Entrepreneurship is Fraught with Failures. Entrepreneurs Aren't
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Every startup has at least one entrepreneur. And every startup has its own startup story that is uniquely different from others. It’s the entrepreneur who makes it or breaks it for the startup. It always starts and ends with the entrepreneur.
Every successful entrepreneur out there has invariably taken massive risk(s) and has failed at least once. But the measures of one’s success truly comes from maintaining the same energy levels between these failures. That’s entrepreneurship.
From having done this for over a decade and having seen the great Indian startup story, I thought it prudent to juxtapose our story against the startup story in the US, that I was a part of in the late 90s. Cooking the right broth is the key to success for any startup. But that starts with having the right ingredients to being with In the chronological order of wanting to maintain an even keel, here are the top 6 things where I erred, learned and fixed.
Don’t be an Entrepreneur to “Be an Entrepreneur”
It’s amazing how many entrepreneurs I meet who have a list of ideas and want to pick one to take to market. Entrepreneurship starts off with finding a large problem to solve and getting with it to fix the issue. Entrepreneurship is not about wanting to live the CEO lifestyle. That will only get you to your first milestone.
- Hiring Right. Pay for Hunger and Not Experience
Getting the first set of engineers and sales folks is key. Hire people who believe in your vision to change the world, and yet think dissimilarly to you. It’s key not to hire a bunch of yes ma’ams. As you scale, don’t make the mistake of hiring highly paid employees ‘who come with experience’. Highly paid employees and the ones who look for a ‘title’ won’t necessarily deliver as much as the hungry one who’s hustling to make a change or prove him/herself.
A Certain Level of Insanity
Once you’re off the block, you need the same desire, energy, passion and insanity levels to sustain the lonely journey called entrepreneurship. Contrary to the glam quotient associated with what gets reported, startups are all about failures. The entrepreneur needs to have the innate ability to rise each time, pivot and get back to business. Entrepreneurial success is a directly proportional to the successive reduced time intervals between these failures.
Gyan is Good. Execution, Better
Networking is essential in learning what others are doing, and what works and what doesn’t. Equally important is building a good mentor network. The ability to assimilate the know- how in building a lean startup, scaling the business and taking it home comes mostly from not having to repeat everything from scratch. But the entrepreneurial journey is one without a script. It’s a path that is unique to each entrepreneur. No two startups have the same story. It’s important therefore, for the entrepreneur to choose the best quantitative guesstimate and move with rationality.
High Stakes Game
Entrepreneurship is a game of “all-in” all the time. Unlike a professional career, the entrepreneur has to be fully onboard and go all guns blazing. The team, on the other hand, needs to buy into this vision, and be given guardrails to operate within. It’s this fine balance that professionals and employees are not taught. Entrepreneurs need to go for customer satisfaction at all costs- and it takes an insane amount of work to make it happen- product build out, fundraising, hiring the right folks and keeping motivation high.
Stay Humble, stay lean and be driven by a value system all the way till the end. It’s easy to get side tracked by the want to make more revenue, and cut corners. The toughest negotiations will come from the usual suspects: Investors, customers, suppliers and employees. Not wavering from a core value drives home, not only the entrepreneur’s need to stay positive, but also the team and other stakeholders.
In summary, while entrepreneurship seems like something everyone clamors to dabble in, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The failure rates associated with startups are a consistent statistic for a reason.
While the startup pinnacle is tantalising for everyone who sees it from a distance,
The TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco. Pic Courtesy: Jay Krishnan
It’s only a very small handful that looks at scaling it up close and does it step by step.
The TransAmerica Pyramid in San Francisco, upclose. Pic Courtesy: Jay Krishnan