This is an archived or old post. The information might be outdated.

The Business of going Start-Up | What They Didn't Tell You

Shreya posted on 17th June

By Shreya Soni

Over my morning coffee reads, I stumbled across a quote that made me laugh, then made me nod along in agreement, and finally made me think about why this decade is seeing a significantly higher rate of entrepreneurship than any decade till date…

“I quit my 8 hour job for a 14 hour job. For less than half the pay.”

Having quit a cushy London job, where life was a constant party and Selfridges was second home, I came back to Delhi to get on board an amazing start-up; with no relevant or corresponding work experience; just my gut saying – “Let’s give it a shot.”

My journey so far has seen the yawn-o-meter significantly drop from 3-yawns/30 minutes to 1-yawn/120 minutes {extremely important numbers for me}. There’s also been a sense of fear, self doubt, some highs, some lows, and many nights where I’ve ignored my dog to slave over a spreadsheet. But I don’t regret a single minute of the journey so far, because boy oh boy has it been a crazy ride! Our generation is witnessing a revolution of young businesses, and the emergence of amazing ideas. Whilst many say this is the best time to float your idea, you also need to be ready for the crazy and tumultuous journey you are planning to embark upon, a.k.a The World of Start-ups.

This two-part series on entrepreneurship will discuss the basics of being an entrepreneur, what it takes to be part of a start-up, and some real stories of real people who have braved upon this route well.

This edition is for all the dreamers and thinkers who have an ace idea, but are weighing the pros and cons of LBS {Life Before Starting Up} and LAS {Life After Starting Up}. Here are some of my discoveries over the past year, circa LAS!

They didn’t warn me about the panda eyes!

Anyone who paints you a story of start-up life being extremely fun, with flexible hours, instant success and a joyful existence of never being answerable to a boss, is probably working for Deep-Pockets-Daddy-Dearest. I swiftly understood that being an entrepreneur is challenging, with longer hours than you can even imagine, dark circles, white hair, and a tearful goodbye to the latest Prada bag. However, this came with a series of revelations: The journey is hard, but I do sleep sounder at night. The journey is frustrating, but that one Einstein solution is definitely more gratifying than a post-coital smoke. My dad’s favourite piece of advice to me is that a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor!

They didn’t warn me about the pesky voice inside my head!

For every pat on the back, I had ten voices knocking the idea down! I try to be as accepting of criticism {or what they call “constructive criticism” these days}, but my biggest learning is to train my mind to fight the external chatter, self doubt, and more importantly, the voice inside my head weighing me down. Don’t feed that voice for it to grow into a full-blown monster. Like they say, self-doubt has killed more dreams than anything else in the world.

They didn’t warn me about how to deal with them lemons!

Being an ex-management consultant, I was trained to plan plan plan, like my life depended on it. I had no idea of the obscurity that comes with being part of a start-up! So in spite of my multiple to-do lists, spreadsheets, and Plan B’s, I realised that mistakes are inevitable. No matter how adeptly you calculate your next plan of action, the dynamic forces of business will throw a lemon at you to catch you off-guard. What will set you apart from others is what you do with that lemon: Let it squirt your eye and temporarily blind you, OR go find some tequila and salt.

They didn’t tell me that the number of iterations could hit double digits!

My favourite trick - without diluting the DNA of your idea, test it with 5 smart confidantes in your life, and tweak the product till the majority says “whoa!” The biggest danger would be to solely pivot your idea on the latest industry buzzword, because no amount of money in marketing efforts and social media hash tags can elevate your product. It can propel the rudder, but in no way should it be the substitute for the fuel in the machine.

They didn’t tell me the art of breaking down complex decisions!

Right when you start, scribble down a vision for your company. It doesn’t have to be magazine-worthy-intellectual or typical-corporate-preachy. It should be brief, honest, and simple enough for any future employee to embrace. This 6 liner statement soon became my sounding board whenever I hit the proverbial decision fork in the road. Every time shit hits the fan, I weigh all options against the original version of my vision and nice or not, I know what to do if I want to stay true to the core values and DNA.

They definitely didn’t warn me about this, for sure!

In the age of “Copy Toms”, it’s hard enough to come up with a unique and ace business idea. But turns out, the buck didn't stop there! The real back-breaking journey began whilst formulating the idea into something concrete, and the true success lay in how well we implemented and executed it. The success of the product didn't lie in how early it hit the market, but in how well it connected with my audience. I am forever indebted to my previous manager, who rejected all my work till I rested my execution plan on benchmarks, research, and solid strategy, because at the end of the day, data will always trump emotion based decisions.

The bottom line is that no entrepreneur can really pin down one common denominator explaining why he or she does what he/she does. Choosing to go this route may seem massively irrational, as statistics lean more towards dismal crash-and-burn start-up models. I just went by my mom’s advice: “If you truly have laser focus belief in your idea, give it the proper shot it deserves. If you don’t try now, you’ll never know what it could or couldn’t have grown into.”

Because you know what they say – If Plan A didn’t work the way you thought it would, there are 25 more letters to work with. Stay determined, because you’re way too creative to have a 9 to 5.

Coming Soon: A cheat-sheet for entrepreneurs/those working in start-ups, and some real-time success stories!