By Tanuj Kalia
Some friends and acquaintances call me up to discuss how they should ‘go about’ their start-ups. Now, just because Lawctopus became a hit, doesn’t mean that I am an authority on start-ups.
Also, Lawctopus is hardly a successful start-up. It’s a popular website, yes. It earns me my living, yes. And it changed lives of many a law student for good (hopefully), yes.
But it’s still a cross between a popular website and a successful start-up. Start-ups grow faster, earn more than what Lawctopus is doing, for now, etc.
Anyhow, I’ve learnt a few things over the years, and here they are:
1. Measure the depth of the river with one leg, not two.
Start in college, when even if you fail, you have the time to rectify things.
If you start late, don’t quit your day job. Work after the work hours or on weekends.
If you quit your day job, make sure your savings are in order.
Jotting down your ideas should take a day.
Researching on them should take a couple of more days.
Discussing it with friends/experts should take a couple of days more.
From the aha! moment to the launch, it should take you a week.
Many just don’t start, because hey, it’s tough.
Quietening the million years old Lizard brain is bloody tough.
You never feel ‘ready’ to launch, you have to take the plunge, and keep doing it till it becomes a habit.
3. Be prepared to be rejected.
Launching a business is tougher than asking a girl out.
In asking a girl out, you can face rejection by one person, in a personal space.
In launching a business, you should be prepared to be rejected by multiple people; and expect people to talk about it a lot.
4. Simple, basic features.
Start-off with simple basic features which require less money and less time to launch.
Aim to be professional, not perfect.
Get feedback from users and improvise.
The fancy website/office can come later.
5. Get out there. Be Shameless!
You’ll have to market yourself.
Share stuff on Facebook, send promotional emails, meet random people etc.
If you are shy, don’t do a start-up.
6. Don’t expect quick results.
Keep at it. Patience pays.
See what’s working and what’s not.
Know what the ‘basic functionality’ of your start-up is. Do that continuously.
Dheere dheere re manna, dheere sab kuchh hoye, maali seenche sau ghada, ritu aaye phal hoye.
7. Always look for solutions.
“This cannot be done” is not a phrase of a start-upy person.
Everything has a solution.
If you don’t have that attitude, work elsewhere.
8. If there’s a co-founder get a formal contract.
Friends fight in start-ups, always. Always and every where.
You two/three are no different.
9. It’s not rocket science.
Provide something of value and people will buy.
Most of the business is common sense.
10. It shouldn’t be the number 1 thing in your life.
Taking care of your body, spending time with your family, love etc. are more important than work.
Even if the start-up is your passion, all of this, your body, your family and your love are more important than that passion.
Learn to take a step back and see things from a different vantage point.
Also, don’t take yourself too seriously.
Reading is like getting to listen to a foremost expert on the subject.
Don’t believe in everything that you read, of course.
12. Spend money wisely.
The most Lawctopus has spent on a website design is Rs. 5000. (I know it isn’t great, but still).
I know people who’ve spent Rs. 90,000 for a similar looking website.
Do invest money in professionals. But before doing that check if you actually need to spend that money.
13. Know yourself.
With your start-up, you are creating the life style for yourself.
Some people like it slow and idyllic, some people like if fast.
Don’t buy into what seems cooler, bigger etc.
Make it large, but know what large means for you.
14. Talk to people in the industry.
A word from the wise can save you an insane amount of time and effort.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel always.
A introduction from someone who knows both the people, works the best.
15. Maintain a diary
Maintain a diary/journal where you jot down ideas, new things, resources etc.
16. Invest in technology/automation
If things can be automated with technology, that’s such a bliss.
It drastically reduces man hours and helps you make a BIG thing in single flash of code ligthening!
This comes later, but is well worth it.
1 out of 10 deals will be eventually signed.
Have a healthy mix of both big and small deals running.
Big deals look exciting, but hardly get through, and if they do, are rarely as good as they look.
People are both good and bad, just like you. Have faith in people, but not of the blind sorts.
Don’t take things personally.
Develop a Hippo like hide and ‘move it’ merrily at every criticism or praise.
19. Things are impermanent.
Success and hardship, happiness and sadness, will come and go in waves.
Learn to live with it.
Expect your start-up to be dead tomorrow.
Expect it to be sold in a multi-billion deal (or whatever gives you the equivalent amount of kicks).
Learn to meditate.
Vipassana meditation is the purest (and the most painful too) form of meditation I’ve tried.
Meet a lot of people.
You never know when an idea from you and from the other will, well, have ‘sex’ and result in something amazing.
Meetings open doors to other meetings and so on.
Doing this once a week should be fine. On other days, do the work.
Parents are generally wary of their kids launching start-ups.
Parents want safety and success for their children, and start-ups are anti-thetical to all that.
However, you don’t need to buckle under what your parents say. They are humans and not always right.
At the same time, respect them, always.
When you show them that you are succeeding in what you are doing, they’ll turn your biggest supporters in the most selfless, unconditional manner.
This, however, may take time.
23. Don’t do it for money
If you do it for money and it doesn’t succeed (which is very very likely), you’ll feel like a loser when you lose.
If you do it because it seems like your calling, you’ll be happy even when when you quit. Because the experience would have added something to your ‘self’.
If your passion is earning money, do a bit of re-thinking. Read something on the subject (of money, happiness etc.) or go for the 10 day meditation retreat. 😛
There’s another philosophy here. That you slowly become amazing in a subject (even if you don’t like it) and it’s then that you start enjoying it.
I don’t subscribe to this view. You might.
I believe that we have some innate strengths and passions and that’s what we should pursue (an intersection of passion, skills and the market, to be precise).
24. Break the rules
All what’s been said above has an equally convincing anti-rule.
Don’t expect quick results? What? Start-ups should be ‘go big, or go home’, the hockey stick growth and so on.
Know yourself? WTH! You are creating the start-up to solve a pain-point of others and not for yourself.
PS- So these our learnings I’ve derived from my limited experience and based on what I value in life. Things maybe totally different for someone else.
COMPULSORY READING LIST
Rashmi Bansal’s Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish AND Connect the Dots
The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
Seth Godin’s Blog