Shoot me if I ever say these things to a startup team

[Editorial notes: This is a guest article contributed by Dr. Ashwin Naik, founder of Vaatsalya Healthcare. In this article, Dr. Ashwin (he was a speaker at UnPluggd as well) pretty much speaks on behalf of several entrepreneurs who have gone through fund raising process.]

Been involved directly or indirectly with startups all my working life (except Celera which was a big company but a startup spirit). And its amazing what kind of free and useless advice you can get along the way, particularly in the first 3 or 4 years. I am surprised at how startup founders/team keep ignoring these “words of wisdom” and chug along. These are some of my favourite (!) ones with my typical response.

# 1. You are setting yourself up for failure
huh. As opposed to what. Its a startup, the entire thing is set for failure, i think that’s why its called start up and everything you do is likely to fail. The beauty of this advice is that it can be applied to any generic thing – like hiring, revenue targets, funding. The terrible thing is that you have to prove yourself every time, but the person can be right only one time and say – I told you so.

# 2. You need more grey hair in the team
Usually comes from people who are in the business of funding startups. Actually this one is strange, because how many 40 year olds will kick their monthly salary addiction and join a bunch of youngsters who are still looking for money? My usual response is – don;t worry, we will all have grey hair of 3 years of running this startup. Including you.

# 3. When i was at {any big company which has been around for more than 20 years}, I have tried this and it did not work.
Ok. Thanks. Lets do it.

# 4. Send me the five year detailed projections
When it comes from an investor this is fine. Like one investor told me in my early days – from what you have told me, i am certain about one thing, that spreadsheet will look very different in three years. When a potential advisor/mentor asks for this, its time to run.

# 5. What if Google decided to enter your business. (Substitute with Facebook, Walmart, Infosys as needed)
This is typical MBA speak. Right answer is – “I don’t know. What if they entered your business?”

# 6. When Infosys …..
Anything after those two words can be ignored. You can replace Infosys with Reliance, TATA, Birla without losing any affect.

# 7. This is exactly what you should do..
Pay close attention to this one. As you will have to do exactly the opposite of this advise. Mostly.

# 8. As you can see I can add value to your business …
No. I don’t think so. The only person who can add value is the team. I can only get advice from you. The only thing worse than this is “My cousin can add real value to your business”

# 9. You should learn from {any company in a totally unrelated industry}, those guys have excellent systems and have great technology backbone.
This one is a unique one. Every time i heard this, i got all doe eyed and bushy tailed about the systems/IT etc. Most often “that” company shut down in 18 months. Most of the times, the folks running them were older, who had spent 10+ years in corporate settings. Almost always they had secured funding in the first few weeks of incorporating, (most likely quit their day jobs, after funding). And 100% of the time competing with their ex-employer with a faster better product. Many years later, i realized the truth. They were missing the guts to stick around. “Sticking around” is the #1 trait required for a startup. Things WILL get worse. To quote the gangstas – If you cant do the time, don’t do the crime.

# 10. Lets meet at Leela Palace for breakfast and discuss the cash flow issues you mentioned.
Are you inviting me or am I supposed to pay for this breakfast and compound the cash flow problem further. Best thing is to either time a call or visit to the loo when the bill arrives.

[Reproduced from his blog].

* – Do watch Dr. Ashwin’s talk at UnPluggd

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