Founders’ Trek — The first step towards a tribe of founders.
A startup founder’s journey is at most times a lonely journey. Even the best founders running great businesses inevitably have moments where they need a helping hand, a patient ear or quite simply a shoulder to lean on. While investors, mentors, friends and co-founders help, these folks are too vested and too close to the bone to offer objective counsel. In such situations, who do you turn to?
What if you could tap into a cohort of fellow founders — something more than a community — a tribe that you can lean on and share your darkest fears without worrying about being judged. I’m sure you will agree that such tribes are rare in general and definitely so here in India.
Personally, I have always been very inspired by the Founders Network and have long felt that we need similar communities in India where founders came together, share their learnings and experiences and also bond with one another. I have been fortunate to build a few deep communities where founders bonded and continue to help each other….but the desire to do more for the founder community and explore new formats has always been a itch that I wanted to scratch.
I was exploring ideas on what I can do to help founders and in an engaging conversation with Ahimanikya, an idea of a trek emerged and few days later I pinged Aneesh Reddy, CEO of Capillary who is an experienced trekker, routinely doing treks above 5 days in duration. I bounced this idea off him and to my delight, not only did he agree to participate, he also offered to help me put this together. I had my first founder participant!
I then reached out to a few more founder friends and invited them to the trek. I realised almost everyone I was talking to was interested in joining. I reached out to around 22 founders, assuming that 15 will sign up. To my surprise, around 20 agreed to join the trek. I did make sure that all founders are at a similar stage so that they feel comfortable in the group sharing.
It took me a couple of days to figure out the logistics but we were all set.
Let me share some of things that I did before the actual trek to create some excitement.
The first step was about letting the founders in the group know one another.
Introductions & Building Excitement in the group before the trek began
I created a Whatsapp group with all the participating founders. The idea was to keep folks engaged and energized and avoid the situation where people drop off after confirming as they get busy with their journey of building their companies. We had around 20 founders and proposed the idea of one founder introducing another. This worked like magic and we had creative ways including folks who creates videos and animations to introduce other founders. Not only did this create content, it added stickiness and gave the founders an opportunity to get to know each other well (not to mention a lot of leg-pulling at each other’s expense!). The introduction was very different from the way someone would have introduced themselves. A sample intro done by Amarpreet for Sridhar of Credibase is provided below as an illustrative example:
So ladies and gentlemen…Today we bring to you the releaser of ships who became the shipper of releases. He believes that unless it involves life and death, no problem is too large.
He studies facial expressions and makes out patterns, so you better put on your best face around him. He has an eclectic range of interests — he is a renewable energy fan and moved to a Reva 10 years ago. Is now on his second one. He has 100+ plants in his garden and can sometimes be found talking to them. Not confirmed if this has anything to do with his overlap with Girish at Zoho :D
He listens to Vividh Bharti (and I mean still:)). He competes with his wife on music and music trivia, but has spared his 2 daughters at least for now
He speaks 7 languages. He says that you can cook an entirely different meal with the same ingredients just by using a different process and temperament. And he uses this insight not just for food.
He started out in shipping and finally reached entrepreneurship via a long journey in product management. His startup helps you discover, engage and convert prospects to customers. And he aims to connect 200 million companies worldwide and the billions who work there. Because he believes that ultimately it is all about people.
He prefers to tap the right nerve in people rather than bulldozing his way around. (His DeepSense DISC assessment agrees). It also thinks that he is a pretty well rounded person. I give you, Sridhar Ranganathan of Credibase!
What Happened during the trek….
We had 14 founders who finally made it to the trek and that was the right-sized cohort We had folks from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and even from the US. Most folks were coming from either Chennai or Bangalore…so instead of booking a cab, we preferred to drive down together. There were some very interesting conversations which happened during the drive and that was again a great start for the group.
Coming from the events background, I’m always more focussed on the agenda and how it will create bonding amongst founders. Since, this was the first time I was doing, I was very keen to make an impact for the founders participation and their time.
This was finally the program that I put together and we almost followed this to the T:
9th March ‘18
Arrivals by around 9pm — #NoDaaru :)
10th March ‘18
6:30 to 10:30 am — Morning trek in Yelagiri — Swamimalai temple
10:30 to 11 am — Breakfast
11 to 12 — Freshen-up
12 to 1:30 pm — TT/Badminton/Swim/Conversations…
1:30 to 2:30 pm — Lunch
2:30 to 4:30 pm — Intros + #OneThing
4:30 to 6:30 pm — Sunset trekking
7pm onwards continue with Intros + #OneThing
9 pm onwards……drinks, dinner, dance & TMC Ventures imp. announcements.
11th March ‘18
Breakfast around 9 am
Departure 10 am onwards :)
(We managed to follow the schedule except for the sunset trek :)
Apart from the trek, I was more focussed on how the day would look and how we can do the introductions or how founders can open up, talk about their fears with each other. I did speak to few friends, got to know about some interesting formats on how this can be meaningful. I had heard about Raj Setty’s event called Cerebrate and how each founder would introduce themselves for 25 minutes. I quite liked the format and proposed the same to few founders but some folks felt it was too early and since we were doing it for the first time, it might not work.
Some of us slept early enough after having our dinner, others preferred to play poker and also talk about their journey, challenges etc. These folks managed to call it a day only around 4:30 am in the morning but despite this, many them made it to the trek at 6:45 am in the morning!
We started right on time in the morning and trekked for almost 3.5 hours. It was a relatively short trek but I got to see some amazing conversations, stories got discussed and it was heartening to each founder willing to help the others who weren’t as fit or were just feeling tired.
We came back to the hotel by around 10.45 am. Some of us decided to play cricket, while others preferred to take rest. The game of cricket was very encouraging as you could see some folks who were still in form and played some good cricket. Typically in the gully cricket, the game only comes to an end when the ball is lost. Something similar happened with us, after playing for 90 minutes, we lost the ball and had to bring the game to an end.
We had lunch at 2 pm and after which we started the formal introductions where the founder introduce themselves, would talk about their company and talk about the #Onething which has worked for them and #Onething where they are good at and how they can help fellow founders. The introductions took around 6 hours with a a 45 min break where we went for a walk (during which I had probably the best coconut water in my life!).
After this, we had some conversations over drinks and some of the folks went ahead with a game of poker and some of them decided to call it a day.
I am very happy with the outcome. I only wished a few more people who I really wanted to attend could have turned up. Our conversations continue on our Whatsapp group and I’m hoping to continue with some offline meetups soon to keep the energy and engagement high.
I am also planning something later this year with a new location and with a few more folks. Wish me luck as we go about building a Founders’ Tribe in India!