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6 Lessons I Learnt In My First Startup Venture At his earlier role at Rover, he gained some invaluable and insightful lessons that became quite useful at running his current AI venture- Turing

By Jonathan Siddharth

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Before Turing, I ran another venture named Infoaxe which was soon rebranded as Flipora and then Rover. After 9 long years, the company, was acquired by Revcontent (in 2017). However, during my course of being an entrepreneur at Rover, I gained some invaluable and insightful lessons that became quite useful at running my current venture. Here's a look at some.


Mark Andreesen said that markets that don't exist don't care how smart you are or how hard you work. So it's really important to pick a big market that is ideally growing. And then there's this counterintuitive thing. Even though you pick a big market, it's important to pick a small segment of it to focus on first and utterly dominate before you slowly expand. Peter Thiel in his book Zero to One talks a lot about this. If you look at Facebook, they did not start out by trying to build a social network for everybody. They started out just for Harvard and then slowly added a couple of other colleges, and then high schools, and then the rest of the world.


In my first startup, I would first focus on just building the right product and to ensure we are serving our customers well. And then when I notice our runway to be like 12 months, then I would switch into fundraising mode. And if for some reason I'm not happy with the valuations we're getting, I would switch into M&A mode. That's the wrong approach. At Turing, I operate in a multi-threaded fashion where I'm spending 90% of my time on the company, making sure we're building a great product. Spending about 8% of my time with the investor relations. And then maybe 2% of my time making sure we are cultivating the right strategic relationships for M&A at some point in the future.


In my first startup, I always had this notion what are we doing right. In my current startup Turing, I always think all the things that could fail in a particular product or in a particular initiative. We make a list of all the things that could go wrong and make sure we have mitigation plans for all the risks that you have ahead of time so that we're actively mitigating those risks.

Even though you pick a big market, it's important to pick a small segment of it to focus on first and utterly dominate before you slowly expand


When something is not working in company, the normal founder mentality might be: what is that small thing that I can change to make it working? I think the counterintuitive thing is when something doesn't work; usually the small things will not fix it. So you have to be ready to make big moves. And I think having that courage to make those big moves when something doesn't work is really key for company building.


That may sound cliche. But the counterintuitive thing is you need to be able to zoom into the details on a few things that really matter in your business. So you have to hire a great executive team, operate with leverage, but you should also be able to drill down to the details to debug a product or a process that is not working.


Life is short and companies usually have a window of time in the market to make an impact and it's important to really step on the gas. Speed is a competitive advantage in startups. Speed wins.


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