Things I wish I knew before my startup journey - A VC perspective

7th Dec 2018
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I was not born a venture capitalist. Just like the folks I passionately work with, I started with my own set of doubts and weaknesses, and what is a better place for all these to become imminent than within a company you have started?

Fast forward, I successfully run two companies (one a VC fund and another a non-profit organisation), and I am a board member in six more and chairman of another and counting.

However, here are six things I wish I had known earlier:

How rewarding it will be

No matter if your company ends up as a successful venture or fades away with time, several years later, you will still turn back to that experience with a sweet taste and tons of life-changing experiences. So, start regardless of where it takes you.

Getting hold of the basic tasks and focus on building

Most of the founders I know, who are also product developers, share this same pattern. They find it difficult to let go of the product development, writing new batches of code or answering support for customers. If you are the founder of your company apart from being the programmer, it is your duty to start thinking about scaling the company as fast as possible. You must learn to let go, period!

Asking for help more often

There are always helpful folks around. You just need to look carefully. I got along this very hard and it took me long to realise the fact that people are not as busy as they seem to be. The truth is, if you come up with the right questions, there will always be folks who are ready to provide answers/guidance. That’s the magic about getting a reply or an advice from literally anyone — ask the right and specific questions whose answer will be actionable.

Stop resting on your laurels

If you have people around (mentors/domain experts) who will tell you — You are stupid, this thing will never work in the long run, this is not the right direction, etc., consider yourself lucky. It is always good to have such people around who ground you down. That means someone cares. Don’t let your ego rule over you just because you have turned a million dollars of profit this year, but start looking immediately on what it will take to make the next 10 million in the coming days. Take my word — don’t rest on your laurels. Don’t listen to those saying how great and awesome work you are doing.

Writing your own story

This is particularly applicable for wannapreneurs, those who seem to need a permission from a VC to finally start a company and bring it forth from the idea stage. Stop imagining how it may look like. Stop reading stories on successful people. Don’t respond to clichés that 10/11 successful startup founders have a Stanford degree and what not. It tells absolutely nothing about your story of being successful. Avoid being taken by patterns and causality where there is none, stop reading those famous posts talking about successful founders and their stories and start writing your own unique story. To each their own, find your own terms and the story will follow suit.

Having a few people you can talk to

We are always taken by the glittering world of startups as shown by the media, about companies consistently growing, hitting the headlines, always hiring and we wonder — how do they do it? How do they tread such a path? The truth is - It is never as pink as it looks. Most of the times, founders must act as if everything is running smoothly even when it doesn’t, for obvious reasons. Doing so for a long time makes you exhausted. Therefore, it is always a good idea to have a bunch of people you can confide to with your actual burden. Those people may be your founders or your investors/advisers.

Long story short, it is good to have people you don’t have to act in front of. It helps tremendously to be able to unburden yourself of and not feeling that it is a burden you have to carry on your own. This is rarely the case with any burden we may have but unfortunately, the younger we are, the less we are able to figure this out. Are you writing your own unique story?

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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Authors
Anjli Jain
Anjli Jain is a Managing Partner at EVC Ventures, a $50 million Chicago-based Venture Capital fund and the Founder & Chairman of Campus Consortium, a global consortium of 2000+ colleges and universities. In 2011, Anjli was a recipient of the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club's Northeast Ohio Top 25 Under 35 Movers & Shaker Award. She has also been recognized among the top women Venture Capitalists by WomenVC. As a female tech entrepreneur, investor and social activist, her goal has always been to inspire and support entrepreneurs who are interested in revolutionizing the way the world learns.

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