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My survival guide, lessons from running my startup for five years

Prasant Naidu
5th Dec 2015
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I am 37 and I am excited like a kid is on his birthday. It isn’t my birthday, but it is my startup that is having a party. A dream that I saw and found support from my Co-founder Vinaya has seen five long years. It’s a miracle to see Lighthouse Insights surviving all these years.

survival-guide

Image credit "ShutterStock"

We’re listing here a few of the beliefs that worked for us and has helped us reach five. They may not be ‘the perfect survival guide’ but somehow we did make it through and in a healthy manner.

Never give up on the objective

One thing that hasn’t changed in the last five years is our objective. We have always believed that “original content will survive and make money.” Today, both are being made possible thanks to the razor sharp focus on our objective and never deviating from it. It has evolved over the years though and has become crisper.

When we started, our focus was covering the Indian social media space and today we try to cover digital marketing stories that will help a marketer in making better decisions.

However, you will be tested and be ready for it. Like all other startups we had very bad days, bad days, and good days. Whatever the times are, never give up on your objective, it is your startup’s soul.

Readers first and will always be

Before being an entrepreneur, I am a reader too. I will be the first one to express my disgust when a reader has to hunt for content hidden beneath ads. We might not be techies but from the early days we had a clear consensus on design and reading experience always being the top priority at LI.

Apart from the reading experience, original content is what we believe in. Today we bring stories that matter to a marketer and help him/her in making better business decisions. The aim is to hunt for stories that remain covered in those company press releases.

Going further it is going to be the same – readers first. Don’t play with today’s smart readers since any revenue stream will only develop if they stick with you.

On the Internet, it is that one click that opens your site and another click that helps the reader close your site and never come back again. Respect your reader.

Quality over quantity

A tough call again but today we don’t publish eight-10 articles, we only publish a maximum of four original articles in a day (Read also: Online Media Startup’s Dilemma – Balance Between Rehashed Content & Original Content). When we started we used to write five articles daily, then at some point of time we were doing eight articles daily and after that nothing was working, only our health deteriorated.

Now we don’t think about the number of articles, we ask ourselves what the reader is going to get after reading it on LI. In today’s information overload times, we need to respect our readers’ time. We need to have a strong reason for the reader to find his time on our site worthwhile.

We value our reader’s time and hence the belief is on quality rather than quantity.

Accept limitations

It’s very tough for any entrepreneur but the day you accept your limitations you’ve matured. From the early stage, we were very clear that we can’t chase the pageviews game while keeping our objective intact. However, I learnt to accept my limitations the hard way.

In early 2014, I wanted to evolve LI to a digital news media site and I failed. I realized in the first quarter that I can’t make it happen due to lack of resources; we weren’t enjoying too.

The lesson was clear, I’ll have to figure out what we are good at and let go irrational dreams. I realized that a team of two can’t break stories every hour all day and at the same time we don’t want to keep publishing the same press release that’s already been copied by another 10 sites.

Today out of 10 things, I know I can do three things, so the focus is on how to make the three things better. Letting go ideas isn’t easy for an entrepreneur as you want to grow fast but you have to accept your limitations.

You grow as an entrepreneur when you start accepting and playing with your limitations.

Keep costs low

Thanks to my co-founder who implanted this belief in Lighthouse Insights. We still work from our lovely flat and I don’t see any reason why I should be buying an office space though I was advised many times. Besides whatever other expenses we’ve made, major investments went into making Lighthouse Insights more robust.

However, this doesn’t mean that we’ve cut down on the fun part. No way. Celebrations have never taken a backseat and in the fifth year the sun is still bright.

Focus on revenues

A dream that can’t survive is no good and for that it needs to make money. As LI has grown stronger with each passing year, the focus on revenues has increased. Today, the mind is split into two parts while we think of covering interesting stories on LI, we’re also thinking about how we can turn it into a revenue stream.

Again here we’ve been rigid like we are with our objective. Time and again we’ve been advised to start digital marketing services, training, and events. Over the years, we kept ignoring all these ideas and focused on what we believe in – original content will make money. One good example is the LI yearly eBook that has now grown into online awards for digital work in its second year.

Keep shipping

In 2012 while going for an IPO, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had shared this, which I strongly believe in:

mark-zuckerberg

Back in India, it has been the famous saying by the God of Cricket, Sachin Tendulkar, – “I always believed that my bat should do all the talking,” that inspires us.

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