It’s February. Love is in the air. You might be dating a nice girl or thinking about proposing to her.
But Valentine's Day of a startup founder is very different. Most entrepreneurs don’t have girlfriends or, if they do, their love has left them after they started up. The simple reason is that the startup becomes an entrepreneur's first love,and his girlfriend feels ignored.
The few entrepreneurs who do have girlfriends have a tough time. They can’t take leave from work to celebrate Valentine's, because it’s their own company.
How can you leave the office when your team is working hard to release the code, even if it’s a Sunday?
It’s very normal for an entrepreneur to turn up late to pick up his girlfriend,maybe due to an urgent, last-minute meeting. So he forgets to bring flowers and gifts as well. Count yourself lucky if you are an entrepreneur and get away with such faux pas.
So what does an entrepreneur do in this case? Either he should ask his girlfriend to join his startup, or be prepared for a rocky road ahead in their relationship. One's priorities change after starting up. You are no longer interested in dreaming of a 9-5 job, 3-BHK home and two cute little kids. All you will be dreaming about is solving a critical problem for your customer and making your team happy.
Ask startup founders how many of them lost their love for the love of startup. I survived because I got married before my first startup. I still have conflicts with my wife regarding my entrepreneurial way of living but I am lucky that she is still managing to live with me!
The new loves of an entrepreneur
Co-founders are almost like spouses (without sexual relationship). They spend most of time together and share all moments of sorrow and happiness. The most important person for a startup founder is his co-founder.
This, understandably, may cause some issues with your wife or girlfriend, who may feel that the co-founder now spends more time with you than they get to.
Customers are critical for any business but early customers are most valuable for any startup. The founders mull constantly over feedback received from their customer, and how to fix a reported bug,or the way to put a new feature into the next release.
Conversations with customers tend to always remain in the back of a founder's mind. It is no surprise, then, that founders mention their customers constantly to their wife or girlfriend, whether it is at the dining table on a normal weeknight, or at a restaurant on a Valentine's Day date.
Core team members
The success or failure of a startup depends on the quality of core team members. Founders talk with thousands of people before hiring their first ten employees, because they will be more than employees. They are the pillars of a startup, ready to take all the load.
Naturally, it becomes difficult to find the right people in the early days. You always have three to four people to whom you want to offer critical roles, but they always have some issues in joining. The obstacle could be salary, equity, role or risk appetite. You try your best to convince them to join you.
Angels and VCs
There can no better Valentine for a startup founder than getting a VC interested in funding you. Now you are smiling because you know how true it is.
Indian startups received so much funding in recent years that people started companies just to get funded and become famous. But startups get funding when they keep their love priories in the right order. The first love should be co-founder, followed by early customers and core team.
You will get a lot of love from VCs and Angels if you have a great team and good product-market fit.
Having said all that, I do wish you a very happy Valentine's Day with your loved one, even if it is nothing but your startup!