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When life throws you & your start-up under a bus: Lessons from Failure!

Life isn’t always rosy for everyone. How can an entrepreneur be any different? You might have all going well for you today but who knows what is in store tomorrow. What if life decides to throw you under a bus? Well, you can either give up on your dreams and go on to live the regular life, or you can make that failure the stepping stone to something valuable you will end up creating.

Do you know GyanLab? Some of you may, most of you probably won’t know.

It’s a start-up which I co-founded in 2011 resulting from many of my personal woes when it came to my education.

THE HARD TIMES!

I will start this story from 2013 — the year of reckoning.

After a pilot in 2011 and beta test in 2012, GyanLab in its original form (a hardware-based learning program that taught kids principles in STEM, Social Science, Life Skills and more in a complete hands-on manner) was commercially launched in April 2013. We were working with 20 odd schools in South and West India and had a thriving team of over 20 people in Bangalore, Mangalore, Hyderabad, Pune and more.

But, with the magnitude of operations, expenses on R&D, a slightly wrong business model and high initial investments, we were going to run out of money pretty soon. So, we tried doing what most start-ups do at this stage — raise capital. And, through all the connections we had, we approached around 11 or 12 early stage institutional investors with our plan. While the initial meetings / phone calls were encouraging, the usual replies ended up being ‘too hard to scale’, ‘difficult market’, ‘good progress but hard to keep up in future’ and so on. Well, I agree that it is their money and they are free to do as they feel best. But, that was not going to help us out of this crisis.

Simultaneously, we were planning to launch a national level challenge for school kids to foster innovation, leadership and intuitiveness in them at an early stage in life. I, personally, also had a few IIM calls in my bag — something that just happened by fluke. So, here I was at a stage when it was time for hard decisions — time to decide to either chicken out or fight back with all the might.

THE RIGHT DECISION

And, I knew one thing. I had never chickened out of any situation in my life and this was not an option at all. So, I said a Big No, No to the IIMs. I had already learnt almost everything they would teach there already running GyanLab anyways — so it would have anyways been a waste of time. We sat down for a meeting and decided that shutting down the GyanLab learning programs in school is going to be of paramount importance in our survival. It was a hard decision since that was the vision with which we started up. But, you can either cling on to something so hard that you will go down under with it, or you take wise calls that will help you survive.

Simultaneously, our advisors & incubator came forward and put money on the table for our Seed Round. And, this simply got us back in motion. Not only did we have money, we had people with years of experience believing us during our worst crisis and backing us. It was the biggest validation we could get.

THE PIVOT

And, we spent the next few months restructuring the business, launching Kidovators  — the most innovative national level challenge for school kids, and started a direct to students B2C hands-on learning program in summer of 2014 which was very, very successful. But, there were sad bits too. Parents asked us as to why were we rolling back the amazing program since their kids were actually improving with our programs, we had to slowly let almost the entire team go — and in both cases, there was nothing we could do. I still look back and feel these were the most helpless times yet I learnt the most valuable lessons during this period. Doing such things make you tougher and today, I am also happy because every ex-team member of GyanLab is at a good place and we all still keep in touch.

While doing the B2C direct to students program in Bangalore, we found a major gap in this sector. For parents, it was very hard to find a program, know how good it is and get their kids enrolled, and for service providers like us it was a nightmare trying to promote our programs and get effective results.

And, this led us to speaking to hundreds of mothers and service providers to understand the problems deeper and build a platform to solve their existing problems. With this GyanLab.com was born — a marketplace for classes and activities, and we launched its public beta in June this year.

And, we are stepping into very exciting times at work with Kidovators being into its 3 year running and GyanLab.com growing at a crazy pace everyday!

LOOKING BACK

Now, when I look back to those dark days of 2013, I realize those bad days have made me so much better than I was then. It has made me stronger, made me learn many crucial lessons that I would have otherwise not learnt. We are so much better learned today — we know our industry inside out. Had we not failed back then, none of this would have happened. All of this was a blessing in disguise for us. Adversity had been a great teacher to us!

Today, I am so proud to be a part of this start-up. I am proud to be working with a super talented co-founder and a very small but dedicated team. I am proud to have some of the best human beings to advise us and help us whenever we need them.

To sum it all up, when everything seems to go wrong around you, what do you do? Do you chicken out or face the shit with all your force?

PS: In case you are looking for a class in Bangalore, just log on to GyanLab.com and find what you are looking for. If you don’t find, then just tell our Concierge what you need. We will get back to you with the best program in no time. And, if you are an ed-tech entrepreneur looking for some valuable life lessons from my failures, just CLICK HERE in #ASKRODINHOODERS. I have never said no to an ed-tech entrepreneur asking me about my failures. 🙂

I am also on twitter – find me @PriyadeepSinha | HERE IS the article originally published on Medium

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4 Comments

  1. wow. when you share something priyadeep, it always leaves a mark. 

    in the last 4 years, no matter how many stories i’ve read, the overcoming failure ones always give me goosebumps. 

    more power to you and gyanlab!

    ps: i’m really glad you posted this – a lot of folks don’t really know that you’re a marketplace for classes & activities! you must showcase GyanLab.com as well. are you pan india or just b’lore right now?

  2. Hey Asha, thank you for always pushing me to share that actually made me write this. 🙂

    Well, yes GyanLab.com is currently in Bangalore since we are piloting it here to understand how our service providers and customers interact. We want to make it as the One Stop Shop whenever anyone wants to learn anything 🙂 We are looking to get to 2 – 3 other cities in the next 12 months

  3. priyadeep,

    i just had to spoil your post! sowrie 🙂

  4. Hahaha! Well this is type of spoil anyone just loves 🙂

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! Means lot to me Asha 🙂

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