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A Year In India as a Foreign-Born Entrepreneur: Hustling, Fighting, Dating & Persevering

It’s been exactly one-year to date since my co-founder, Devin, and I left the United States and moved to New Delhi for good to create, of all things, a mobile dating application.

Like in any startup, the year hasn’t been without its share of ups and downs but it’s definitely been different being in India.

I wanted to share some of our experiences here thus far – not only from a business/entrepreneur standpoint, but from a social standpoint of someone who wasn’t born here as well.

Thrill Josh
Thrill Co-founder Josh @ bigMobilityConf

Hustle Hard.

This certainly applies to any startup, in any country, at any stage. However, hustling in India requires a different mentality. In Silicon Valley, you may be able to get a $1 million valuation for being able to spell your name correctly on a term sheet. That doesn’t happen here. You fight for every rupee added on to your valuation, and investors fight back. You will be hard pressed to find help from anyone without them asking for something in return (most likely they will want some sort of monetary, or equity compensation). Nobody wants to give you a deal, but everybody wants one in return.

24/7 Fights & Fights in 24/7…literally.

Co-founders argue. All the time. About everything. Features, logos, typeface, t-shirt designs, how many whiteboards to buy. Devin and I are no exception. Aside from the fact we live together, work together and cannot escape each other – being in a foreign country with no friends or family close by we were not prepared for tensions to flare quicker and arguments to get heated over the littlest things. We once spent a few hours arguing whether or not the salmon color for Thrill was salmon enough.

If you happen to move to Delhi, be cautious about what you say and to whom you say it to. Everyone here has an ego. Everyone knows someone and everybody’s father seems to be somebody. We learned this lesson the hard way. After a night of “light drinking” we were attacked leaving one of the 24/7 convenience stores for seemingly no reason. Apparently, we had said a friendly “what’s up” to someone outside who took it the wrong way. They waited for us with friends and when we came back to our car they attacked us. I won in the end though, as they were kicking me on the ground I refused to let go of my microwavable chicken biryani – I had a death grip on it. It was coming home with me. #Win

“Couple Entry Only Sir.”

Those words are the bane of my existence (which is also why I’m happy we’ve created Thrill!). If you are a foreigner, or even a resident you will hear these words when trying to enter a bar, lounge or nightclub. It makes meeting people difficult, and certainly makes trying to find a potential partner to be in a relationship with even more difficult. The first few weeks here Devin and I couldn’t manage to get in anywhere besides Hard Rock Café. Not to mention, after we finally made it in a few clubs any attempt we made to talk to girls got blocked Bollywood style – a smooth dance maneuver; arms wide, knees pumping, head rocking right in between whomever we were talking to and us.

Thrill Co-Founders
Thrill Co-Founders Devin & Josh

Perseverance.

Through all the shit we’ve been through out here; fights, rejections (from girls, nightclubs, even auto drivers we’ve asked to take us places), the tough task of creating a product for a country where the need is nascent but growing – we don’t want to leave. We have a mission, so we’ve made India our home and have grown to love it. We persevered through first few months where we lived in Noida and had zero friends, and really once you’ve made it past the point of getting used to its nuances, India does become an awesome country. If you are thinking of moving to India as a foreign-born entrepreneur, that’s the best bit of advice I can give you – be prepared to persevere through anything.

 [Guest article contributed by Josh Israel, an American-born entrepreneur who is Co-Founder of Thrill, a mobile dating application launched in India. Follow him @TankTopJosh.]

 Recommended Read: Thrill launched in Bangalore, at NextBigWhat’s bigMobilityConf.

» Read NextBigWhat’s earlier interview with Josh: From New York to New Delhi. Here is How Thrill is Rethinking Dating in India.

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