The Startup Shift: Things to know before you dive into starting up

 

The traditional “secure” life of getting a job is being rejected and the gig economy is more popular than ever, with short-term recurring work becoming a lot of people’s career choice. 

The culture of startups is becoming exceedingly popular and the growth doesn’t seem to slow down. India is the world’s 2nd largest startup ecosystem. Out of the 20,000 startups in India, almost 1/4th are in Tech.


If Pirates of the Silicon Valley was your inspiration to start up or hearing “I’m CEO, Bitch.” gave you goosebumps, there is a good chance you have a very romanticised idea of what starting up entails. 

Here are a few reality checks before you deep dive into entrepreneurship:

1.  In it for long, in it for good - Building something of value takes time, so be prepared to stay committed. The next time you’re Ubering to a party or chilling in someone’s beautiful home across the world, remember, Uber and AirBnB played the long game

“Things take time. Be patient and don't be anxious about what is going to happen. It takes a lot of time to achieve greatness in a startup.” - Raghav Verma, Co-Founder, Chaayos. 

Entrepreneurs are in love with the idea of starting things. Ensure you mentally prepare yourself to let go of ideas (even brilliant ones!) to focus on what you started.

The startup lifestyle will ask for everything you’ve got. Have strong willpower, believe in your “why”, and focus on your vision.

Entrepreneurship will test you every single day. It is tough and in no way an easy way out. 

Ensure you have the right people with you on this journey. Your Co-Founder, core team, and family should understand what your journey is about. Because forgotten birthdays (even your own!) can only be explained when they know you’re grinding to build an empire.

2. Ideas without execution are just ideas - Build a prototype or MVP and validate your product quickly. 

“Why do so many founders build things no one wants?" he asked. "Because they begin by trying to think of startup ideas. That method is doubly dangerous: it doesn't merely yield a few good ideas; it yields bad ideas that sound plausible enough to fool you into working on them.” - Paul Graham, Co-Founder, YCombinator. 

In your head, your idea might sound like a gamechanger, but ideas don’t sell. And chances are, probably a hundred other people who started something similar failed terribly.

You've done your research. Go deeper into finding out your customer avatar, who they are, and what is their marketplace. Is there an alternative solution in the market? What does it cost them to solve this problem? And how can you solve it cheaper/better/faster and get customers?

Also, just because you have an idea doesn't mean you are entitled to become successful.

3. Learn. And Learn some more - Learn from the Market and centre quick. Setbacks are inevitable. Be relentless in your pursuit to perfect your product for the market.

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”  - Michael Jordan

Read a lot, learn a lot, and implement it all. Take advice from mentors and industry experts. Write down your business plan and have it guide you. This will help you absorb the shock of setbacks and pivot back to your vision quick.

You don’t need to develop everything in one go but incorporate feedback robustly.  After all, you are building habit-forming products for people to love and use.

4. Hire Slow; Fire Fast. - Once you’ve built your product, it’s time to build your company. 

"If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs. But if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, we shall become a company of giants."  - David Ogilvy, Founder, Ogilvy and Mather

As founders, you’re bound to get excited when your brain baby starts to speak its first words or crawl, but that doesn’t mean you adopt a whole family!

Avoid getting friends involved in business unless they’re on the same relentless pursuit as you. You’re building your Mafia, make sure they represent the mob. 

Build what you can, outsource what you cannot, and hire only for things you need to be done in front of you.

Focus on hiring minimum because chances are, you’ll suck at managing people initially. Consider yourself a stakeholder and not the business itself; leave your own identity and thought processes aside to do what’s best for business.

Firing is not easy, and we’d be lying if we said it becomes easier over time. Don’t put your future self in uncomfortable situations by hiring the wrong people.

5. Macro Patient, Micro Speed. Aim for progress, and avoid things that bring Hyper-Growth. You don’t want to be the company that’s a rage for a week and dead the next.

Companies that grow for the sake of growth or that expand into areas outside their core business strategy often stumble. On the other hand, companies that build scale for the benefit of their customers and shareholders more often succeed over time. – Jamie Dimon, President and CEO of JPMorgan Chase

Many startups we see witness hyper-growth in their early stages and fizzle out because they were too focused on short-term growth over their long term process.

You’ll gain customers and you'll churn customers, the only way to survive is to keep a long-term mindset and stay focused on loyal product-using customers that stick. 

6. Where the money at? Your money is important. Start saving early and start saving a lot; manage debt exceptionally well or just stay out of it.

“I will tell you the secret to getting rich. You try to be greedy when others are fearful. And you try to be fearful when others are greedy.” - Warren Buffett

Money might not be the only thing that matters in business, but it is of value. Don’t be arbitrary when it comes to your numbers, know your finances and know them well

You are getting into business for a reason. Don’t lose sight of why you started.

Last word- Great companies are built over time, and a lot of times, it’s trial and error, and sometimes, even winging it. 

Think your startup idea can blow us away? Get the mentorship and resources you need to turn your idea into a scalable and investment-ready business.

UIncept is India’s premier business incubator and accelerator based in Gurugram, India. Through structured mentorship, investor connections and infrastructure, UIncept has achieved an 80% startup survival rate with over 24 startups raising INR 30 Crores. Know more here: www.uincept.com

 
Nayan Khemani