It was just 10 months ago that I was working with Directi; and just one year before that I was in college. Not one of the most popular guys; but the most geeky? Yes. Today, when I go to sleep I am surprised at the things that have happened and how I got to where I am. Two profitable ventures. One acquisition. All at the age of 23!
I always knew this was going to happen and I always had faith in myself but isn’t it ironical that the same batch mates, who used to frown upon me in college, are still stuck at Infosys, and I make that much money just through a Youtube channel that I started in college?
What makes me or any entrepreneur different? If I had to give my two cents on how to be successful -- well I can't say whether I am successful – I would say be happy and do what you want because that is what exactly I did. Of course, I won’t be telling you how to build a good product. You figure that out yourself.
What are the things that will take you towards success? Here’s my two bit.
- Be shameless: Most people are afraid. Afraid to do anything unconventional. Afraid to ask the girl out. Afraid to write what they feel like. Afraid to follow their dreams or whatever bullshit they want to do and then they try to convince themselves with excuses. ‘Oh! I couldn't do it because I was going through a breakup or family event or academics or health or whatever crap.’ I usually had the habit of converting ideas into action. I learnt this from Richard Branson. Go read his book it’s a good read. And yes, ask that girl out, if you don’t ask, the answer will be 100% no, but if you ask you never know what may happen. It’s good to get some action once in a while, apart from your company which will definitely fuck your brains out.
- Read: Blogs, books, whatever. You got to read every day. The mistakes that you will be making have already been made by people who were successful before or in fact in your time. Read something inspirational, read a biography, read something fun or fiction. It is never late to read ‘Harry Potter’. So go grab a copy or in fact if you are above 23 and you promise me that you will read ‘Harry Potter’, reply in the comments section (last date 1st July) and I’ll buy the book for you. I am serious.
- Handle your emotions: I can recall at least 10 times during the last one year when I was like, ‘fuck it, who cares. I am still going to make a lot of money even if Flat.to fails.’ But remember these thoughts are temporary and they will go. When you hit rock bottom, when you are going through a breakup, when you have a big fight with your co-founder, my advice is, whatever it is that you are going through, sleep over it. Handle your emotions and tackle the situation properly. The passion or the enthusiasm will be back the next day when your head is clear. You know what is the only difference between successful people and the unsuccessful ones? They can handle emotions well, they can be strong in their worst times. And that’s why they succeed. Here is what I did when I hit rock bottom.
- Be an asshole: This is not to say that being an asshole will make you successful. But an unwillingness to occasionally be one is an almost certain road to failure. You want some examples? Nah, I will be an asshole and not give any. But remember, if you are not pissing someone off, you anyway probably aren’t doing anything important, read more here. Quoting Oliver Emberton,
Most of us fear upsetting the emotions of others. When we upset people, we’re compelled to justify ourselves. We yearn to win over our detractors. We seek everyone’s approval. And just one criticism among a hundred compliments burns into our brain like a cigarette. That’s actually a good sign. It means you’re not really an asshole. Just don’t be afraid to act like one where it matters.
- Be a salesman: So you are a developer? You don’t like going out? You just like sitting on your bean bag and pushing code? Well if you are a co-founder or a stake holder of the company, you are the biggest brand that the company can have. The way you can convince or sell someone your idea will be better than any other salesman you hire even if you are hiring MBAs from ISB or IIM-A. And trust me if anything works more in a sales pitch it’s nothing but passion. So go out sell to the investors, sell to the people who may potentially acquire you, to the customers, to the clients, to that cute girl you saw while coming to your so-called startup office. Remember Varun Agarwal? From Alma Mater? I would like to quote him here, “At some point, I realised that the best marketing is not outbound it’s inbound, after my book was published I was getting paid to get my company promoted and not the other way round.”Hats off to you Varun. And it doesn’t matter if your social skills are not good or you are an introvert, in fact one thing I have realised is that developers make for the best sales people too, because they know what they are building inside out, you cannot compare the passion they have with others. And yes, find at least one person who will pay for what you have built even before you build it.
- Have good mentors: Let’s put it this way, had I not had good mentors, Flat.to wouldn’t have been acquired. We may have done something or the other like raising more money but something as good as working together with the CommonFloor team wouldn’t have been possible if not for my mentors. Sumit, CEO of CommonFloor, has been my mentor for eight months; we both share a common mentor Sameer Guglani from Morpheus, and I am lucky to have both of them as mentors. Even though we were competitors, I haven’t seen such a humble person as Sumit who gave me advice patiently or cleared my doubts. And I thank Sameer and all my other mentors for being there and not letting us make the mistakes we would have made without their support.
- The daily practice: Contrary to what mainstream media says, I think it’s very important to have discipline while running a startup. I mean yes growth hacking and crazy ideas are fine but for you to not become insane you need to also do stuff everyday which keeps the mind and body fit. And how do you do that? By following the daily practice. This new app called, Lift, works for me well.