Why starting up is not your road to independence

Starting up has become glamorous and there are a lot of us who think that starting up is our road to independence.

The exuberance of youth, the despair of being stuck in the wrong job, that craving for independence and doing what you want to —  all point towards starting up. With the success stories we’ve seen lately and the way starting up, and raising money is being portrayed across media, starting up definitely seems like the panacea of all ills.

But is starting up really that easy? This Independence day, we decided to take a reality check, and take the veil off of a few myths related to starting up.


Starting up is not doing what you want to do

This is one of the biggest factors that people attribute to starting up. Once you are running a startup, you won’t be doing what you like doing. Because alongside comes a lot of other things that you didn’t sign up for. “Many people start up because they want to be independent. They do not want to work under anyone and want to be the masters of their own destiny. But independence in one area means you give up some other freedoms,” says Chaitanya, co-founder of Ozonetel.

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There are many areas that you may have to take charge of like managing a team, building processes, bringing in money (come what may) and many other such things, which you may not necessarily enjoy doing.

Starting up is not a power trip

“Just because you are a startup founder doesn’t mean that you reign supreme. Although you are free to decide how to go about running your business, in the end you are accountable to your customers and most importantly to your team,” says Ahmed Naqvi, co-founder of Gozoop.

Starting up puts you in the driver’s seat and gives you control but it also brings immense amount of responsibility. The very fact that there are some people (and probably their families) who rely on you is a pretty daunting thought. You, as the captain of the ship, shoulder the responsibility of the ship.

As a startup, you’re making something from nothing with people who are in it for the same reasons as you are. And this feeling is amazingly powerful. But with great opportunity comes great responsibility.

Starting up is not fund raising

Raising funds sometimes seems like the motive for starting up. And this is as far away from reality as we can get. Taking external funding is not a bad thing but it is also not a necessary part in a startup’s lifecycle. Raising funds comes with its own perils. Chaitanya hasn’t taken external funding for Ozonetel. He says, “I believe complete freedom of shaping your company comes only if you are bootstrapped. If you have taken institutional money, then even that freedom is constrained.” A startup raises funds to get a longer runway, scale up and grow quickly and it is only a stepping stone towards making your startup a success. It is just like any other milestone.

Finding independence

Recounting his starting up experience, Rohan Chandrashekhar of BuzzValve says, “Personally, starting up was never really about freedom, flexibility, and independence as the books would have you believe. As an employee, you’re accountable to your seniors and your company. As an entrepreneur, you’re accountable to your family, your employees (and their families), your investors, and above all, your customers. This is not a good or bad thing. It’s just how it is.”

Being a startup founder is not just a full-time job, it’s much more than that. It’s a lifestyle. Ahmed believes that independence doesn’t begin with launching a startup; it begins with how you run your startup. At times, as an entrepreneur when you’re trying to make things happen, you need to treat the weekends the same way you treat Mondays. With independence comes flexibility. But with this flexibility comes responsibility.

Starting up comes with a lot of sacrifices on various fronts of life. But you sign up for it the moment you decide you want to build a real business. And you don’t really think about independence. What matters is the business and making it work. And when you see things working out (or even falling apart but knowing you gave it your all), the feeling is beyond words.

It is this feeling that an entrepreneur hopes for, this satisfaction is his or her drive, and being able to chase it is what defines their independence.

About the author

Jubin is an old timer at YourStory. Deeply entrenched in the Indian startup ecosystem, he has written about and analysed more than 1000 startups. He operates from the mountains in Dharamshala where he plays with technology, farming and eco-construction. He can be reached on Twitter @jub_in and on mail at jubin@yourstory.com

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