How does an entrepreneur cope with criticism?
An entrepreneur always falls prey to the ugly baby syndrome but ironically, if one has to succeed, he or she has to. A startup is an entrepreneur’s baby and any finger pointed towards the baby is like a stab at the heart. Yes, feedback is crucial and one should be open-minded about taking in criticism but how does one cope when the entire flow seems to be against you? When you feel like a lone ranger wading through the tides?
Sai Gaddam, a computational neuroscientist says, “Criticism is simply information relayed back to an agent about the gap between outcome and expectation. All the magnificent complexity of human thought stems from the ability of cells in our brain to respond to this feedback. Devoid of its emotional connotations, the notion of criticism actually seems useful and constructive.” Any season entrepreneur would also tell you that your startup should be treated like an individual entity and everything you do should be with an aim for the good of that entity. You must not attach yourself too closely with it but when you’re fighting for something with sweat, blood and tears, how can you keep yourselves so detached?
We asked a few entrepreneurs about their experiences. “Yes, I’ve faced criticism from all quarters and it’s almost a default reaction,” says Shiladitya Mukhopadhyaya, founder of Rasilant Technologies. But there are certain things every individual falls back on. “I was just an average performer at school and in a way, it shaped a lot of my world-view early on by introducing me to new concepts outside the class. It basically brought me up with the sense that I could take on the world and make something of it if I believed in it regardless of what others might say,” he adds.
Apart from deriving inspiration from personal experiences, sometimes your naivete also shows the way. Dogspot is a startup which focuses on an apparently small market in India and the founder Rana Atheya has had to face criticisms throughout. “Sometimes being naive helps to focus a lot. Many times people said why don’t you do a startup in some other volume zone category domain, my answer was always: I don’t know that category and I am not too passionate to learn it. I knew pet industry well to take the risk, it was worth because the passion was involved,” he says.
Feedback, at the end of the day is very subjective. Shiladitya puts it well, “In the end, handling criticism is being able to believe and know for a fact that what you are being told is just one person’s opinion and their take on what you are trying to do.” Sumit Jain, the co-founder of Commonfloor resonates saying, “You should have confidence about what you are doing and treat all feedbacks (good/bad) with a pinch of salt. You have to find good in bad.”
It’s not that these companies are mightily successful and have changed the world overnight but your average gritty entrepreneur who has found his battle. It’s all about fighting your battle and going to the end. It doesn’t matter if you go down at the end but you would go down knowing that you followed what you believed was true while being cognizant of the views from people around on the way.