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What we learnt from 19 months of building a start-up

Mistakes we could have avoided and lessons learned from them!

Monday October 31, 2016,

5 min Read

Wait! Did we just say 19 months for building a start-up? Wasn't that too long? Indeed, it is. And that's why we have decided to write our journey throughout this period so that it can help budding entrepreneurs like us. In these 19 months, we have scrapped two ideas, partially built an application, built and rebuilt another application, raised funding and spent numerous sleepless nights. To give some background, we are completely new to entrepreneurship and started out on our first venture 19 months ago. At the point of writing this article, we have our application (www.engrip.com) just live!

From our journey, we found the three basic ingredients for any team or individual looking to build a start-up: 1. Idea 2. People and 3. Money. This is a potent mix of essential elements, without which, no one can expect to gain success in this field. All these are so interdependent that if you start doing one right, the rest will automatically fall into place, provided you sustain the focus throughout the project, in the same way. Please read till the end as I will reveal another important aspect of a wannabe entrepreneur that can substitute all the above. We are also providing references of books, which we found useful during each stage.

Idea: Starting point for an entrepreneur. This is what makes us shun sleep, become super excited and want to wake up the entire world in the middle of the night and say “I have got it!” But having an idea alone will not help you to become an entrepreneur. Not even in your dreams. It is more about execution, planning, perseverance and commitment.

Your idea can be innovative, but you should ask yourself how big it can become? Can it create a series of ideas? Did you sense any large opportunity by implementing this?

If so, congrats! If not, I would say implement your idea in your free time as it could not be built into an organization.

References: Zero to One by Peter Thiel, Hooked by Nir Eyal.

People: Second most important aspect for an entrepreneur. If you have a grand vision, then it is practically not possible to do it all yourself. It may take ages if you wish so. And without vision and planning, you cannot convince people to work for you. So, after the inception of the idea and planning, your focus must be getting the right people on board, people who live your vision, share your passion and are ready to put in long hours, if needed and for a start-up, it is obvious they are needed. One problem that people may face is that your friends, who are excited about your idea and inspired by your courage to leave the job and start working on your idea, will pitch in to help you in their free time. I would suggest you be cautious as this free time will never come. Everyone will have their commitments.

Build a team for yourself within your budget. If you are a non-techie who is working on a technology oriented idea, I suggest you find a technical co-founder.

If you cannot hire a team for full-time, hire freelancers. If you are looking for freelancers outside India then hiring probable employees from East European countries (you can add this filter to your Upwork jobs) provide quality work at the same price, sometimes for even lesser amounts than what Indian freelancers would charge.

References: The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, Clarity.fm [Platform to connect with advisers], Upwork [Platform to hire freelancers]

Money: Third important aspect for an entrepreneur (yes not the first one).

Entrepreneurship is a full-time commitment, not a part-time hobby.

So if you think you can work elsewhere and build a company with your salary, think again. Evaluate your savings and other sources of income that you could get from your family and friends, plan how long can you survive without salary. This shall give you a clear idea of how much you have at hand to implement in your idea. If you are bootstrapping, don’t make any dead investments like office space, visiting cards, etc. If you are into web start-ups like us, try to work from home. 600/- internet bill is way better than 6000/- seat in a sharing office. You can use free tools like Skype for team communication, Trello for project planning and tracking, Microsoft Bizspark (you need to qualify to be eligible for using this) for hosting. Try to spend most of the money on developing the idea. If you are looking for external funding, note that investors put money on an idea and people at this stage. But your idea must have the power to convince the investors that it has the potential to give them good returns. So unless you have an idea, vision, planning and a solid team to implement that you are less likely to get an external funding.

References: Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, Bizspark by Microsoft

Finally, the most important aspect of an entrepreneur that can override the above three aspects is passion. Yes! You heard it right. You need to put your heart and soul in the idea and must believe in the credibility of the plan. You must believe in yourself and your idea that it can change/improve the current world and stick with it for as long as you can. Work on improving the idea, visualize the bigger picture of what could be achieved, have patience, strategy during the implementation. Trust me,

if you have the passion, commitment, and perseverance, you will find many people to support you.All the best!