Startup Mistakes to Avoid: Making Money is an Outcome, Not The End Goal [Dr. Naren Gupta, Co-Founder, Nexus Venture Partners]

Naren Gupta
Naren Gupta, Co-Founder, Nexus Venture Partners

There are reasons to startup and there are many more reasons not to. For those who are sitting on the fence, contemplating whether to do a startup or not, it might be wise to hear from those who have been through the journey.

On Friday, Naren Gupta the co-founder of Mumbai based Nexus Venture Partners, shared some wisdom. Gupta was an entrepreneur before he became a Venture Capitalist, so he knows what it is like to be one.

In 1980, he co-founded a startup and decided to build software for real time systems.The product cost about $25,000 and ran on a system that cost $2000. People said nobody is going to pay for software more than what they pay for hardware. The company, Integrated Systems Inc (ISI), went public in 1990 and subsequently merged it with Wind River Systems. Wind River Systems was recently acquired by Intel.

Once you decide to start a company  or join one, there are many positives and negatives you might come across. He says “In many ways, whether you were to start a company or join a company, the experience is very very similar. There is not really much of a difference in terms of what you might see out there.”

When he started the company in 1980, he was not really aware about a lot of these challenges “I did not know what the challenges were at that time or I certainly would not have started a company at that time. There were a lot of positives I saw.”

Dr. Naren Gupta @UnPluggd
Dr. Naren Gupta @UnPluggd

According to Gupta, starting up on your own would be lot of fun as you would get to try something different and try out new ideas, which are some of the things difficult to do in large companies.

You will learn a lot of things like how to recruit people, how to be a good sales person, how to convince people to join your team, think about the strategy,implement, talk with customers, and many more.

“One of the big payoffs of starting a company is that you learn a lot.” says Gupta.

You also develop certain new skills, that you are not likely to develop in large companies. For example thinking about customer needs and anticipating customer needs, something that you don’t think about when you are in a large company.

Some Things people starting up should keep in mind

  • Making money is an outcome of the starting up process, it should be one of the things you think about during the process and not the primary reason for starting a company.

  • Don’t start a company just to be your own boss, it doesn’t quite work that way. When you hire someone, you are pretty responsible for the person and responsible for what the employee wants to see in the company.

  • Getting your family convinced that you should start a company and go on the roller coaster ride is probably one of the most important things you can do before you start a company.

  • Don’t start a company because an area is hot. Today it might be something tomorrow it might be something else. Do it because you truly believe in that area and you have some expertise.

  • Don’t listen to people or friends too much because you might often end up getting backward looking advice.

  • Don’t do a survey on whether you should start a company or you should start in a certain area, because often you will end up getting wrong answers.

  • Startups are a big emotional roller coaster ride with high highs and low lows. One day everything is golden, the sun is out and the very next day it will look like the company is going to go out of business.

What should you be thinking about

  • You need a team that can execute. A lot of failures we see in startups happen because team members can’t work with each other, and it is one of the biggest reasons.

  • You need a market. A market can be some thing that exists now or can exist in the future. A lot of the greatest companies have created markets, for example There was not much of a  market for switches and routers when Cisco started making them, similarly before the iPad there was not much of a market for tablet. Apple created a marked with the iPad.

  • You need a good way to address the market, a way that is better than anybody else.

  • You need to work towards founding a team, a smart team with good chemistry that you can work with.

  • You need to start validating your product concept. Talk to potential customers, talk to other people in the industry, experts, investors, co-founders.

What should you not do

  • Don’t use your work time or office equipment for your own startup. At times this might lead to major issues like who owns the Intellectual Property(IP).

  • Always pay attention to your current job as somebody is already paying your salary and be nice to your existing employer.

  • Don’t badmouth your existing employer, respect their IP and dont steal their customer desk.

  • Give sufficient notice and if you are on a project, try and finish it before you leave. Starting up today and 3 weeks from today won’t make much of a difference.

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