What Entrepreneurship is Not

Friday March 09, 2012,

5 min Read

View from the sidelines by Venkatesh KrishnamoorthyIn the last three years (nearly so), ever since Shradha pulled me into YourStory, I have had the unique opportunity to talk to entrepreneurs, attended several meetings and sat through them, demystified the investor mindset, and through this journey I feel I have learned something that I would want to say.

Vijay Anand, the Startup Guy, would say, “Birds fly. Fishes swim. Startups die.” It’s a scary statement for any startup entrepreneur to start with. I back Vijay to the hilt on this statement. The fact is success is not something that is preordained by you. The same way you cannot predict how sunny, cloudy, or rainy a day will be, entrepreneur’s journey will be full of surprises, twists, turns of fortunes and let-down moments. Even if a cheeky, lucky entrepreneur made a million dollars in the first year, the journey would have had twists, less so maybe. Which brings us now to successful entrepreneurs. Successful entrepreneurs are lucky people. Incredibly lucky people. Prof. M.S. Ananth, former director of IIT-M would quote Louise Pasteur who said, “discovery is the result of a chance meeting of opportunity with a prepared mind.” Success is as well like discovery—an opportunity meeting a prepared entrepreneur. So many entrepreneurs prepare and not all of them meet with the opportunity they wish. That makes the odds against the entrepreneur and entrepreneurship harder.

Let’s not denigrate entrepreneurship to the level of bitter potion that has no cure. I have found passion is the most misused word. Passion really means you stand up against the odds. It is working immersed in something that you don’t look at results. And whatever the results are, how you negotiate them becomes important. You don’t leave whatever you are doing. It’s passion. You cannot be passionate if you quit. Making mistakes and learning is part of the journey. And if success accosts you at some point, consider yourself enormously lucky, for it doesn’t happen often.

Entrepreneurship needs a mindset and a sound decision-making ability. The mindset to absorb every success and failure and make a decision that sounds best. This doesn’t happen early on but does depend upon your maturity and how you react on a daily basis to the hassles you face. If you are restless, that could be positive in some ways but it doesn’t guarantee you success. Measure yourself against how you behaved when faced with a challenge. If you come out of a challenge, good enough. Entrepreneurship demands you succeed in many challenges, big and small.

Entrepreneurship is learning to sing when birds have gone home and it’s dark out there. It’s a remarkable ability to keep faith when things are not looking up. And find your solutions. Maybe your mentors, investors, friends, family et al. might come in. But they can never do anything if you yourself are not seeing light at the end of the tunnel. It’s you who make or break it.

Entrepreneurship is not only about making a million dollars or more, creating a valuable company that lives after you are gone, helping people find their feet and lives, contributing to society, mentoring young people to succeed. It’s something beyond it—how you are prepared for success or failure, how you respond to challenges thrown at you every time, how you stick to what you are doing despite its whimsical results, how you are courageous in the face of adversity. Strange is the working of the world that your years of efforts might evaporate if someone does something different in a nanosecond. Consider Kolaveri Di. Many songs have been sung and many illustrious composers have done stuff far far better. But the success of Kolaveri Di is inexplicable. If someone succeeds like that, that’s not your benchmark.

Entrepreneurship is not entering office everyday expecting a million dollar check. It’s about practicing something when your expectation of that million dollar check doesn’t materialize. It’s about tweaking and turning a bit when things are not looking up your way. It’s about immersing yourself in meditation on what to do next when the client hasn’t paid you yet. If your friend has made a million dollars in the first year, that’s not your benchmark.

Entrepreneurship is not measuring your results with your competition. It’s a unique journey and you are the master craftsman to shape it. And success should happen if all planets are in a favorable position. But I don’t believe in horoscopes. Give your 100% every time. Get lost in your work. Success when it comes will be something you will savor with a lot of pleasure and if it happens just like that, it doesn’t taste as good.

Entrepreneurship is not about changing the world. It’s about making impact—on your own self first. Then the rest of whatever in your list. It’s growing that indefatigable ability to withstand odds, to constantly elevate yourself, to learn to look at brighter sides, to smell opportunity, to constantly endeavor, to immerse in work, to give it all. If the breeze of success embraces you, count yourself lucky.