My ‘start-up’ baby – Few lessons learnt as a newbie start-up founder
Let’s quit my job and start-up”, she said. Sounds exciting, thrilling, and job independence is addictive, no denying that. It’s also your baby, you need to care for it, feed it, make sure it grows and there is very little sleep involved. Your mind is always “on”. You could be scuba diving in the deep sea, and the colour of the corals might make you go, “eh, that’s a cool shade maybe I should add that to my website.” Safe to say, it has been a roller coaster, and I’ve managed to learn a little something.
Here are a top few things to keep in mind for a newbie ‘start-up entrepreneur’.
You will have MANY ups and downs – have a circle of trusted advisors
Since leaving my cushy, corporate bubble with many due diligences, building a start-up with no founder has not been easy. Most days, I feel energised, but I also continuously question myself on why I left my salaried job. My very own, ‘Chronicles of Dialogue Room’. The only thing that’s been constant is that I have kept on going and moving forward. I also have a few trusted people (with prior start-up/business experience) in my circle, who are my soundboard. They provide me with extremely critical advice (to the brink of most times me walking out or cutting the line on them), but it’s required! If they don’t question your every thought process – you may not find the right direction you need to grow your baby right.
You will have to work harder than ever and work every position
This seems like a moot point – like “duh, I will need to work hard – I get that.” But understand what this means: you will have to be the intern proofread emails, print and organise documents and get coffee for your clients; you will have to be the associate and do the grunt work, come up with pitches, draft all the material while responding to emails within 24 hours; you will have to be the partner, overlook everything, network network network, arrange and prepare for meetings and you will have to be the business owner, create your company business plan, think of the revenue model, hire and fire people.
This is not easy, and you are the sole caretaker of your baby.
You will have to be genuine in what you’re selling
If you don’t believe in your brand/product, people won’t either. You only get one chance to make the first impression so make sure you nail it. If you’re in it just to make money, you will not make money. If your start-up is not solving a problem that exists, it’s not an original idea. Go back to the drawing board, be creative and find the problem you want to fix.
Imitation should NOT be the name of the game
Know your competition, research them thoroughly and then be different. If you aim to be exactly like your competition, you will only reach till your competitor’s success model, to beat them do better.
Following an “Uber-like” model is absolutely okay but imitate with innovation – so much better and less risky I would imagine.
Sort out the regulatory bit
Form the LLP/Company have a robust drafted agreement, do not give voting rights to someone because they are your spouse or bestie. Be careful and be smart. Protect your baby. There have been ‘n’ number of examples of ideas being stolen and founders being pushed out.
Make you freelancers/employees sign a simple NDA (non-disclosure agreement) and make sure your brand name doesn’t already exist. Conduct an online trademark/wordmark search, involve an intellectual property expert if required. Spend the money to figure out the regulatory bit in the start. It will save you a lot more money and troubles in the future.
Have an office space
I cannot stress this point enough. Once you have some money, and the ball starts rolling (I am still waiting for this one) find a place for yourself, even if it’s a desk with two chairs. Working from home/coffee shops has many disadvantages. For one, people around you will not respect your privacy, and you will need your own space to create ideas and fall on your face at times.
To one day, our babies becoming unicorns. All the best!