[Editorial Notes: Entrepreneurship is a lot about learning from other’s mistakes and making some of your own. In this guest post, Vinamra Pandiya of Tastykhana talks about a few lessons he’s learned from his entrepreneurial journey.]
Finally, your heart has triumphed over your mind, you have taken that proverbial leap of faith, you have fought your inner demons of when is the right time to start – whatever way you want to look at it, the truth is you have just committed yourself for the biggest self discovery till date. You would be confronted with some known and some unknown challenges. This would be a difficult test of nerves and you just can’t afford to make the following mistakes which will lower you chance of success and make you a non starter.
Ideas don’t get funded- Execution is the key my friend: Idea is a seed, your hard work and passion would make it a banyan tree. Good ideas can be generated over coffee table conversations and gossip sessions but soon forgotten if not worked upon. You have an idea and a plan, just execute it with full gusto, period.
Death by Stealth- I see a growing trend of startups in ‘Stealth Mode’ – I just don’t get it. Are you forming a company or building a nuclear bomb? I spoke to some of them and the common reason given was ‘My Idea would get stolen’ – are you kidding me or yourself? If you are so afraid then why the heck you took the plunge? Come out from your deep freezer and sweat it out in the open. May the best execution win!
My Advice- Avoid overdose of advice: Being nervous is good when you are about to begin, it pumps more adrenalin in your veins and fuels you to outperform. I’m sure you must have discussed with your friends and family, did some random surveys, attended some conferences to validate your idea etc. Remember, each start up journey is unique, the more you cloud your mind with some one else’s experiences, the more circumspect you will become and this is one thing you can’t afford. Believe in yourself and start with a clean slate.
Too many co-founders spoil the broth- This is due to our ingrained culture of being risk averse. It is good to start with two or max three founders in the team, otherwise, you would have to deal with too many non work related issues which will reduce your focus. It specially happens when things are going in the right direction and there is a clamor of hogging the limelight. Remember, more than 3 is a crowd. Avoid it.
Focus first on your customers, not on currency- Today I see and hear a lot of first timers attending funding conferences, VC Coffee Meet Ups etc. Their logic is ‘ We are making our presence felt in this VC space’. Have you been smoking lately? Boss, instead make your presence felt in front of your first set of customers, if they are happy, these ‘VC’s would queue up in line to fund you. Your business needs most of your time, not these conferences.
Gas As a Service (GaaS)- In start up events, VC conferences, you would encounter many wannabes who would give you a lot of gyaan, promise you meetings with VC’s, flaunt their connections etc but with a rider – ‘There ain’t no such thing as a Free Lunch’ ! Rates vary- From Rs 5000/hr to as high as Rs 10 lakh for complete mentorship, gyaan with different gurus, some start up manuscripts- list is long and sorry I forgot, some minor equity (ranges from 5 % to 49% percent) as well! This is what I term as GaaS through which these fartbags are running their own businesses by preaching from the mountains and polluting the entire eco-system with their shit. Please be away from them and let your business numbers speak for you.
Start->Fund->Sell->Stop- In today’s crowded world of start-ups, entrepreneurship has become more glamorous and entrepreneurs potential rock-stars. In India, the VC funding is considered the first step towards salvation and selling off the final nirvana. Nobody wants to run the business or do it the hard way. Plethora of businesses are started with the sole purpose of selling it off in X years (sometimes months). I do not contest this approach but want to warn you about its timing and its applicability. Some businesses are purely valuation games but not all. At your stage, it is difficult to ascertain, so focus on bottom-line as much as top line, on actual conversions as much as unique visits. If fundamentals are good, you would get a good buyer, so wait for your turn and be patient.
Never ever involve your relatives in your business- Last but not the least. In my first business, I have seen the worst side of it and hence I speak from pure experience. Don’t cut corners in such cases. Run business like a professional. Friends and relatives working for you during your early days will give you the most headache when you strike it big. If you still want to involve them, have a water-tight paperwork.
To summarize, as start up ecosystem grows, there would be lots of noise and tons of shit. You have to tune yourself to a frequency that really helps you and which cuts you off from unnecessary clutter. So, just take a deep breath, pull up your sleeves and start working.
May the universe be with you!
Recommended Read : Most Common Startup Mistakes to Avoid: Insights from Founders
Meet DOERs, the real men and women of the startup world at UnPluggd, NextBigWhat’s startup conference scheduled for May 24, Bangalore.