The Challenges Of A Chicken Entrepreneur In Sustaining His/Her Startup


I was once invited to speak at SP Jain (an MBA college in Andheri, Mumbai).The gentleman speaking ahead of me talked about how entrepreneurs who start at 23- 24 years of age lose steam and chicken out. He named them ‘chicken entrepreneurs’. I was 23. I happily embraced the tag since then.

A little bit about me

I graduated in 2008; started a company in college, it didn’t work. Then, I started InOpen in October 2009 with Dr.Sridhar (Prof. in CSE IIT B).

InOpen is an IIT Bombay based educational startup with a focus on developing high quality academic content through intense research. InOpen offers products and services to government and private schools. We are currently serving more than 2.5lakh students (we started with 2000 students in December 2009) directly through our products.

We have grown from 2 employees to a present strength of 60. We have worked with 4 governments and opened new offices in Jaipur and Hyderabad. Our media visibility is around 110 newspapers and blogs. We have raised seed fund (from F&F and Bank Debt) in 2010 and a first VC round in August 2011.

Happy Assumptions for a startup

  • Product Launch and First Customer Ship are the same thing
  • Business Plan is just another document
  • Technology is superior than content (read :fundamentals)
  • Job and startup can go hand in hand.
  • Friends are the best partners/employees

Sudden Challenges

  • Customer Service. Too much Murphy’s law. Unheard of challenges.
  • Delayed Revenue. Cash Flow Crunch
  • Too much time spending managing resources (read: HR). Assumptions with friends fall flat.
  • Raising Funds is not a PPT

Key Mistakes to be avoided

  • Don’t get too attached to your original vision. Accept changes and market feedback.
  • Don’t Mix Product Shipment and Revenue In-flow.
  • Don’t assume anything (ANYTHING in ‘friends-in-business’, product testing (validation), customer demands, overheads, blah blah)
  • Cash Flow is no magic. ‘Work out’ the metrics.

Some of my key learnings

  • I feel that enthusiasm and passion is the master key. An enthusiastic human being with good intent somehow manages to do good and land on the correct path. When I started in college I didn't know that a word called ‘startup’ existed and till date I get the spelling of ‘entrepreneurship’ wrong. Thanks to Auto correct!
  • We all face problems. But I observe a common pattern. A ‘Big’ problem of the past becomes ordinary in the present. Similarly, the ‘Big’ problem today will become an ordinary issue. Just Hang on!
  • I failed and faced challenges. I am no superman but I just managed to stick. My failures taught me one thing that I don't have anything to lose from this point on wards, but I have everything to gain.
  • I meet a lot of small town or city junta who are brilliant but are sadly low on self belief. Doing MBAs, joining ordinary jobs and switching jobs often are some of the common traits. I don't know why but I feel that someone needs to constantly induce a belief that clarity of thoughts and patience should be discovered and practiced at priority for one self.


About the Author

Rupesh Kumar Shah, Co-founder and CEO, InOpen TechnologiesMy passion lies in leveraging quality content and technology for Education. Love for Open Source. My background helps me lead InOpen’s efforts towards creating educational solutions that focus on creating content which has universally acceptability. I love my startup and live every moment of it. Hobbies include fiddling with my piano and my gadgets. I Love cooking to core and smiles when called a “foodie”.


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