Sharing the Dark Side of My Startup Journey
Starting up is never an easy road to journey on. There are challenges and struggles that you need to keep battling to make your way forward. As daunting as it sounds, the little victories over these challenges are some of the very reasons why a lot of entrepreneurs keep on forging their way ahead to achieve their big dream.
I am co-founder of a startup called Story31. Story31 is a mobile app, a library of interactive storybooks for kids.
The inception of Story31 was a conversation I had with the other co-founder of Story31, Sunil. We were sharing our reading lists and somehow the conversation veered towards the books we read as children and how these books literally gave us the wings and the belief that we could conquer anything we wished.
I remember very well, how I visualised myself as the hero of the storybooks I read during my growing up years. It gave me a sense of escape, a sense of confidence that was believable.
Sunil and I continued discussing about how technology has not really changed the art of storytelling. The printed books have come online, and yes, there is a large library of books available at a click, but tech has not really changed the linear form of storytelling.
This seemed like an interesting problem to work on. We thought about building technology that would let people read books online in an immersive way — Listen to the sounds in a story, watch a video or even play an interactive game — all within the flipbook format of a storybook.
We sat down to it, built a minimum viable product — ‘An authoring tool’ that helped us create interactive book from scratch. We used this tool to create a few presentations and converted a real estate magazine into an interactive online magazine. This helped us bootstrap our way through building the technology.
This was the year when a record number of startups got funded (we are based out of Bangalore). When we attended a few startup events, all we heard from fellow entrepreneurs was how easy it was to raise funding.
Some of them we spoke to even suggested we change and become a content aggregator and plug in content from multiple publishers. This would make it easy to raise seed money.
Somehow this did not work for us. This is not what we envisioned building. We did not want to pivot just to get funding. So we put our head down and forged ahead with the value we wanted to create.We did change our course during our journey. We realised that our product could add definitive value in early childhood development process.
We felt that these interactive storybooks would definitely spark kids imaginations, just the way it had sparked ours during our growing up years.
So that is where we are now, forging ahead building a mobile app, with curated content that aims at creating storybooks that aim at overall development of kids, something outside the realm of what regular education system provides.
Entrepreneurship always has had this glamour about itself. The journey of a person who believes in an idea, presents it to the world and benefits greatly from selling it and making life awesome for the buyer of his idea.
But during what are testing times during the startup journey, some of the emotions are dark and raw. While most brush it aside in the hope of a better tomorrow, a brighter sun — I wanted to share these moments in a visual form. The idea was to share it with someone who is going through similar phase and tell them that they are not alone.
The feeling of helplessness — when it feels like you are trapped in a room and all the walls are closing in on you.
The arrows of judgment of people — yes, it comes from concern but it stings for real. ‘Why don’t you get a job?’, ‘Boss, change your idea — this (another idea) is the flavour of the month for investments’ ‘is your startup really going to work and make money for you?’.
It’s never easy to create something from scratch and pave the path yourself. It is riddled with chains of self doubt and weighed down by the heaviness of expectations.
‘ What if I fail’ ‘Am I going to be a failure for life?’ ‘What if none of this is going to work out and I am committing the biggest mistake of my life’
These questions do haunt and sometimes regularly.
The tides of hope and despair are truly cyclic. There are days when the sun is bright, the giver of life and on the same day the sun might seem like a scorching ball of heat, sucking all the energy off you.
There is a often repeating glimmer of hope and darkness of despair.
That there are no set rules or path is a known truth. However, countless walls and hurdles does make the going frustrating. Grinding teeth, pulling hair can sometimes be the order of the day.
Eventually those who win are those who think they can. Yes, it is a tough journey, and I learnt two big lessons during my tough times —
‘What needs to be done, needs to be done. Excuses do not get results.’
‘This is a my journey. I need to fight my battles and make it attractive for others to join me to the destination.’