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Are you a business card CEO?

 

 

Awarded the

“Rodinstar” Post 

of the week!!

 

I am very happy to see more people starting their own. But, I wonder if there is a ‘trend’ happening among the 20-something generation in Kerala, especially engineering college students/graduates/drop-outs to jump in to entrepreneurship without due diligence .

Seems like the youth mistook starting up a business for another ‘hot’ trend in the market. They assemble their friends, find a ‘cool business idea’, register a domain and voila!- without giving a second thought about what it could do to their life, their families and people around them.

Just few years back, it was really tough to convince a normal middle-class Kerala parent to start a company. But, because of immense media attention (or hype in simple words) and government backing to startup incubators and the startups/founders, I doubt some parents also started to believe that starting up is easy and ‘not that bad after all’. Their kid may build a successful company, make some cool millions and get a good value in the wedding market! So even though these parents don’t understand what their kids are going to do actually, they give them a green signal.

So, I think it is a high time to educate these youngsters about where they are heading to and what they can expect down the road. I hope it would help at-least some of these youngsters to save themselves from taking a wrong turn in their life due to their ignorance.

This is my third year as an entrepreneur and I must say it was never been an easy ride. And I’ve learned few lessons every first time entrepreneur should know before starting up. There are hundreds, but I am rounding-off to the 10 most critical points. Here you go:

    1. Startup= Business=Profit. Everything else is secondary.
    1. Startup is NOT for everyone. It is SUPER TOUGH. Most people can’t withstand the entrepreneurial roller coaster. Almost all startups look prettier outside and uglier inside.
    1. Most founders (including me) are lying. Don’t believe those numbers in the media. We just cook them up for a hype. We are probably 5 years away from those fancy numbers. Or we may never see them in reality.
    1. Only 2 out of 10 startups celebrate their 3rd b’day. Default state of any startup is failure. Some startups are in the Zombie state. They are already dead, but they didn’t realize it.
    1. Your best friends may not be your best co-founders. Your best buddies who helped you to fool the examiner may not come to your rescue here. This expectation mismatch might create conflicts. And these conflicts with your co-founders may ruin your friendship also. I know many such stories.
    1. Execution is the key. Ideas are not. Google did not invent search. RedBus did not invent online bus booking. They all executed an idea which was already there, in a better way. Your exciting idea may not excite others, especially your target customer. So stop romancing with your killer ideas. Focus on the execution part.
    1. It will take minimum 5 years to build a stable business. Your family/friends/relatives/girlfriend may suffocate you with questions when they don’t see you making much money in the first few years. All the people who support you now, may not be there after 2-3 years. They all expect an overnight success.
    1. Perseverance is everything. You need to have a truck load of patience and passion. Everyday you would face problems big and small. The world may behave so unfair to you when you try to tread your own path.
    1. You can’t just ‘mind your own business’. There will be a thousand little things (which you never counted initially) to annoy you and take your attention away from doing the actual business. An unexpected bandh cost us our first major client because we couldn’t deliver on time.
    1. Incubators/accelerators won’t sell your product. They may help you with infrastructure, network and mentorship. But it’s our job to validate the idea, find the customers and actually sell the product. Period.

If you are NOT 100% aware of the seriousness and impact of the above said points and you are still a CEO, I am sorry but you are just a business card CEO! And you are simply wasting the most productive years of your life.

So, before taking the big decision, talk to yourself first. Listen to you heart. Use your brain. If you are still confident enough to follow your dream and have the guts to face the consequences on the way — then, get ready.

Get ready for one hell of a roller-coaster ride!

All the best! ☺

I am Vivek Raghavan, Co-Founder and CEO of WowMakers– a small design studiofounded back in 2011. We are angel funded by the awesome founders of MobME Wireless. And we are the first startup at Startup Village.

 

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43 Comments

  1. Nailed it. One small point to add, do not getting bogged down reading too much gyaan by most authors who try to paint the world in black & white. Be more like an artist who appreciates the shades of grey. Take the plunge, be thick skinned and keep learning from your mistakes.

  2. Right now I appreciate and value everything you said… most of it I learned as a failed startup :). I guess learning happens on the go. (that’s how I am wired). Though its easy to read up on a lot of do’s and don’ts nothing like getting hands dirty and finding out for oneself. 🙂

    Just sharing my opinion :).

  3. Grt article and really valid points but no offence, the article felt a little dark!

    I know what you are is saying is straight from ur heart and one has to struggle a lot but the thing is, I am about to start up and if I and as well as my parents are not optimistic nd a little delusional then I don’t think that we would be able take this leap of faith! 

    🙂

  4. perfect article !! 

  5. Nice one, but if I read it, and followed it 3 years ago, may be NOESIS wouldn’t existed.

    We faced each and every of you listed above, thanks to our patients, learning and grasping we are here.

    choosing path is simple, but walking on path will not be the same.

    My dad opposed, when i left job (I had to lie to my dad, that i was fired, bcoz i knew he wouldnt let me do what i was trying to, but he caught my lie in 24 hours,) we had lots of arguments,

    but still i managed to partly convince him, started up along with classmate, with no funds, desigend websites for clients, planned couple of iOS games after 1.5 years, hired 4 iOS game developers with salaries as per market, took loan from cousin for that, all of them left us in span of 3 months, all went wrong, we were thrown back to where we were before year,

    we fought back, concentrated on recovering losses, focused on making small apps which are useful for particular niche in their daily life. Last week of January we released in house app for diamond which is now paying off our hardwork,

    You never know until you try, success without failure is never gonna happen, you can never succeed without failure. 
    So if someone wants to be successful let him jump, he will fail and he will learn, and rise above.

    Entrepreneurship is not for those with weak heart with fear of failures. 

    P.S. Probability of failure would be 50% if you startup, but it would be 100% if you decide not to.
    and later regret when you see someone having similar ideas as of yours being successful in industry and gaining a lot.

  6. Good work Vivek. Liked it

  7. Hi Vivek ! i am a big fan of the work done by your company !

    However , this write up although factually correct fails to inspire. To add , we have critics all around us in the Indian Society and the so called under developed eco system . the entrepreneurial set of people have cribbed about that. If at all for any reason there is a change in mindsets , it should be a welcome one. i completely agree with facts like startup=business=profit ,however ,i would never ever judge a 20 something if he fails once or twice , until and unless he/she is not impacting the lives of those around him/her in a very very negative way. It’s any day better than studying an irrelevant course because of the pressure of the society or joining one of those suffocating jobs in terms of learning.

    My $0.02, a confused / sorted 20 something entrepreneur 🙂

  8. all the best !!! go for it !!! nothing is teaching me more about life and people than this !

  9. Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People DO!!

    Well SAID and Worded too Vivek 🙂

    Starting a business can be something of a Roller Coaster Ride.

    Everything within you says that it is Unsafe, Scary, and too great a Risk. The greatest fears of all are rooted in the fears of failure and loss. I know of many people who started businesses with absolutely no capital. Well, I don’t know them personally but I have read about them. Their stories of bravado, hard work, “lucky” breaks, set backs and comebacks, mentoring, and countless conditions that fed into their success stories.  If you believe for one moment that they didn’t experience Emotional, Financial, Relational, and Logistical Roller Coasters along the way then you are Fooling yourself.

    F-E-A-R : has two meanings :
    1. Forget Everything And Run.
    2. Face Everything And Rise.

    Take Risks in Your Life! 
    If you Win, You can Lead!! 
    If You Lose, You can Guide!!! Swami Vivekananda~

    The Choice is What You Make!!

  10. Excellent! Very well written and to the point. The ‘Zombie state’ thing is real funny!

  11. Extremely well said! every point you have made is something anyone who wants to “start-up” should read! Going to send this to everyone who comes to me with an idea in their head of “starting a business”! 🙂

  12. great article Vivek.

  13. Vivek nice start up and really innovative branding videos. Would love to connect with you for my small start up http://www.puremart.in

  14. Thanks! You are right Raghavendra 🙂 Sometimes it is better to jump from the cliff and build the parachute on the way down!

  15. You said it Aparna 🙂 Thanks for the appreciation. I did not read too much before starting up and learned everything the hard way like you. But I felt the need of a check list for newcomers so that they will atleast get an idea about the journey ahead. That’s it 🙂

  16. Thank  you for your honest comment Sahil 🙂 I was just trying to be realistic before people like you so that you can prepare your mind before taking the big decision.

    🙂

  17. Thanks Deepak 🙂

  18. Thanks for the comment Govind. You are right. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” 🙂

  19. Thank you Amod 🙂

  20. I feel humble to know that you love WowMakers 🙂

    I understand your point. I completely agree also. This write up is intended to be more realistic than inspirational in nature. If you are in Kerala, you would face hundreds (literally hundreds, I am not exaggerating) of startups mushrooming every month. Majority of these youngsters are attracted to entrepreneurship like flies going towards a bulb at night. They just see the positive/fancy part and jump in to the stream. There should be someone to warn them about the journey ahead and I didn’t see much write ups in that context. So decided to write one 🙂

    Don’t worry. I will come up with articles from the brighter side of entrepreneurship as well! Thank you 🙂

  21. You said it Darshan! Thanks for the appreciation 🙂

  22. Haha! Thank you Vivek 🙂 I know you have some faces in mind (just like me) that appeared when I said the Zombie thing! 😀

  23. Thank you Arpita! Your help in spreading the word is most welcome 🙂

  24. Thank you Sahil 🙂 Puremart look great! I shall get back to you soon. Have a great weekend!

  25. hey vivek,

    check the top of your post – this one’s for not mincing words 🙂

  26. This is one thing I seriously dread! The concept of ‘startup’ & ‘failure’ getting so cool & common that everyone does it just because the other is doing it. It will kill the essence & learning from failure. I just hope we don’t glamourise failure & living without money.  

  27. No offence sir but I don’t think that anyone likes to fail and live without money, it’s just a part and parcel of life which I think we should accept it as a society!

    Don’t u think that the younger generation or any generation for that matter would be better off if we accept failure and not treat it as a Taboo.

    🙂

  28. Hi Sahil,

    Firstly no sir pls. G2 is ok if you find my name long 🙂

    I agree nobody likes to fail and I also agree that failure should be accepted & not looked down upon.

    All I am trying to say is we shouldn’t be goeifyijg failure so much that ppl are okay with failures. I wish to emphasize on the learnings from failure & mistakes rather than failing itself. If something doesn’t work ppl shud get serious about thinking why it didn’t work & not just take comfort in the fact that “hey it did not work for somebody else also, so it’s completely ok if it’s not working for me”

  29. haha, ok G2 :)….but pls take me referring to u as ‘sir’ out of respect but not out of your age or anything like that 😛

  30. Good Point. I agree with you ..

    But let them try it. If failed they can go back and work.

    As you said it is not for everyone. Only if you have enough patience, will power to go through bad phases and still be passionate with your idea…If you are not blessed by lot of luck you may take 10-15 years to reach some where stable.

    If you look around some people are very easily blessed with great success though not very talented …That is just luck..

    But there is a well proved law.. Hard work will bring you result..

    This rule is applicable for all ….so work hard at one point you will at least get moderate success!!!

    So all the best for all new entrepreneurs….

    If my daughter want to jump in to business ,I will allow her.. There is enough time to learn from failure and come back ..even if you failed first time

  31. Nailed it! The so-called “trend” is not just limited to Kerala IMO. I live in Bangalore and lived in San Francisco before moving here. It’s pretty widespread. I missed reading this post before, but I just wrote the following few minutes ago on another topic.

    “A good litmus test for an idea to start with could be something that you’re willing to give at least 3 years of your life with an assumption it WILL fail.”

    And someone gave me a very valuable advice before I decided to quit my job and do it: Do a startup only if you think you can quit everything else and do it at least for the next 10 years.

    Now my personal opinion — It’s a natural progression and this has happened before too: There will be hype; some will do it for right reasons (and with awareness) but many will fall for the hype and do it for wrong reasons; many startups will fail; most of the newly minted “accelerators” will shut down; there will be a sudden lack of funds in the market…but there will be few who will survive that down-turn, get past that phase and become big. People will make mistakes, they will learn.

    Repeat this in few years! 😉

  32. dmmmmmmmmmm good

  33. Amazingly written!!! I totally agree with the sense of the article. 
    From outside the “Startup World” looks fancy, one can’t actually understand the seriousness unless he/she actually gets into it. It is about batting on the pitch not sitting at the stands. 

  34. Very apt post, Vijay! Much needed plain truths! 🙂

  35. I liked your 6th point !

    1. Execution is the key. Ideas are not. Google did not invent search. RedBus did not invent online bus booking. They all executed an idea which was already there, in a better way. Your exciting idea may not excite others, especially your target customer. So stop romancing with your killer ideas. Focus on the execution part.
  36. Hey Vivek, 

    Very well written article and you covered most of the points. I would like you include of some of these points if you feel they are justified.

    1. At times clients you had been working hard wouldn’t believe even after extremely successful result (250 to 300% growth). Since they believe that being a small start-up you don’t have an experience and nor have an experience team and may walk off.
    2. Even if you are executing well – you would still find it difficult to sell yourself against your competitor who might be an establish company with 5 times bigger team.
    3. The co-founders should compliment each other, i.e. a marketing co-founder, a techi co-founder, etc. 
    4. Employee retention is a major problem – since employees after working for 1 or 2yrs believe that your start-up is not growing and would leave your company, hence you might be back to square 1.

    72interactive – http://www.72interactive.in we are a start-up too but lucky we had completed our 5th anniversary sometime back. 

    Regards,
    Amit 

  37. Awesome – has to be one of my fav.  dude, you rock! 

  38. Great post vivek 🙂

    During 90`s – Govt Jobs

    During 00-10 – Private Jobs

    2010 onward – Startup

    The only thing which drives people towards a particular sector is money, but the most exciting part about startup is money + FAME. STARTUP= COOL + MONEY + FAME is the mantra misunderstood by youngsters.Entrepreneurship is being packed in a glossy paper called STARTUPS.Hope they will understand that running a business is no joke.

    Another craze ( not only youngsters, but people in 30`s as well) among people is ONLINE SELLING.People don`t do basic research and come up with a fancy idea and believe that they can sell anything.As Alok Kejriwal sir also mentioned, Idea is the first step and you should move ahead to EXECUTION, but people stick to the GREAT IDEA only. 

    Keep such wonderful posts coming vivek 🙂

  39. Very insightful. But one has to always sell the dream!!

  40. loved this one, “thick skin”..must have quality 

  41. Thanks Vivek for being through this journey,succeeding and sharing. Makes Worth My While being with all of you.

    May we have the Courage to Fail and Fail Again without being Condemned and let us all support Failures.

    As it is said ” Winners Never Quit” but sometimes you may have to QUIT & STart Again !!

  42. This looked like the usual gyaan article. A CEO must know all this otherwise he is doomed- nope. Being a CEO is more about learning new things everyday and building the path with strong focus in the big goal. 

    Reading articles like this is not going to help but getting in there, doing things on your own and getting the hands dirty is the only right way to build a sustainable business.

  43. Well said Vivek,

    Media and established industries simply want to catch up to any trend that’s happening whether it concerns them or not. Take a look at this ad;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hjq7jJxNKbg

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9KO7_4qVxM

    I mean wtf ? In early years of the startup whenever I looked into mirror; I used to feel pity about myself. I’d go days with a pair of shirt and pant because It didn’t matter to me at all. These videos simply send an entirely wrong opinion about what it is to startup. Imagine this being broadcast on a national level in TVs; no wonder how a popular opinion gets formed

    And also, I’ve been a follower of your team’s work; I look forward to do business with you.

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