepreneurs participated.

The folks at Poole College and TEC have created an index value based on the results. The initial figure is 113.67.

Let’s see what the survey looks like after Christmas – which could be a bust for a lot of companies and thus could throw a shadow over 2015.

Footnote: The Level of Support for Entrepreneurs – and Curious Omissions

A footnote: The list of organizations and groups that assisted NCSU in compiling the survey is impressive, reflecting the ever-increasing support system for entrepreneurs in the Triangle.

Entrepreneurs have never had so much support. Maybe that’s a reason for the optimism?

The list:

  • HQ Raleigh
  • American Underground
  • City of Raleigh
  • Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
  • Business Network International
  • Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative
  • Bull City Coworking
  • 1789 Venture Lab
  • First Flight Venture Center
  • NC State Technology Incubator
  • Chapel Hill/Carboro Chamber of Commerce
  • Durham Chamber of Commerce
  • Innovate Carolina

Interestingly, some bigger and better-known groups AREN’T listed. 

Why not?