A start-up is just that – a start and UP.
However, before the UP happens, most entrepreneurs go through what could only be called a gut-wrenching roller coaster ride, while being chased by a hungry tiger. Although my definition of the start-up experience is rather morbid, please feel free to paint a pretty picture in your head, because the only way to be a part of the ‘pretty picture’ is to imagine it first.
Close to six years ago, I became part of a health-tech start-up with ambitions of improving research outcomes of global pharmaceutical companies. Since then till now, the core team has seen days (and nights) of engineering miracles, sleep deprivation, 24 hour long parties, 48-hour long coding marathons, generous Diwali bonuses, salary delays for 2 months, and what not. Although the end motive was clear, the path wasn’t. What worked in our favour was the team’s zeal to excel (in life and in Microsoft). Below are a few things which I feel worked for us and some which, unfortunately did not.
Things we could have done better:
- Asked for help – Like many, or most entrepreneurs, we felt that we know best about how to ideate, build, sell and scale. The fact that there are tons of start-up experts, communities and affiliates eluded us. I would probably rate this as one of our worst mistakes.
- Taken time to make better decisions – Once we knew that we are all in, we rushed to hire the first batch of people, get an office and everything else. A few more weeks of research would have saved us from a lot of heart and pocket burn. End result, we started spending money but realised that we didn’t have enough work for everybody for the first 3 weeks.
- Structure – Everybody loves a hustler, however, becoming a hustler takes time and experience. I fail to believe that people are born hustlers. We had sailed on the entrepreneurial jet, but moved at the pace of a barge – all due to the severe lack of structure. We felt we could do everything by EOD. A planned and mapped approach right from day one would have made our world a nicer place to live in.
Things which worked for us:
- Listening vs. hearing – As a team, we quickly realised our ignorance and started absorbing information. People are experts for a reason, and most experts are genuinely helpful. So when they talk, don’t just hear – listen.
- Passion – It is easy to be motivated, yet very difficult to stay motivated for a long time. At times of difficulty, passion is the first bird to fly out the window. Make sure your windows are sealed and the air-conditioner is switched on. Remind yourself, and each other, why you started this and where do you want to go.
- Perseverance – “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition” is how Merriam-Webster defines perseverance and it is as accurate as it gets. The entrepreneurial journey is riddled with opposition, difficulty and several failures – small and big. The only way to financial, social and personal success is to keep pushing forward. Sooner or later, you will find the world pushing and pulling, for and with you.