Handling Rejection: Entrepreneurship Lessons Learned at UnPluggd

Entrepreneurs go through rejections on a daily basis – right from investors to customers to employees. Handling rejections is not easy.
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Entrepreneurs go through rejections on a daily basis – right from investors to customers to employees. Handling rejections is not easy.

Mobile ad company InMobi was valued at nearly $1 bn in 2012 when it raised $200 mn from Softbank. Naveen Tewari, its co-founder, is one of the entrepreneurs we now look up to.

But how many of us remember their humble beginnings and failures along the way?

Tewari and his co-founders built the company from a single room that doubled up as their office in Mumbai. Their first product, mKhoj didn’t go anywhere.

Naveen Tewari
Naveen Tewari

“When you are young and foolish, you feel everything you do will become big,” says Tewari who started mKhoj in 2007, when he was in his mid twenties. mKhoj was an SMS based search service. That didn’t work out. It wasn’t big enough!

The company later morphed into InMobi, a mobile ad network. The rest is history. “I thought everything I touched will become a billion dollars,” he recalls. But that was not the case. They went through many rejections and many of the assumptions they started out with turned out to be true.

In the process, he learned why things don’t work.

“People tend to underestimate this learning. I learned to fail and I had enormous amount of information on how to avoid that” he says. Entrepreneurs need to value this learning. This phase will be the toughest in your life, feels Tewari.

This is when you will go through the real degree in entrepreneurship. “Your mental state will be different, it will be tough on family, you won’t have any money,” says Tewari who shared a room with 3 others in Mumbai when InMobi was in its early phase.

If you are going through a similar phase, here’s a piece of advice from Tewari, keep people who help you go on close to you. “The worst mistake you can make is to quit at this stage. Because the fact that you can stay at this point is 80% of the success,” he feels.

People told them that they were morons and that no one was going to use the mobile to use the Internet in a big way.

“But that’ why we are entrepreneurs. You’ve got to be bull headed and believe in what you are going to do,” he remembers thinking. InMobi is now in a phase where its grappling with challenges that come with high growth.

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing and falling over. –Richard Branson, Virgin Group Founder

Watch Naveen Share his Journey at UnPluggd

Now not all startups get to go there. Most of them fail. You’d probably be in debt and you’d also be low on confidence. But do not give up, says Muki Regunathan, who has failed multiple times and pulled up from the verge of bankruptcy. When you have failed, and you have no money, you have nothing to worry about, says Muki.

Muki’s mantra for handling personal finances when you have failed?

– Start paying money in installments.

– Don’t wait for that one big deal.

– Show your face often and sustain confidence.

Here’s an uplifting video from Muki at UnPluggd about entrepreneurship and dealing with failures.

Entrepreneurship is not always winning or losing or reaching a goal. The journey matters the most.The important thing to do is to quit talking about it and get started. Like Jeff Bezos once said:

I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.


If you are an entrepreneur looking to learn from your peers and those who have been through these phases in life, attend UnPluggd’s peer edition on 24 May in Bangalore.


Date: May 24th (Saturday); 9 AM – 6 PM, followed by after-event party.
Venue: MLR Convention Center, J P Nagar, Bangalore.
URL/Agenda : UnPluggd.org
Ticketing: Hop to the ticketing partners site (link) or use the below widget to grab your seat!

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