Why The Plateau of Mediocrity Kills a Startup

Failures don’t kill a startup. Mediocrity does.

In this era of startup boom, majority of the startups have been entangled in the web of mediocrity. They neither fail, nor do they grow beyond a certain level. While failure delivers a definitive result and success is a state which lacks any definition, growth is the only positive option that remains.

For a startup to remain active, one either needs a slanted growth wave or a sine wave with its fair share of ups and downs. It’s the plateau’d wave that kills the lot.

Growth Stages of a StartupContinue reading

Pinstripe Suits, a Merc in the porch and month long vacations in the Caribbean. It’s almost certain that every single person who has stepped into Entrepreneurship might have atleast once thought of living such a life.

And though many do reach that prospect, it’s not overnight success.

It takes a brave person to start a venture on his own and an even braver person to keep it going. Sleepless nights, tight deadlines, living off on caffeine and adopting stress as your middle name; all happen to a startup entrepreneur at one point of time or the other. Finance is hard to come by and each penny knows its worth the way it rolls.

Depending on the industry, breaking even of revenue may take time or might happen from the first project forth. Growth may reach a negative stage at one point or might even flat-line. All these are part of the game. A game, which is nothing less than an intelligent gamble.Continue reading

entrepreneurship

Addressing a gathering about Entrepreneurship has always been a touchy point for me. Neither am I a successful entrepreneur (yet), nor a very experienced one. Still, whenever am invited by the student community to take a session on Entrepreneurship, I am always glad to share my bit of experience, my failures, my mistakes. Because as far as I have learned, you only get inspired from winning stories. You need failures to learn stuff.

I was recently invited to KMEA College of Engineering to take a session on Women Entrepreneurship as part of their IEEE WIE activity inauguration. I gave the topic a good thought and actually decided to let go of the “women” portion. No bias to anyone meant. But if you ask me, men, women, dolphins, aliens…. no matter who gets into entrepreneurship, the issues and hardships faced are the same.

I’d say Mothers are the best entrepreneurs. They multitask things perfectly like all entrepreneurs do and take the biggest of calculated risks – bringing up a child! So, women finding it more difficult to be entrepreneurs, I don’t agree to that statement.

Following is my presentation from the hour long session I took at the college – on myths and facts of entrepreneurship. I really hope I did justice.

 

Myths about entrepreneurship : 

  • Entrepreneurs are born. Not made – totally disagree. Its all attitude and hard work. Not just inborn talent.
  • College dropouts make better entrepreneurs – not always. Though it has to be agreed that college dropouts give it their all as they have nothing to go back to if they fail.
  • Idea + Prototype = Start a Company – you need market analysis, building a great team, marketing and a million other factors.
  • Its easy money – never is!
  • I need to be a techie – not all entrepreneurs are techies. Identify if you’re a techie (who does the work), manager (who can get the work done) or entrepreneur (who has the vision to build the product/service into something scalable).
  • I must invent something new – was Google the first search engine? Was Facebook the first Social Network? It’s all about doing the thing right, keeping in mind the users.
  • Entrepreneurs are gamblers – they are risk takers, yes. But only calculated risks, not blind ones.
  • You are your own boss – nope. You’re actually at the bottom of the food chain. Clients, Customers, Vendors, Landlord, even the freaking Income Tax department is your boss!
  • Unlimited vacation – pffft!
  • My best friend is my co-founder – never mix friendship and business. You’ll be screwed. And at times, screwed Big Time.

 

Facts about entrepreneurship :

  • Your first idea will be wrong
  • Your friends and family won’t understand what you do
  • You’ll be broke at times
  • Don’t build your company only on one vertical
  • CXO posts don’t matter a S#!t. You’ll be the freaking delivery boy!
  • Customers/clients will irritate you
  • Your personal life will suffer
  • You’ll work 100 hours a week (or maybe even more)
  • There will be no one to congratulate you
  • Finding a good team/staff will always be a challenge
  • Negativity will be showered upon you

And, the focal point of entrepreneurship – Only YOU are responsible. Whether you succeed or you fail. Only you are responsible.

Royal Enfield Bullet

I don’t usually go into writing personal stuff on this blog of mine. Intend to restrict it to Social Media, Entrepreneurship and anything else pretty noteworthy, other than the politics induced nonsense going around.

Thought of breaking that rule for a change.

Being an entrepreneur, and obviously not the best one yet at that, has its own plethora of experiences. Making loads of mistakes, going broke, trying to make ends meet, saving every penny possible, trying to steer the company in the right direction…. the list goes on. Amongst all these, there are the little things which give you immense joy. Need not be a million dollar deal. Sometimes it’s as simple as a thank you gift or job well done from the client.

thank you gift

Similarly is the case when you see your staff and team-mates going up the career ladder and/or reaching a milestone.

My Design Head at IZE Creative and one of our first employee, Rithin, recently bought a Royal Enfield Bullet 350. Now, people buying bikes is good. But when your staff buys a bike with his savings, coupled with the salary you’re paying him…. those are the little things which give you immense happiness. Those instances make you feel worthy. Worthy of being an entrepreneur.

I wouldn’t be lying if I say I was happier than him the day that Bullet rode into our office porch. The source of his smile became the source of my joy.

Royal Enfield Bullet

And that made me realize. Maybe that’s what entrepreneurship is all about. It’s the whole journey, the little joys. Not just in your life, but also in the lives you touch. Forget being broke. Forget not being able to buy a 39k iPhone. Forget not being the richest person in the world. Building something on your own is not just about the end product. It’s a whole lot about the experience. The experience of being able to think different. You may fail, you may succeed. But you never stop trying.

These little things instill in me an inspiration. An inspiration, to inspire and get inspired. And in the end, as long as such little things happen, I don’t think I’ll need to look for inspiration elsewhere. It’ll be there right inside me.

Peace.

Man and girl cartoon despicable me

Passengers of Train Number 12684, Bangalore-Ernakulam Superfast Express, Coach S3 would hardly ever forget their journey on 24th October 2013. And though for different reasons, neither would I.

Nothing special had happened actually. It was just another train journey; except the fact that the guy from seat 32 was seen typing away furiously on his laptop, even long after everyone else had fallen asleep. The same guy who had previously slapped a drunkard for making a nuisance in the coach.

Needless to say, the guy from seat 32 was me. The typing away furiously is the same reason you’re now reading this post, which I actually wrote in train. The second reason, was all thanks to the Karnataka Beverage Corporation’s donation to some retard who came all drunk in the coach and was disturbing a pregnant lady in my nearby seat, along with her kid.

The very same 5 year old kid, who is the central character of this blog post.

5 year old girl

After the hue and cry with the drunkard had died down and I had become some sort of a “Coach Hero”, we all were sitting and chatting away, getting to know each other. The uncle who runs a Chartered Flight Booking Agency, the pregnant lady who’s a school teacher (along with her 5 year old daughter) and the college kid who’s going back home were my fellow passengers.

As we were talking, I noticed the 5 year old little girl was pestering her mom regularly to buy a packet of Lays. At first the aunty ignored her but when the frequency of the pestering grew, she said a rigid no as the final judgment. But we know kids – they never have no for an answer. And that’s exactly when what the kid did, thoroughly impressed me.

As the next guy selling Lays came, the girl went and hugged the man’s legs tightly, chanting out to her mom her craving for the packet of air. No matter how much the guy or her mom tried, she just didn’t let go of him. End result – 5 minutes later she was sitting at the window, happily munching at her packet of air….uh… Lays.

I bloody hell work in the marketing field and even I have never been able to convince any client why he needs my services, as simple and as fast as that little girl convinced her mom to get her a pack of Lays!

Bollocks I tell ya. If it wasn’t against the law and common sense, I would have definitely hired that little girl as my Marketing Manager. And she wouldn’t even need a salary. Candies and Lays would suffice am sure 😀

In retrospect, the little girl actually did teach me an important lesson. Not just in marketing, but on basic human nature. One, she never gave up on her goal, even after being told a rigid no. So unlike us, who mostly give up something so very easily without giving it all that we got. Secondly, she knew the right method to get the deal sealed. She understood her client (mom), what would actually get her attention (holding on to the Chips-waala), what would question her ego (the people looking on) and then seal the deal on a mutually loss-less transaction which would result in both agency-client satisfaction (she got her Lays and mom her peace of mind).

And to think we people go for an MBA and still don’t get the basics right. Sheesh!

Man and girl cartoon despicable me

Maybe it’s the innocence, maybe it’s the purity of thought. But if we just look around, we can actually learn a lot by just observing the toddlers. It’s almost like they have full knowledge about their “Client”, know how well to do “Market Study”, understand what exactly gets into the heads (or nerves) of their “Target Audience” and develop a “Strategy” to almost always get their desired result. And with their attitude of I-will-get-what-I-want, there’s a thing or two to be learnt by Entrepreneurs too.

Ah well, am neither an MBA, nor a parent, nor a marketing guy by default. Just some observations by the guy from seat 32.

Image Courtesy - Despicable Me