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From Zero to One, self-doubt to starting up: Success mantras for entrepreneurs

Every once in a while in business, there comes a moment when some new and strange idea comes along. As the prominent entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel puts it, these are moments when a would-be entrepreneur goes from zero to one, rewriting the rules of the world, propelling our fundamentals to a higher level of creation. As the co-founder of a successful CPaaS company, I have also experienced the joy of creating something new from zero, scaling it to an IPO, and then having it acquired to be now known as Kaleyra.

That said, ideas are a dime a dozen. These moments of creation are also when even the most sanguine leaders tend to second guess themselves, constantly haunted by their own indecision. This is something I have witnessed quite a lot as a VC investor and mentor for start-ups in Upsparks. Brilliant thinking is rare. More than the genius itself, it is courage that is always in shorter supply. This is truer for progress in an industry or a business model that hasn’t been attempted before.

So how do you overcome these self-doubts and take your idea to tangible realization? How do you ensure these doubts don’t stop you from overcoming obstacles and following your true north?

I believe some of my learnings as both an entrepreneur and investor over the years can help.

Monopolize your idea

There is no shortcut to monopoly, given every monopoly is unique and share some combination of network effects, proprietary technology, branding and more. Similarly, every idea can lead to a monopoly if analyse your business deeply enough to make it durable for the long term. Take Google which certainly doesn’t claim to be a monopoly in the search engine market. At the same time consider the fact that the term ‘Google’ is an official entry in the Oxford English Dictionary as a verb. You cannot probably expect the same for Bing. Which is why you must ensure that your idea makes a 10X improvement on something to create value where none existed before.

Make incremental progress

It was grand visions that inflated the dot-com bubble in the 2000s. Which is why they should not be indulged. It is easy to suspect someone who claims they are going to change the world, versus someone who takes small, incremental, and humble steps forward. As much as you may want your day of the spotlight to be close, and success to be instant, your business is better served by making progress inch-by-inch. Because then your wins will then not be because of any fluke or lucky break (often leading to tragic outcomes), but because you explored every nook and cranny of the implications of your idea.

Define your ‘why’

Your idea is only the first step in a long, complex journey. As a business owner, you would have to make a ton of decisions from choosing the first few people to support you in the journey, which branding colours to pick, to what kind of content you want to put out for selling your services or products. Without any guidelines based on the ‘why’, these decisions can quickly become overwhelming, and self-doubt can take over. This is why having clarity of your true purpose can easily help evaluate these decisions — from the smallest to the biggest ones.

Thrive outside the comfort zone

Any new idea can often die if entrepreneurs subconsciously retreat themselves into their comfort zones. This can make you lose faith in your ability to take on new challenges and learn new ways to elevate your strengths. This is an imaginary ‘terror’ barrier, a kind of fear that can stop progress in its tracks. Which is why it is crucial to remember that incredible things can happen if you push yourself out of your comfort zone, be willing to take on new risks, and determine to never quit trying. Doing so, can help convert the ‘terror zone’ into a realm of new opportunities.

Have some self-compassion

As an investor, I have seen entrepreneurs be notoriously hard upon themselves, especially in the tough times of failure. Becoming your harshest critic can help you drive towards your best selves. At the same time, it can also bring your business to a grinding halt, given a founder constitutes 80% of the business. Which is why you should stop focusing on failures, realize that your negativity is fuelled by your low self-esteem, and rather take your learnings and move on. Remember that even Edison tested thousands of other materials before settling on the tungsten filament for a light bulb. Persistence with self-compassion, therefore, is key.

Self-doubt is inevitable

If there is one thing (if not anything else) I would like you to take away from this blog, it will be this truth — self-doubt is inevitable — and you are not alone. Making progress, timing your moves, gaining credibility, and achieving success is part and parcel of any solopreneurs journey. What I have found most helpful is to invest time in getting a clear professional narrative of my idea, turning it into a pitch that not only others, but I too, strongly believe in. Without believing in yourself, you will never know how close you are to turning that corner we call ‘breakthrough’, a point where all your choices begin to make sense.




Upsparks is an early-stage venture capital firm known for its exceptional expertise in finding, nurturing and assessing technology start-ups.

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Upsparks is an early-stage venture capital firm known for its exceptional expertise in finding, nurturing and assessing technology start-ups.

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