Do you have an idea which you think will change the face of the industry?
Are you someone who spends hours on the internet finding “the next big idea”?
Do you also spend hours researching how much funding flowed into the world of startups last week?
Do you think about things like:
- Who are the latest unicorns?
- Who are the losers?
- Who are the winners?
Do you think about:
- Why is Elon Musk a legend?
- What made Steve Jobs a bad ass entrepreneur?
If you think about these things, you are just inches away from entering the interesting world of:
You trust your instincts. You know your energy and zeal to succeed will take you to the next level.
But your mind is confused.
You have so many questions, but you don’t have anyone there to guide you.
You also don’t know what the unpredictable world of Entrepreneurship is all about. When I started my first venture, I was without a mentor and a plan.
First-time entrepreneurs have so many questions about how to be an entrepreneur. They are inquisitive, yet scared.
Now, it’s NOT that I am no longer scared of starting a new venture. In fact, I am just as scared as I’ve always been. But I’ve learned how to use my excitement to overcome my apprehensions.
If you are a first-time entrepreneur, here are 5 things you need to know:
1. Failing To Plan is Planning To Fail
This line carries a strong message for all first-time entrepreneurs.
I know you started your venture by trusting your instincts, but without a plan, you will fail miserably.
Worse- you will move forward without an aim.
Every single division of your company needs to have a plan:
Even if you can jot down a few lines on what you plan to achieve and how you will achieve it, you will have a stronger sense of direction.
This is so valuable. When you are a few months into your new venture, you can go back and look at what you had initially planned to achieve and compare it to where you currently stand.
Plans evolve over time. As your venture progresses, the vision takes on a more solid shape (and so does the plan).
- But without a plan for your business, you are just swinging in the dark.
During one of my ventures, we moved ahead believing that we would make it succeed without planning. Too much self-belief and no planning eventually led to our failure.
2. The Journey: Idea to Implementation
You may have the best ideas in the world. But they’re still just ideas.
Figments of your imagination…
All entrepreneurs should be ready for the journey from idea to implementation.
The journey is not easy.
I know entrepreneurs who have quit in the middle of the journey; they quit long before the product ever saw the light of day.
One of our failed ventures- a business directory to connect party planners and users- went through 100 rounds of iteration at the design stage. Ultimately, the final version that we launched was substandard and barely got any response.
- A strict budget.
- A vague deadline.
- Too many founders busy with their existing ventures.
- No one involved in the day to day functioning of product creation.
And when the time came to see the product’s versions, we all had different opinions and feedback which were nowhere near to where the product stood.
Every good idea takes some time in order to manifest into reality. Launch it without the right feedback and you risk launching a product no one wants.
However, if you spend too much time modifying the product, you will never see the launch of the product.
With all of this, you also need to take into account the “cost” of the journey.
There are a lot of things to keep in mind.
Quoting a wise man:
- “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.
- I will add “… and a lot of money and time” to make this quote apt for startups.
Ensure your journey of a thousand miles does not stretch to 2,000 miles.
You will lose interest and run out of money (and patience) before you turn your idea into reality.
3. Your Comfort Zone is Your Biggest Enemy
What’s your background?
Most first-time entrepreneurs are from:
- …or some other specialized field.
Anything but Entrepreneurship.
There is no “Entrepreneurship Division” in any company.
You could very well be a software engineer working for a decent company, fetching a good income and benefits package, but when you start your first venture, all you’ll know how to do is code.
Trust me, it will never be enough to handle your business.
My biggest weaknesses are accounting and finance.
My lack of skills in those two fields almost killed our only surviving venture during the first year.
My passion was marketing. I was always busy running with the sales guys doing door to door marketing or making cold calls.
When the time came to look at the company’s finances, I could not find the time.
- I did not want to find the time.
Despite being an entrepreneur, I did not want to get out of my comfort zone.
In the end, the top line of our business never complimented the bottom line. The market owed us too much.
By the time I got my act together, we were in big trouble. The next few months were spent frantically getting payments from clients.
But here’s the thing:
Do you think I am the only one who made this mistake?
Most of us start ventures to follow our passion which inadvertently puts us in our comfort zones.
But running a venture is a whole different ball game. Every day, entrepreneurs are asked to do things they can’t even imagine.
Because of our past jobs and our passions, our comfort zones can actually lead to the closure of our venture.
4. All That Glitters is Not Gold
I have met entrepreneurs who start their ventures for all the wrong reasons.
One of the biggest “wrong reasons” (which stands out among all of the other “wrong reasons”) is:
- “I am starting a venture to replicate the success of another successful venture”.
I have mentioned this point many times on Quora and in my past blogs.
Do not start a venture just because you’ve seen a similar venture succeed.
For example, do not start another Airbnb after looking at their success and hoping that you could be as successful as them.
As they say:
- “Don’t judge my path if you haven’t walked my journey”.
Even if you were to start something similar to an already successful venture, study the existing venture thoroughly.
The advantage of trying a tested formula is the availability of SOPs (standard operating procedures) or clear definitions of what worked and what didn’t.
But you will put yourself at a disadvantage when you start a venture only to copy the success of another similar venture.
Try creating a niche for yourself before your try to copy an existing concept.
- That’s the real beauty of Entrepreneurship.
5. Bootstrap and Then Raise Funds
“Bootstrapping” is starting up with minimal financial resources.
I have been involved with running multiple ventures for the past 8 years.
Do you know how many times our ventures tried raising money from investors?
We have bootstrapped. Every time.
(In fact, the last month was the first time I started working on a business plan to raise funds. We are growing at a good pace and I think it’s the right time for us to let go of some stake in our company.)
But remember this:
- Bootstrapping is not easy.
Still, it is the right way to build a startup.
The distractions from media with headlines like “X company raised Y million” is unavoidable. I do not blame today’s entrepreneurs for the disillusionment they suffer from after reading these headlines.
Money is an easy temptation. You are simply a natural human if you fall into the trap of raising funds to start your venture.
A few months back, I sat down and wrote a business plan for a product I was working on.
I sent it to 5 different VC firms in Delhi/NCR.
All of them rejected the idea. The experience was an eye-opener.
I have previously built a successful venture without any funds. Why should I raise funds for something which is still at an idea stage?
We have now started working on the product from our savings. The plan is to launch the product within the next few months.
The fundraising activity will be only be done once there’s a need to raise funds.
As of now, we are at peace with bootstrapping.
My advice to all first time entrepreneurs is:
- Do not chase funds. Bootstrap. Get some traction. Funds will follow.
Persist and Never Give Up
- Being an entrepreneur is not an easy task.
But if you manage to persist, it will pay off in the long run.
If you can still manage to bring your ideas to fruition even after repeated failures, you will have that thing that “made Steve Jobs a bad-ass entrepreneur”.
And success is sure to follow.
Are you a startup owner? What tips do you have for first-time entrepreneurs? Are you a first-time entrepreneur? How’s your startup going? Let me know in the comments!
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