This article has been written by Shashank Murali.
There are two things that have dominated the attention of the Indian public life the most over the past two years – Elections and Startups. Since the former is the dramatic one, lets focus on the more relevant latter at this point. Startups have changed public life because they have not only made life easier for Indian consumers, but they have changed the way Indian companies run. Experienced corporate giants such as Narayana Murthy and Ratan Tata have invested and backed these new-age companies founded by young college graduates. In simple words, today is the best time for entrepreneurship as a career choice. A lot of you may have contemplated on starting up but somehow it never took off. Mine did and here’s a take off kit I drew up for you in case you ever need it.
Think of any famous startup in India and try to describe them in a line. Now take a moment to reflect on how simple their goal is. Everything from Flipkart to Redbus will seem like a no-brainer. An obvious question that might crop up in your head is why it hadn’t been done before. Or why any other company couldn’t copy the same idea and succeed? The answer to both the above questions is that an idea is not everything. Its at most 1% of your progress in the long and engaging startup battle. Despite that, its a much easier proposition to try and cook that secret sauce which will make your company unique and give yourself the much needed competitive advantage.
As a startup, you will often hit brick walls. It’s necessary for one to not repeat the same mistakes, figure out the reasons for the goof-ups in the first place and ultimately decide the new Plan-B. Doesn’t that sound like a lot to do? Especially when you multiply this 3-step process by about 5 a day? This is where co-founders who share the same vision as you for the company come into play. Your best-friend in college isn’t necessarily your best co-founder. You should look out for reliable people with complementary skills and a similar work ethic. The icing on the cake would be if they are smarter than you as in my case.
Zuckerberg says and I quote, “If you’re not breaking things, you aren’t moving fast enough.”
A common mistake a lot of startups from college commit is taking too long to get their first product out, often due to the strive for perfection and an attempt to include a never ending list of features. It’s humanly impossible for a bunch of people in college to build the best looking, performing and well-marketed product. So, don’t try. Instead, launch your core-offering to the consumers in the simplest way possible. You are bound to make innumerable mistakes. The take home point is to learn from them and fix them and then build upon them as quickly as possible.
One of my favorite aspects as a founder is to manage our team and keep the buzz going. There is no better motivation than to have an energetic bunch with their flush of exciting ideas — even at 5 in the morning. The thumb rule for building a team is to bring on people who are smarter than you. The ultimate goal of a company — or North Star as I call it, won’t be visible to you from Day One. You may know which galaxy it exists in but these are the guys who will first help you find it and then help you get there.
The past eight months seems like a decade. We have been politely told that we have a crappy product in our first ever client pitch. While braving the cold on campus during the winters was a challenge in itself, a couple of losses didn’t make it any easier. Especially, when one had to travel for 40 hours to taste those defeats. Its difficult to get people to do business with you when they consider you as a bunch of kids. They aren’t entirely wrong. But, we are also a well backed company built by a bunch of supposedly “average” 6 pointers in 8 months from college. I’d take that any day over a bunch of straight As because of the steep learning curve involved.
All of this brings me to my last and final point, Persistence. You’re going to be down and out a number of times through this journey, if you choose to accept it. The crux is to take one on the chin, reflect but believe in yourself and move ahead because like the good old saying goes, “A Little Irish Stoicism never hurt anybody.”