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Ready-to-be (and current) Entrepreneurs: At least don’t make these 6 mistakes

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The entrepreneurship bug is finally catching up in India. And no, I don’t mean to exaggerate. I’m talking in relative terms.

I do understand that staying in Bangalore tends to have an overstating effect on your perception. But, nonetheless, I am bullish about it and so will you find so many others in this ecosystem.

This of course means that for the first time many people are actually thinking of taking the leap and among them quite many young ‘uns. So, here are a few pointers from whatever limited experience I have and a majority of it from the several other entrepreneurs that I have had a privilege of interacting with or listening to or just being in the mere presence of.

“Oh!! You want me to discuss my business idea. Ok. First sign this NDA.”

-No successful entrepreneur ever said this to anyone ever.

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This is probably the stupidest notion among the to-be side. And, I have seen too many cases of this. Let me break the bubble for you. An idea is worth – nothing, nada, zilch, zero.

And someone would be a fool to assume that in a planet with 6 billion people, (s)he is the only one who could have come up with that particular idea.

Guess what?

While you’re busy shoving NDAs and clauses into the faces of all the people who want to help you, someone else somewhere (and it could just be within a 10 km radius) is building and executing that plan. So, please, talk to someone. Attend a meet up. Discuss it with friends. Take some feedback. Stop being obnoxious.

Remember, 99% of people out there want to help you…

The Co-founder conundrum

Ok. This one is tough. Finding the perfect co-founder is almost like finding the perfect wife.

Paul Graham of Y Combinator has written that having a co-founder is “like we’re married, but we’re not f***ing.”

Going at alone can be a serious detriment, because you will end up juggling so many things that the most important things – product, sales, marketing etc might take a back seat. And one who leaves you midway can cause a serious setback to your business prospects.

Co-founder mistakes: you don’t have one, you have the wrong one, the responsibilities are unequally delegated, there are too many people in your company with the title “co-founder”.

Working on too many features or ideas at a time

Many of us have heard the buzzword MVP or Minimal Viable Product. Propagated by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, this entails that instead of worrying about the bells and whistles, entrepreneurs build a ‘barely-functional product’, something that is the core idea and the exact use-case in the ideator’s mind.

What you do next is, keep iterating based on the feedback you receive about your Beta, from actual users or your customer base.

This ensures that the assumptions you started with, while building the product are either proven, in which case you take it further and now work on the peripherals, or disproven, in which case you work on the feedback to pivot to something more useful.

So, at the end of the day it can’t be the case that you’ve worked on building a complete product for 9 months and end up finding out, once you release, that there is no actual need for it.

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If I build it, they’ll come -to buy my stuff.

Or ignoring Sales and Marketing. In the first 3-4 months, building the product should definitely be the priority.

But, beyond that selling should be left, right and centre in your business strategy. No one cares about your idea or product, however, ‘revolutionary’ or ‘disruptive’ you might think it is, unless you go tell them about it and make them care. And, remember Sales and Marketing is just good storytelling.

If I build it, they’ll come -to fund my business.

Not unless you show significant traction. And, never ever underestimate the power of cash flow.

While starting out, we thought cash would be the least of our problems. But, and especially for product companies, cash flow is the king.

Nothing better than bootstrapping and making your business work. But, if you can start making money fast, it’ll take care of many other problems.

Hiring too quickly, Firing too slowly

Building the right team is a very vital part of the puzzle that is a startup. One must hire for skills, tenacity and a thirst for accelerated learning rather than for degree or experience. Hiring should be slow and deliberate rather than forced. And, the minute someone stops being a part of the culture, fire her.

There are just so many things to know and learn, and reading is not the best way to do it.

The best way to learn is by doing.

Here’s the irony though:

[box type=”shadow” ]Good judgment comes from experiences, but the best experiences come from bad judgment.[/box]

What advice do you guys have? What other mistakes could one avoid? Comment.

  1. Anuj Sharma says

    I think the writer is suggesting the entrepreneur to be more open and intuitive in find the right co-founder, the right funds and the right market. Its really obvious for someone else to be building similar product and hitting the lady luck by just being open to people about the idea. I totally agree on this point. I am experiencing the “showing the traction” part in my own start-up. i am being asked to show numbers where i can sin the wheel at least once!!

  2. Rupam says

    I agree with almost all your points Abhash. But 1 I beg to disagree upon is “hiring too quickly and firing too slowly”. Of course the former part of your statement is true, hiring should be deliberated and slow and not forced but once someone stops being a part of the culture fire her (incidentally even this statement would start sending wrong signals with the her alone). There might be many reasons why some one stops being part of a culture, and of course for a few of those misfits firing is the only way, but there are multiple times when a perfectly good hire starts fitting out of the organizational culture and in those cases cannot there be a case in point wherein the company might not be actually building the culture up right? I am sure even you would understand a similar point but your last lines depict a scenario wherein firing is the only answer to culture misfits. I would say there are other ways of going about that too. (I would not know much about it, but speaking from whatever little experience I have had as a worker in the talent sections across a few organizations)

    1. Abhash Kumar says

      Oh c’mon Rupam!! When writers use ‘his’ all the time, people complain that they are gender-biased. My use of ‘her’ is just that; a generic reference to any and every person. Don’t start taking it out of context.

      And, as far as the “Firing too slowly” is concerned I agree that it is just a matter of perception and relative to how much one cares about their employees being a right fit to the culture.

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