If there is one thing I can tell you about startups, it would be; ‘Don’t let anyone tell you anything about startups’. Because no one from Silicon Valley to Bengaluru and Delhi NCR (the new Silicon Valley of India) has ever cracked a sure-shot formula of making a successful startup. Going by the rate startups are failing just after turning on their engines, the word success and startups would soon be antonyms. In fact, if you believe that you are making a startup, you are in for a surprise. The case is just the opposite. It is the startup that is making you, giving shape to your IQ, EQ, HQ and everything else.
99.99% of all startups that start with a plan eventually find out that their plan was not a plan that would ever take off.
But the problem is that by the time they realize that their plan is not a plan, they are almost ready with the prototype, hired incorrect people and based their products or services on technology that is now obsolete. How do you correct this? No one has ever deciphered this yet. And remember, even when you go through this entire article, you will not have an iota of insight into this question.
All the while, right from day one of your startup, when you were thinking that you are giving shape to your dream project, the dream project was, in fact, shaping you. I know you do not trust me here, no one ever does. But let me give you some scenarios to prove this point.
This is from the 1980s. The time when the term ‘Bubble economy’ was sort of a rage thanks to Japan. Interestingly, during this period the Japanese were working so much that they hardly had any time to sleep or pursue a healthy lifestyle. Pictures of Japanese workers caught snoozing in public places, on metros and trains, while crossing subways, while standing in queues took center stage in world media and popularized the term ‘inemuri’. This is what happens with a startup.
When you think that you are spending sleepless nights trying to build a product or a service, little do you know that the startup is forcing you to practice the art of inemuri. How many times have you ever tried practising this skill before you chose to build a startup? Never.
Archimedes discovered this in his bath. You will discover it every day when you walk into your office. A startup is just like a Chameleon, it changes its colours. One day, you will notice that your product is not a product, it is the technology that you need to sell. The second day, you will think that people are your greatest asset and customer delight should be your core product. And another day, you will think that the prototype you first made and rejected is the only product that would work.
In fact, it is not you who gets to decide that. It is the startup that makes you think of so many additional avenues. Chameleon, startups, changing colours, does this ring a bell?
Hire slowly and grow slowly is the mantra followed by many startups. But times have changed. Hire fast and grow faster is the new-age mantra. This is where a majority of founders get it wrong. They hire wrong people with the right skill set. A sales maverick from an established firm can only help you with a business that has an established sales model.
You are a startup, you don’t even know your customers yet! How will the maverick help? Right hiring is 90% of the problem solved. When I hire people, I hire micro-CEOs – people who will run their departments as sub-sets of the startup. And this what startups teach you, the innate ability to judge people by their experience vs willingness to go the extra mile.
In a regular life, people tend to abstain from people who are paranoid. People who take things too seriously, people who are willing to do anything to get the job done. They are almost like a threat in a comfortable setting. But when you are in a startup, these are the kind of people you will hang out with. These are the kind of people you will look out for. As it is said for art, it should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Same would be the case with you.
Anyone who settles for mediocracy, anyone who takes no for a solution would not fit the bill.
You will look for go-getters, people who would cut a long story short, people who are merciless editors towards the path of success. But have you ever imagined being with such a crop in a routine life? Never. Because such a league would make you uncomfortable, it would challenge you to be more, do more and work more. Remember, you are not making a startup, it is making you.
There are thousands of books on startups these days. Every single volume tells you about the strategies you should adopt to emerge successfully, the top 10 ways to run a startup. No one ever tells you that when you run a startup, the startup, in turn, is running you. It is always the other way round. The other half of the coin is always unseen, the silence from the speech is always unheard of.
Take your pick, make your own startup but always be prepared to transform. Because that is what startups will do to you. They will change you to someone from where there is no looking back. A new you comes from a new startup. Go on, suit up and make a startup.