If you are struggling to launch your own start-up, here are six lessons for you
ix years ago when I moved to San Francisco with a dream to start my own tech startup. I felt lost and confused! Not because I wasn’t a good innovator but I really did not know where to start from, who to take advice from. Six years later I have finally transitioned from being a dreamer to a founder and CEO of a venture-backed ed-tech startup in Silicon Valley, teaching at business schools, sitting on the board of advisors at the Nasdaq entrepreneurial centre and helping other entrepreneurs launch their businesses! So if you are struggling with these teething stages just like I did then these six lessons are just for you!
Lesson #1: Find a mentor
Successful founders are ones that are continuously educating themselves. Don’t do this alone! Mentors will not only give you the tools to make strides but also gives you the connections you need to take your ideas to the world. Networking and accessibility were the driving force behind Indiarath, the largest borderless incubator of India. Founders need a place to connect and we wanted to provide this for them
Lesson #2: Flip the way you create a startup
After creating 3 successful startups in the past 16 years that have reached over 13 countries I have learned this one thing: Find users first! I spend a lot of my time coaching innovators, brilliant minds who know everything about building but nothing about their users. Take it from me and first find your potential users. Once you do, go talk to them about what they want. And now build! Innovators think about products, entrepreneurs think about users!
Lesson #3: Stop looking for funding
I have coached over 150 startups and every time I chat with an innovative mind, they feel that their biggest struggle is funding! Let me share a secret, ideas don’t get funded, growing companies do. So don’t spend your time trying to raise funds and then get demotivated by the rejection! Spend your time growing your company first. Reach one of these metrics before going to investors and I assure you that you will raise funds from the right partners.
- If you are a B2C (Selling to customers): Reach 1000 paid users.
- If you are a B2B (selling to other businesses): Get Letter of The intent from 10 businesses
- Reach 10 percent growth month over month.
Lesson #4: Leave the fear at the door
If you think someone will steal your idea then the best way to protect your idea is to build it. Just by maintaining the secrecy and not sharing it with experts is not going to help! Most ideas have been already thought around the world so if you have an idea, chances are thousands of other people do too. The successful idea is one that has proof of users and growth. Do you think no one thought of social networks before Facebook? Remember MySpace, Hi5, Orkut? Go, build the idea, future founder, without fear and with confidence in your vision.
Lesson #5: Follow up as if your life depends on it!
If you have to respond to an email, or show up for a call, even if it isn’t going to add value to your company today, show up! As an entrepreneur, people are betting on you! So you are building your credibility all the time! Having created a user pipeline of almost 40,000 users from scratch, I can only tell you how much this will help you in getting referrals, more users, and building your network. Networking is a superpower that every entrepreneur needs to embody. At The Founders Vault, An invite-only collective of value-driven, aspiring and immigrant founders that I found, this is the key foundational skill that every founder acquires.
Lesson #6: Don’t outsource sales and marketing
I have spoken to over 50 early-stage entrepreneurs in India in the last 2 months who have built great products but shy away from selling it themselves. Please don’t hire business strategists, lead generation experts, or any third party to do sales for you, especially in the early stages. Customers love being with brands that have a uniqueness. When you think Apple, you think Steve Jobs. When you think Tesla, you think Elon Musk! Learn how to run a sales process to be a successful founder. Once things are settled, you can definitely hire more people. When I was building my pipeline of users at Equally, my users would send me messages on my phones directly and say, “I have never been given an amazing service by the CEO of a company”. That has made all the difference to my company’s growth.