Why do startup folks look so hassled all the time?

10th May 2013
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Startups are mad. Any founder or startup employee or anyone close to a startup person knows this. These folks run around all day with a maddening sense of urgency. It looks like they go and change the world each day (and they sincerely believe they can). Startup people understand this but the post is for those who don’t. This is something startup people should show when someone asks them why? Why do you look so hassled all the time?

Simple reason: Too many variables

Longer version:

Variable 1: How much to do?

As a startup, you start off with a white empty slate and you start coloring in it. Now this slate is so huge, it is infinitely large and no one tells you where to colour. Everyone from the founder to employees are trying to figure out what will work the best for which they have to try out different things. There are too many leads to pursue, too many leads to follow up with, the to-do list is never-ending. If someone gives them a fair estimate of what he or she should be doing, they wouldn’t be in this maddening hurry all the time.


Day in a startup- Work Flow

The chart tells you how an average startup person in this internet age spends her day. The times when people feel others in the team would be resting is probably when everyone’s working. This can be early mornings or late nights. Then as soon as it looks like the world wakes up, 'peripherals to work' start. Brand building, meetings, marketing, sorting out messes, etc is what consumes most of the day. They’re working but not really working. That's how the ball rolls.

Variable 2: Priorities change

People tell you to prioritize. But startup folks really don’t know what the topmost thing on priority is. Even if one day a company decides to do something at 9 in the morning but things could have changed 180 degrees by 6pm. New rules. Things move at the speed of Usain Bolt and because the times seem so fast, startup folks feel they’re missing out on something when they’re not working. They get this ludicrous sense of guilt (which they don’t deserve) and it keeps them at it all the time!

Variable 3: Assumptions

Assumptions usually end up turning out to be like darts thrown in the dark. Things just don’t seem to work the way they should. Charting out a plan, work is designated to everyone in the team but at the end of the week, the movement doesn’t look encouraging inspite of everyone roughing it out. The reasons vary from processes to company culture. Successful entrepreneurs and investors always stress on the importance of people and how they work together. But for that to develop, it takes more time than one thinks. A wrong recruit can stagnate or delay the roadmap of a company. It’s like it really hasn’t happened until you see it happen. Anything under process can go wrong. Murphy made it extra sure for his law to work over here. Assumptions always fall on their head and are a base premise for long iterative experiments.

These were some of the broad level reasons why a startup guy is always hassled. There are just too many questions and too many decisions to make. Just to leave you more baffled, I drop in a bunch of questions here: How much should I spend on ads? Is that new person a cultural match? Should I reach out to Shashi Tharoor to tweet about my company? Where do I look for new sales channels? How do I enhance my skills? Is my family happy with what I’m doing? Will my boyfriend/girlfriend still be talking to me? How soon should I follow up with that company? Which investor should I pitch to? What kind of training does the company require? When should I sit down peacefully to work on that thing? How to setup internal processes? How to maintain a culture in the company?

And the result: Hassled but happy faces.

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