In 2014, I met some amazing young guys from Mumbai and an Entrepreneur with a vision to build a company that will focus on making a positive impact on Indian startup ecosystem (we were focusing on building a startup services company via various projects). I was hooked. While I was young and naive, I always had this little pinch to do anything that will scream progress not only for me but the whole ecosystem.
In no time, I was in and we started recruiting. We hired 5 young bloods in 30 days and rented an office in Mumbai. Everything was going good. So it always seems. In the first 3 months, we had a team of 15 people and we were nowhere close to making an impact. We focused on organizing some events on the burning topics of entrepreneurship. That got us some good exposure with the community in Mumbai but nonetheless, If you don’t have a monetization or up-sell model in place for organizing an events. Its usually a waste of time or just a good thing for networking.
So before we got into the deep story of why It failed, I’d rather focus on what I learned (lets do both)
Lesson no 1 – Focus on one idea at a time
We already had 4 projects going on in first 4 months, we were focusing on making many buckets of income that got us nowhere to even one. We didn’t complete even one project to the finish and actually do some work.
Lesson no 2 – Steady Recruits
Yep, no matter how important it seems to hire some more people to help you with that big project. The scenario is never that bad. You can always improve productivity of the current team. Before thinking about hiring more recruits, make sure that business is in place and is actually growing with a working revenue model in place. Without that, you are doomed for failure. We learned that the hard way.
Lesson no 3 – Work Culture
A startup that doesn’t have a work culture, you are already on the losing side. We faced many problems because of co-founder clashes and employee trust while going through the bad times. Office politics is the last thing you need to worry about while working on a startup. Make sure you foundation is build on trust between co-founders and the employees.
Lesson no 4 – You should be out in the field, ALWAYS
We made a big mistake of wasting our time in the management of the startup while we should be out in the market doing some sales or marketing. Thats what keeps the startup running on the long term. The team should have the clear concise information on what is the goal of the venture and how they are going to achieve the targets. Always be in the fields if you are running the startup. Thats where the customer or clients are. Period.
Lesson no 5 – Everything works in theory, unfortunately not in the real market
“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is.”
Every startup makes certain assumptions in the beginning to get things running. Worst part is when the assumptions are not even close to reality. Focus on feedback approach. Understand the market scenario and build your startup across that market and not the other way around.
Lesson no 6 – Financial Backup
A general rule of thumb most startup follow is to keep 6 months financial as a backup to survive. Because well, we all know that it takes months to get your first paying customers usually. Its better to keep at least 6 months or even a year financial backup to survive. There will be bad days ahead. Better to be safe then sorry.
Lesson no 7 – Keep it legal, stupid
Isn’t that a no brainer these days? Yeah it wasn’t that easy a year back. We did get into some complications between cofounder that lead to problems and ultimately the dissolution of the company.
Every startup goes through the good, bad and the worst days. Those were still probably the best days of my life because I learned and executed so many things. Entrepreneurs keep asking why not push it a bit forward and focus on surviving a little more, that seems like a reasonable argument but it all depends on what stage your startup is and what’s the traction. If you are very much sure about the team and even the basics of the product/ service that it will make it through, you can push it as much as you can. For us, that was not the case. It took around a year to dissolve the whole company. As you can witness, we will always continue on our quest to build amazing startups. Keep going and keep hustling.