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Lessons for 20-Something Entrepreneurs – What I Learnt From My Six Failed ‘Startups’

Hey Fellow Readers, 

Thank you for stopping by here, thank you for considering reading this piece of crap. I am not a famous entrepreneur – but as everyone else I too dream to be a successful entrepreneur someday. Even a small search on Google will not give a damn shit about me.

I am not writing this piece because I want sympathy, rather I want to confess my mistakes which extremely turned my Startups into huge disasters. I really don’t know if this article is going to be of any help or not. But whatever, I felt like sharing it.

Lesson #1

My story begins, when I was a fifteen-year-old. Like any other kid, I didn’t have any ambition. I used to enjoy playing cricket, spending time with friends (of course was spending less time studying). One fine day, I came across an article about Steve Jobs published in a leading magazine. That fine day, my whole life changed and that moment I decided to be an ‘Entrepreneur’. I thought of numerous ways through which I could start my own small business – but found none. One day, at school a friend asked me, do you have the latest Bollywood songs? I nodded yes in reply and told him, my elder brother has got a huge collection.

Next day, he instructed me to buy a new CD and fill the disk with all the songs that my brother had. I did the same. I gave the CD to him. He seemed to be delighted and gave 50 rupees to me. I was surprised – I asked what the money was for? He said for the CD and for the time you wasted to burn this CD. I hesitated but when he forced, I took the money.

A week later, two more classmates of mine asked for the songs. The instructions were same.I did the same thing. That was my first earning Rs 100/- and I was delighted. Accidentally, I had discovered the idea for my small business. I returned home – created small postcard size pamphlets – enlisted my songs and games collection – got ten-twenty photocopies of it. With the help of my two classmates, we distributed it to the other sections. Later that day, we earned around 300 rupees. This earning increased day by day and at the end of two weeks. we had earned 3060 rupees!

We haven’t planned our next event in Mumbai/Delhi for this year yet. Would it be okay if we reached out to you once again if you’re in the country?

It was a huge amount – we couldn’t believe the earnings. We distributed it amongst ourselves and kept it as a secret from our families. I was doing all this while dreaming about becoming the next Steve Jobs. I thought about the easiness of earning money through a small business. But before we could earn a few more thousands – our business suffered from the lack of customers – the students. They didn’t want to buy the CDs now. We tried new posters – did every possible thing which we could. But nothing seemed to help us. Our business died and like a bad dream – the principal came to knew about the business – we got suspended for fifteen days. This also came into the light of our family members, what happened next – let it be!

Lesson I learnt: Never start a business just to become rich. Never stick with one feature or the product. Try to innovate and add new features/products. Remember, even Flipkart started selling CDs and electronic devices after watching the significant growth in sales of books!

Lesson #2

After a serious two years with no business… I was seventeen and was addicted to Facebook. I had made cool new friends in which most of them were business persons. I closely watched how these businessmen post about the need of a website developer and how their status comment – filled with the website development firms. I came in contact with a development firm and I tried to take insights about how it all works and how much they earn.

They answered each and every query – and told me they were earning 10-20 thousand rupees a week. This was enough to give me an orgasm – and I again started dreaming to become rich and earn lots of money. I tried to convince them that I would bring customers for them and in return I wanted commission. They agreed with 1000 rupees as commission per customer.

Next day, I created fake profiles on social media in the name of Pooja (of course a girl as expected). I lured each and every businessman for the lowest rates in website design service. After a couple of days – after exchanging 4-5 emails – related to the previous design work (which I got from that firm), I grabbed a deal for their website. I earned about 5000 rupees as commission for bringing five customers.

I noticed I was actually becoming a fool in the name of commission. They were earning 10-20 thousand rupees a week – in which I was getting paid – one thousand bucks. I left them and started learning web-designing in my spare time. After three years, with the help of my early-venture friends; I decided to start my next venture. We created a page on Facebook – ‘Junoon Media’. We enlisted the web development related services in the possible lowest rates. We set up a cool website too. And with a 4-by-6 inch smile we waited, waited and waited for a single customer – but no one gave a damn to us. In frustration, we created fake profiles – but that also didn’t work.

After a couple of months, we got a customer who offered us 400 rupees for designing a static website with six pages. We said no – he replied, the other firm is ready to develop it for three-hundred. We asked about the website link. We visited their website; looked at the price list and got the shock of our life, nothing less than a coma. Soon, we discovered that this web-designing sector is over-crowded, and we can not fix it. So, again we gave up.

Lesson I learnt: Never start too late or too soon. Start when the market of a particular sector seems to be at its infancy (as per my belief). Have a good execution plan for your startup.

Lesson #3

After two years, I took admission in a college at Ranchi, Jharkhand. The first impression of the college was not so great that I could shout, ‘the world is here, where are you?’ The campus was small and looked more like a government hospital. Except for the girls; I was so shy to talk with them.  I tried to find out Facebook groups or pages which could help me to connect with them.  Found two – but they had only – 8-10 members and most of them were my classmates. I thought about creating a social network site cum directory; similar to facebook during its early days in 2004-05.

I copied everything including the design and logo. I thought to make a mobile website (somehow I wanted to save it from desktops / laptops). The site had the entire basic feature like creating profile, searching members – with roll number, name, batch, course etc. I launched the site and invited a few of my friends – luckily, they created the profile and used it almost daily. At the end of the month, the site had only 10 members. My plan again flopped and the site too. Once again I failed. Several of my classmates, seniors and even few girls reported that they are using their laptop but the site seems to be invisible. I found my mistake; it was too late to start the project again from the scratch. Alas! My site died.

Lesson I learnt: Never copy an existing product – until you can modify it with the current scenario and demand of the market. If you have planned to create a better product than the existing one, you also need to plan its execution. Look at the project as a customer and not a developer; look at what a customer needs and not you. In simple terms, it’s not about what you want to offer, it’s more about what your target customers need.

P.S. This project helped me to find a girlfriend for a short-period! *Sigh*

Lesson #4

This year – in my fourth semester; I tried to copy https://about.me/ and created http://instabio.me/ in a hope to build something better than about.me. I got so busy with this project that I did not even talk to my family members, my friends and my girlfriend. As a result, I lost my friends, had a breakup and even my family don’t bother to call me any more. I launched it but it failed. Again, I needed a break – I was frustrated, broken down and needed my family and friends, even my girlfriend – but none gave any support.

Lesson I learnt: Don’t ignore your friends and family, and definitely not your girlfriend. Take out time and be in touch. They are the ones whom you need in your worst time. Startup is a part of your life and not your life!

Lesson #5 (Important)

In my fifth semester, in excitement, I copied https://scoopwhoop.com/ and created http://scrapwrap.in/ also, http://jalebi.co/ in a comparison (comparison won’t be suitable here – let’s call it as more like a clone) to https://yourstory.com/ to feature the latest startups. But those entire copied or look-a-like website failed.

In sixth semester, with the help of few friends – we launched Infinixo – a personal portable computer at Rs 6000/-. We posted about it on few Startups related groups on Facebook. It seemed working and we received 450+ pre-orders. We started to assemble every piece, we collected mobile numbers, and we called our first few customers. We didn’t have any market knowledge, we also didn’t have any knowledge about who are our customers are and how to reach them. But weeks after weeks, months after months, we delayed shipping of the product – due to certain reasons. We lost majority of customers and Infinixo (which could prove to be a boon for small business, students etc.) died.

Lesson I learnt: Never start to be a ‘me-too’ startup. Never start something out of excitement. Try to solve a real problem. The problem which you face, try to talk to other people about it first. Don’t presume or create a problem and then try to solve it. It will help you find the real problem. Do a research about the market; know who your customers are – and how you should reach them, gain first few customers, service them the best possible way and then talk to them, take feedback to improve your product. Learn to scale a business, take help from mentors. Facebook, Twitter and angel.co and some other organizations are great sources to find mentors for your startup.

Here’s an equation which will help you to better understand on how not to waste your time and energy on an existing startup idea:

And at last,

Hi, I am Manish Shahi. I am 24 years old now. My friends have already taken up jobs; but, I am still jobless and ‘thinking’ to start a real problem-solving startup. I have written this post to explain what you shouldn’t do when starting a startup.

P.S. I turned 24 this August and if you’re willing to send a happy belated birthday message. Reach me through my email address: manish.shahivishen@gmail.com or through Facebook: https://facebook.com/itsmanishshahi or follow me on twitter: https://twitter.com/_manishshahi_ : I would be happy to connect with you. Or simply, post whatever you feel after reading this article in comment below.

Thank you for reading.

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6 Comments

  1. Nice post. I wish you all the best for your future. Pursue your interest with full determination and you will surely have a great success

  2. Hey Manish, Nice post !!!!!

    All the best buddy.

  3. Dude, you’ve learnt what people learn by the time they reach 40 🙂

    Just hang in there – it will all work out better than expected!

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