Summing up what I learned in just one line ‘You never fail as an entrepreneur, You Give Up’. But you are not here for just one line, are you? Yes, I do have a lot to say and that’s why I decided to write it down. So here it goes.
I started out as a college entrepreneur, and my idea was very simple- custom Printed T-shirt that actually fit. Now based on where you are right now, this might not seem as a real problem. But in my college, the whole thing with custom printed T-shirts was a mess. And to summarise it for you. We used to pay 100% 2 weeks in advance to get shaggy T-shirts that would lose color in barely 2 weeks if we ever happened to get a T-shirt. On top of all this, there was no one, Literally NO ONE, who could be held accountable.
Six months into reading all about Steve Jobs and 1 month into facing this problem. I knew someone had to do something about it. To create a solution to this problem. So I decided it’s gonna be me. Here’s what happened and what I learned.
No matter what/ how much you read about other’s mistakes, you are gonna make mistakes. And that’s perfectly normal. In fact it would be strange if you didn’t.
Here’s a $19.5 Billion dollar mistake that Facebook made in 2009.
Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life's next adventure.
— Brian Acton (@brianacton) August 3, 2009
Em- Facebook rejected Brian Acton and Jan Koum’s job application. The duo went on to start WhatsApp. What happened next is history.
I will give you one simple reason, why that’s true. If it weren’t then, all aspiring entrepreneurs would just read about other’s mistakes and avoid making a mistake. But anyone who has ever tried anything knows that it simply doesn’t work that way. You will make mistakes no matter what and that is the essence of being an entrepreneur. What you learn from those mistakes is what you’ll call your experience. I am not saying don’t read about success entrepreneurs and their mistakes. Neither should you repeat those mistakes. But what you should understand is- All that reading will not make you immune to making mistakes, and you should not be afraid to make mistakes. When you actually try to do something you WILL make a lot of mistakes. The aim should be to fix those mistakes, learn from them and move ahead. As I have said, my startup never really took off. I made it of mistakes. One thing that I knew was ‘My startup has failed but I still love what I do.’ Nothing much had changes, I went back to where I started only this time I know many very important things that I didn’t before.
The Passion – Do I really wanna do it?
This is the biggest piece of the puzzle and I will tell you why. The best thing about entrepreneurship is: It’s not over until you give up. And if you really love what you do, you will not give up. Just like a mother would never give up on her child. So next time you are struggling to decide if an Idea is a potential success or a failure. Here’s the first test for a successful idea. Do you really love it? Will you live on the streets if that’s what you took to have it survive. Don’t start thinking ‘This is Crazy’ or ‘That can never happen’ and just think ‘It is happening’. What would you do now? Would you protect the roof over your head or your business, your idea? If the answer is the later, then I can guarantee you that you will not fail. Read about any entrepreneur who made it from Rags to riches, that too filthy rich and you will notice that there is atleast one incident where the person took the most impractical and seemingly foolish decision of his life. Something that ‘No Expert’ would approve. And what for? Because he loved his idea and believed in his idea more than anything else. And guess what, at one point things started falling in place and it worked.
Absolutely right, the only thing that you missed is ‘Things didn’t just work’ ‘He/she made it work’. Things didn’t just naturally ‘fall into place by themselves’. He made it work. It was all because of those decisions that he took.
And my first startup failed because I didn’t take the crazy decisions. I was too skeptical. The idea and my business were not my first priority. I put other things ahead of my business. And above all I quit. The one I am currently working on is my second startup. And things have been very far from easy so far. In fact there were days in the last 4 months when I lived with just one meal. Because there was not enough money for even food. But I knew that another failure is not an option for me. I simply can not afford it. So I gotta stick to it , no matter what. And guess what the business rose from being ‘Angel Investor Backed’ to ‘Running in debt’ to ‘Breaking even’ and now ‘Profitable’.
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. – Harriet Tubman
Market Analysis – Will people pay for it?’
So far I have talked about the emotional whirlpool of being an entrepreneur. But the lessons that I learned from my failure didn’t just change my attitude towards being an entrepreneur but also changed the way I think about business. Being emotionally strong is most important to make it through. Once you have that in place, next comes ‘How you go about developing the product/service’. Here’s what my favourite Steve Jobs had to say about it.
The mistake that I made was ‘I screwed a very good idea’. I will tell you how. I made it very complicated and the result- instead being useful it became confusing. And it was impossible to explain people what the idea was in a simple way. And trust me, no matter how sophisticated one seems, if you wanna get people interested in listening to you. An ideal business idea is one that solves a real problem and is so simple that you can explain exactly what is the problem that you are solving in just two lines.
The Team – Is Having a Business Partner an Advantage or a Burden
As you know, having a business partner means half the work. Is it? Just rethink about it. What if the business partner is not as serious about it as you? What of he ‘Always has other things to do that are important’ (Which means this work is not as important). What if he doesn’t agree with you or what if he thinks that you are not the best person to run the show. There are chances he will make you frustrated and want to ‘Just leave everything’. ‘Leave something that you started just because an idiot who didn’t even have the originality or the vision is driving you nuts.’ This might sound over-blown to you, But if it has happened with you then you will understand how it feels.
Sure there are chances that problems will occur, doesn’t mean you should underweight the positives of having a business partner. And even though I have made the mistake of choosing the wrong partners once. I would still say, I can’t do everything without a partner. No one can. There is only so much you can do alone.
Still there are a few questions that you can ask yourself before choosing your business partner/s to avoid falling into the trap of choosing the wrong guy.
Is he as passionate about the idea as you?
- Does his aspirations and level of dedication match yours?
- Does he trust you and respect you as his business partner?
- Does he clearly understand your and his own role in the company?
- Will he sacrifice as much as you if needed to save it?
The Jargon – Paperwork, Balance Sheets and Taxes
This is another mistake that I make and this is another mistake that many people make. Either you spend too much of your time on the jargon or choose to completely ignore it. Both ways it’s a mistake. Have the basic legal framework of the company in place and keep and know the basic cashflow and that’s it. When you are a startup trying to develop a product, worrying about balance sheets and taxes is foolishness. Instead concentrate your time, energy and money on developing the product.
Analysis Paralysis- Too much information, Even more confusion
As a startup owner, entrepreneur you try to absorb and learn everything you find, and that’s good in way but only until it’s helping you solve problems rather than creating problems for you. When you are doubtful about something and you chose to evaluate the right path by gathering and accessing all the information you can get it can be disastrous. Especially when you find conflicting information regarding something that you are not sure about.
The best way to solve this problem is: by wisely choosing who to trust. And it’s fairly simple, If you see conflicting information about something in two different sources then based on your past experience, you can easily figure out which is the more reliable source of information. For ex:- If I see conflicting information on Wikipedia and imdb. I would rather choose to believe Wikipedia.
Must Read: Top 10 Most Successful College Dropouts
Perfection – It’s not just a virtue
Everyone has a definition of perfection in his mind so I don’t wanna redefine it for you. I do wanna define what is the kind of perfection that you should set as your target. While achieving a level of perfection that ‘no-one’ can find a fault in it is impossible. For me perfect means something that ‘I’ can not find fault in. If you know that there is something wrong with it and choose to ignore it, just so that you can move forward. That’s wrong. That’s like betraying yourself and you will never do it with something you love. You will never do it if you wanna make a ‘Great’ product /service. Because if you do then ‘YOU’ know that it’s not a great product. You know it’s faulty. Someone will always have a problem with what you build, but if that someone includes YOU then you are heading for trouble.
Patience – Everything is going wrong, Life is ‘As bad as it gets’ now what?
Imagine the sky is falling and you gotta do the job of Atlas. And just when you are thinking it can not get any worse, you realise you broke your arm. Do you choose to keep fighting or quit and surrender to the pressure. I will tell you a secret, most of the times when we choose to quit, we have already endured the hardest part and it’s just about being patient. But in testing times we choose to quit because we don’t know how far we are from the goal. And after quitting most of the times we never get to know how really close we came to winning.
Read ‘Three Feet from Gold’ and you will understand that You and only YOU can get there. And all it needs is ‘Don’t Quit’
Well I quit and that’s how I failed.
Failure – RIP
Ok I have officially failed. Now what? Is there nothing left in the world for me? Is everything over?
What I can say for sure is, and as I have said again and again in this article ‘It’s not over till you surrender’. And if you have the tenacity to get back up and fight, victory will be yours, tomorrow or in a year or in 10 years.
And ‘get back up’ is what I did. More determined and tenacious than ever.
Pivoting – Wait! The show is not over yet!!
Things drastically changed, I dropped out and since I was not in college anymore, custom-made T-shirts was not a problem that I wanted to solve any more. So I went back to reflect ‘What do I really wanna do in life?’, ‘What do I really love to do?’ and it was something that I was doing part-time for the last two years as a college student and for an year before that. And it was ‘Designing and Developing Websites’. So I teamed with a Pro in the field of SEO and started a ‘Web Designing and Digital Marketing Agency’ called ‘TechPingu’. This time I was very careful with choosing my partner though. And while we disagree on most of the things, one thing that we do agree on is, where do we wanna take this and that this is our only priority.
That’s my story, what’s yours? Start a discussion in the comments and don’t forget to share.
See you next time.