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What inspires a Startup?

Before I answer this question, I should answer another question first- What inspired me to write this post? The other day I was having a discussion with my Father when I subconsciously asked him about ‘the type of Businessmen’ in this world. I had a doubt about Businesses and their motives when I asked him this- Why is that there are local businesses running well over 200-300 crores but are not very famous or well known? On the other hand why we have some Entrepreneurs who sold there businesses for some crores but are really well known and sought after (especially by Startups like us)? Well, his answer was simple but it fuelled a new thought in my mind. This is what he said to me-

There are 3 types of businessmen in this World-

  1. Those who are intellectually famous but financially not so affluent (not having a 200-300 crore business),
  2. Those who are financially very affluent but are intellectually weak (not having an influential friend network)
  3. Those who are both intellectually strong and financially famous (Azim Premji and Anand Mahindra types).

This simple answer made me think- If that’s the case then what makes a wannabe entrepreneur choose from the above 3 options? And more importantly, what should I aspire to be? Is fame important to me or is it money? Or Both? Anyone like me can easily opt number 3 from above if asked to choose, but what does that mean- is it that simple? And don’t you think that everyone who becomes point number 1 would aspire to achieve 3?

I knew that the answer to this should not be very complex, and finally I got it- it’s all about the inspiration! Inspiration is what drives aspirations.

At this stage I want my startup to be successful, to be known by people and to be appreciated by customers- i.e. I’m aspiring to achieve fame. I don’t know about money and frankly speaking I don’t care about it right now but what happens when I will manage to generate revenues? More money will lead to another inspiration and then it will go on and on.

Let’s try to understand what happens when people choose to quit from point 1 itself and don’t want to reach point 3. Most of the people whom startups interact with are from league number 1, and that answers our question. If one is intellectually smart (and financially stable) there are two options available to him/her- either choose to help others (interact real-time) with their intellectual ability (effective network) or choose to keep the business growing while helping the society indirectly. Both would give similar mental satisfaction to an entrepreneur who wishes to spread his knowledge/wisdom/fame and wants to help the society directly or indirectly.

So what it takes to become likes of Azim Premji and Narayan Murthy? Again I’d say inspiration. If your business is like you can sell it after 5-6 years of operations then there is no inspiration in creating a company worth a thousand crore. Most of the creative ideas are not that scalable because of the saturated and open market conditions these days. Hence when an idea reaches a stage where it can no longer compete with bigger birds, the inspiration to make it worth a thousand crore dies. But that, off course is not bad ;).

Intellectual and creative people can find ways to start another business- they just need another inspiration to start one. Sometimes they start another and sometimes they choose to invest in others ;). What say?

About rabigupta

Rabi Gupta is a start up enthusiast and Founder of iDubba.com (Intelligent Box). He is passionate about new and interesting ideas in media and entertainment field.  Read more of his stuff at blog.idubba.com or follow him on twitter as @idubba.

8 comments

  1. A businessman becomes one because of many reasons: 1. Building an organization that will stand true long after they are gone 2. Money, & lots of it 3. Independence in activities & decision-making 4. Fame 5. Not having to report to a boss 6. Build a legacy for is family to follow 7. Provide employment to a lot of people and many more… Now, inspiration alone cannot sustain a business. Only when a business has a sustainable revenue model can it provide space for larger leaps of growth & faith. Now, a sustainable business has employees who can take care of operations leaving the founder to innovate & to get inspired to make an attempt to the next level or inflection point. All this time, because of sustained growth & marketing & networking & not to forget the revenues, word goes around of the businessman’s success, either thru the media or his own networks. That brings in fame, which has its own pros & cons. Having come to this stage, I feel that if a company has sold out, then it is sad. Because, the years of hard work & culture that you have seeded in your baby cannot be given away just like that. You take the plunge to give it away only when you do not have the wherewithal to sustain growth because of lack of ability & finance, lack of innovation, lack of leadership or if you have NOT been able to build an efficient leadership structure that allows the businessman to look ahead but requires him to look after day-to-day operations. You basically give up on your baby. The media glorifies you because you have made a tidy sum of money that can in some way help them to generate more revenues for themselves.

  2. @Navaratna, thanks for such an elaborative response but you actually took a different and practical angle to my basic question- what inspires a startup? Inspiration is a subtle result of some basic thought process and as I said in my post -”the answer to this should not be very complex…” means that inspiration doesn’t take too many things into consideration. When we take all those 7 points into consideration (which you mentioned) we make a business plan. But I do appreciate this comment, you wrote a separate post there. Thanks for this guidance :). @Madhav, I second your thoughts.

  3. Navaratna S Kiran

    Firstly, too many assumptions made about busnessmen & their kind. A businessman becomes one because of many reasons: 1. Building an organization that will stand true long after they are gone 2. Money, & lots of it 3. Independence in activities & decision-making 4. Fame 5. Not having to report to a boss 6. Build a legacy for is family to follow 7. Provide employment to a lot of people and many more… Now, inspiration alone cannot sustain a business. Only when a business has a sustainable revenue model can it provide space for larger leaps of growth & faith. Now, a sustainable business has employees who can take care of operations leaving the founder to innovate & to get inspired to make an attempt to the next level or inflection point. All this time, because of sustained growth & marketing & networking & not to forget the revenues, word goes around of the businessman’s success, either thru the media or his own networks. That brings in fame, which has its own pros & cons. Having come to this stage, I feel that if a company has sold out, then it is sad. Because, the years of hard work & culture that you have seeded in your baby cannot be given away just like that. You take the plunge to give it away only when you do not have the wherewithal to sustain growth because of lack of ability & finance, lack of innovation, lack of leadership or if you have NOT been able to build an efficient leadership structure that allows the businessman to look ahead but requires him to look after day-to-day operations. You basically give up on your baby. The media glorifies you because you have made a tidy sum of money that can in some way help them to generate more revenues for themselves. In all this the differentiating factor is the people touchpoints – people whose lives you have touched thru your venture – employees, customers, stakeholders, shareholders, family, friends, networks, etc.. You have shown dreams, you have fulfilled some of them, they have FAITH that you will take them to their destinations on your ARK. But then suddenly one morning, you decide to sell out, BAIL out. Rank cowardice! You will have betrayed all those people touchpoints, shattered their beliefs & dreams. This is what separates the men [Azim Premji, LN Mittal, NRN, Vijay Mallya] from the boys [numerous examples]. All the ‘boys’ wanted was the money, the limelight, & to hide their inabilities. I separate businesses into 2 categories: 1. Self-Employed & Small Biz & 2. Entrepreneurs. 1. Self-Employed & Small Biz have been started with a view to be their own boss – fundamental mistake. They have meandered their course & somehow have kept the counter ringing all these years. Most of their children end up in jobs somewhere, not in the business because the business has not achieved the scale to attract them. Reason is their inability to grow beyond a certain stage & not being able to create a self-sustaining organization. Chances are they are at their desks till they die, as they have to make a living. After them, the venture dies… 2. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, have a vision, of building an organization that can grow till the end of time. Lofty, true! They attempt to create a system that will actually touch people lives, they empower their teams to ensure sustainability, that the organization is living & breathing. All this with a view to retire themselves from operations to take their organization to greater heights & innovate to create value & diversify into various streams. They leave behind a legacy after them – a successful business that reaches greater heights under the leadership of their children, who have been groomed to take over. This organization will also continue to add value to & leverage the people touchpoints. Luck, destiny, etc. are mere words to attribute success to someone else & excuses for one’s own failure. Success is a result of many opportunities being grabbed as they pass by, & also having the vision to notice their significance in the first place. No vision, no mission! Success come to those who believe in it the most, who believe in it the longest! TRUE entrepreneurs believe, & they make others believe it too!

    • Navaratna Kiran, Very nice points and very practical indeed. I think Rabi’s topic was ‘inspiration’ and he wrote on those lines. I believe that even the ‘Self-Employed & Small Biz’ people were also entrepreneurs with a dream, leaving aside whatever the reason for starting out was. So, whether one has a small IT company with 2 people or a company of 20,000+ people like Premji, is a measure of capabilities and other factors. So, I think it not correct to think of entrepreneurs by measuring their bank balance. Regarding your other point that there are some businessmen who sell their business after it has reached a certain stage. I think selling out could be for many reasons like moving onto something that has interested the entrepreneur, or to integrate with a bigger business which can take it to greater heights etc.,. So, I would not think of someone as having chickened out just because they sold their business. I am small entrepreneur in my own right and hope to be a success sometime. So my thoughts are not from a person who has been there or done that. I look forward to more thought-sharing on this.

  4. Good post, Rabi! I think, out of the 3 points, first 2 are types of businessmen and the 3rd one is just a stage. Businessmen choose to focus either on network or revenue. If, while earning money, their network expands, they become famous, too. In other case, if the expanding network brings in money for the businessman, he becomes rich, as well. Of course, there’s no right or wrong choice out of these. It’s purely inspirational!

    • Thanks Mandar. yea 3rd one is a stage i agree. but they are also businessmen and they are the real idols. So another viewpoint here– first type of businessmen are real mentors/guides. second type may help directly in lending money (if we know them personally) third types are “godly” and they are idolized. Am I right?

  5. Rabi, Good post and analysis. Here are some thoughts. I can create a website which positively touches the lives of a thousands of people. So these people may know me and thank me for it. But it might not necessarily mean that I am famous. However, if the same business was acquired, IPO’ed or something like that which makes news, gets people talking, media coverage etc., that could be a reason for becoming famous. Contrast the above with the thousands of businessmen in India who may have a garment or jewellery or other family business and make crores of rupees, but they may not be famous. So I think, it is about the number of people’s lives we touch or make news, and not just money that makes one famous. Also, the inspiration to become rich and/or famous is individual, but inspiration alone will probably not take one there.

    • Very good point you made there Madhav. May be some people are inspired to achieve bigger success in longer run but circumstances or luck may not favor everyone alike :). Really appreciate this angle!

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