I quit my earnings (job) for 18 months starting October 2013 — May 2015 to launch a startup — do something of my own. I would like to share my learnings for free with you 🙂 I do not think everything will be applicable to everyone. I do not claim to have become wiser, but hindsight may help someone in my situation.
I had been working in the travel technology domain for 6+ years in product management, revenue and technology roles, before launching iRavel.com in the same domain. I had worked out everything in my head.
You know *exactly* what to do — well, that might be a problem!
Please be careful not to misunderstand this point. I do not mean that one should work without thought or plan, rather, the very nature of startup is that outcomes are unpredictable at every step, at least till you have product market fit. Therefore, not having a plan in that sense is a good plan. You should be free to learn and course correct at every step. Its less painful that way.
I believe, I have a very strong sense of intuition (like all introverts do). I first realised I wasn’t doing something right when I started hearing many people say — “Nice step, doing startup is logical for you, given your credentials” — I thought, I am supposed to hear “You must be mad to do this”, people are saying the opposite, may be something is out of place. The heaviness of expected success is a stone tied to your legs — its better to travel light.
Your Job experience, no matter how good, does not equip you for first 6 months of startup
I believe, if you are an experienced product tech person, you will be clueless for at least 3–6 months. If you have different experience, you may be clueless for 12–18 months. Have an execution arrangement that allows you to work with that reality – it is the best thing to do for yourself and everyone in your team.
More than managing world outside, this reality will help you manage the world inside and bring your focus back to executing the next thing, rather than weighing in on success or failure at every step. One thing to note is that the time period I have mentioned assumes focused execution — for example, it means 4–5 iterations of the product with user feedback at every step
An army does not have 2 chiefs, a startup also needs 1 clear leader
I was myself not comfortable with the above point of view. But analysing things rationally, I think chances are much brighter with 1 clear leader.
What does it mean to be a leader in a situation where everyone is clueless? first of all, such situation makes it even more important to have a leader, secondly, a leader should have enough conviction to say “fail my way first” and should have earned the teams respect enough for them to commit whole heartedly. None of this can be forced unnaturally. If one has to choose between single founder company and many co-founders, with no clear leader, I think chances are brighter with going solo. I know of many people, who say they will go solo in the second attempt.
I think its perfectly ok not to lead as well. You could do better in the capacity of a co-founder with a clear founding leader. Really depends on you. Either lead or support whole heartedly, anything in between does not work in my opinion.
On Seeking Investments
I have no experience, except that I think better to treat investors in the same way as you should treat yourself — they could be clueless too. I am not saying this in a negative way, what I mean is that when people do not jump at your idea, treat it as the normal thing — choose to persist by trying different communication strategies.
[Manoj Kumar was earlier the head of products at PropTiger]