Originally published at www.linkedin.com.
It’s been a year since I decided to ditch a cushy job and start-up.
Its been a wild ride, so far.
I started with one startup, quit it and started yet another one: Virtual Spaces (www.virtualspaces.in).
Lessons I have learnt:
- It’s not easy. Guts & glory aside, its hard, bloody hard. I’ve had to give up on stuff that I had taken for granted.
- Time is precious. All perspective is lost in a startup. I think about my startup all the time, whether I am with my friends, family or my team. There is nothing else.
- People are very important. The ability to nurture people and their talent and how it affects me has been a crucial learning. Choosing people who I’d like to work with has been a challenge and i am learning to understand it better.
- Technology: If you are behind on a technology, people (read as VCs/Angels) will not give you the time of the day and if you really have to succeed having a product that is required now or in the next year will help you make it.
- Copy-cat products can only take you so far. The startup will die if it does not innovate and does not solve a real world problem.
- Choosing battles: This is crucial. When to give in, when not is a massive lesson that I have learnt. Battles with your spouse: Simply because she is the one I have got back to deadbeat at the end of the day and yet, she still is there with a glorious smile and crucial support without which all this would mean nothing.
- Choosing Wars: Just as important and there will be wars: with co-founders, with accelerators, with VCs
- Humor: Parents/Friends are always asking: “Has the VC agreed?”. It becomes very important to keep your humor alive because without that I would’ve folded like a deck of cards.
- Friends: I barely have any anymore: Yes, they have supported me, but the Damocles sword is always hanging and comments such as “You are never there”, “You don’t even respond to WhatsApp messages” are all too common. “Why don’t you hang out anymore?” and no answer that I have given will ever be satisfactory.
- Spend time with your co-founders and their families: This is very very important. Especially before you decide on becoming a co-founder and even after, its not easy.
- Choosing Co-founders: Choose them with care. Spend time to understand them. What makes them who they are? What are their drivers? What is their motivation? How is their situation: Physically, mentally, financially, emotionally?
- Paperwork: This is tough. I hate it and I don’t know many people who don’t. This HAS to be done. To protect yourself and your co-founders. Pay money to get a decent legal opinion, but do it. Get everything written down.
- Communicate: Communication is under-rated. Communication and open communication is absolute key. It will not only help you, but your co-founders as well. Be truthful and honest so if need be, brutal — especially with your co-founders. You will spend a lot of time with your co-founders and communication is the cornerstone of success for your startup.
- Laugh: The importance of laughter cannot be overstated. This is so important that, for me, it has become a crutch to hold on to sanity many a time.
- Do it: Talking is so cheap — doing it, much much harder. Friends will laugh and throw phrases at you.
- If I had to do it again: I would — except that I would be better prepared. That said, no amount of preparation can really prep you for a startup life. Its akin to getting married.
- Lastly — have a drink and chill and do so regularly. Celebrate the small successes.
If this has resonated with you in some small way, do drop in comments and let me know.