Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

An Entrepreneur’s Diary: Succeeding Early.

Posted on: April 27, 2008

What is it that really makes an entrepreneur tick? What is it that really motivates him or her? What is it that really kills the fun of the game? Whats the limit to achieve whatever folks set out for? When is a show over and ready to be scrapped? What does it take to make the leap, and moreso what does it take to make it to the other end? How do you define success? How much is too much, and how much is too less?

Everything that is poised as the questions of life, haunt an entrepreneur. The existential questions, some of which can only be answered by “it depends”, face an entrepreneur over and over again over the course of life, career and during the course of the venture. I sometimes wish that starting off a company and ending it was nothing more than a fixed set of rules and line item numbers of tasks to follow, but it really isnt. To quote Sahil of Deskaway who had commented on a previous post, sometimes running a company is very much the dance you do with philosophy, and entrepreneurship has a lot to do with your personality, and how it develops.

A lot of folks today are in a rush to succeed. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know and when asked, nobody has a straight answer. It seems to be taken as the norm that if you are an entrepreneur, the defacto is to make money and make it fast. Sometimes the truth couldnt be miles further.

Getting Rich Young.
Mark Zuckerberg, Kevin Rose, The Youtube Fellas, Nichalas Zennstorm: These are just a few examples of people who have made money in a short period of time – both in terms of age, and in terms of how fast they have created “value”. How do you do get there, if getting there is the agenda, and what do you do when you get there?

Whats the Agenda?
Start something that has a “purpose” says Guy Kawasaki in his talk “The Art of the start”.

To me, being an entrepreneur means that you are one of those gifted individuals who can look at the world, see its problems and come up with a solution. The solution might make sense to be groomed as a business, or it could simply be a solution that could change the way we think and see things around us.

Understand Timelines and Prioritize
If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, one of the key “needs” of an individual that comes up is the very notion of existence. How long will you be around in this world? When will death come meet you? And when it does, how will people remember you and for how long? If we knew that we’d be gone in a year, two or three, would we still be postponing the things we want to do and be chasing after riches that we won’t even be able to enjoy?

The answers are very personal and really does depend on each individual and the moral fibre that binds them. Personally, Existence means being able to define oneself expressively in the form of something that comes out of them, with their signature on it. Something that is an extension of yourself, and lives on beyond the person from whom it was born.

Be Aggressive, but Keep your Character.
My mentor often used to quote me the words “Talent will take you to the top, but only character will keep you there”. I know that I have to repeat those words to myself everyday, whenever I am by nature trying to respond in a not-so-positive way to the not-so-positive things that sometimes are thrown at you. Character is very much how we react to what happens to us. Bad things happen to people. if it happens to Good people, the reaction is always a good or better thing. It’s the reaction that essentially is an answer to the question of one’s character.

As part of being young, and many entrepreneurs being young, being agressive and moving fast has become a standard routine to follow. It’s the only way to get noticed, be taken seriously and to move up the so-called ladder. It’s important to keep the cool while doing that. Gotta play along with others. Put up with people who aren’t fast enough. Respect elders for their experience. And most of all bear with the little ones who arent showing maturity, but do get affected by those who do define it. They will say a lot of nasty things, just because they can. How you react is how you will be defined.

When? And How old?

I believe it was a quote by Craig Newmark (of Craigslist), who said that “We both know some people who own more than a billion (dollars) and they’re not any the happier”. It’s when you hear statements as that when you have to step back a bit and wonder, and sometimes even run through those existential questions one more time to ask what is it that one really wants to achieve.

You are 25 and you are a billionaire. What do you do after that? I’m sure the obvious answer is to go blow up that money, treat everyone around you with fancy gifts, world tours, your private jet, and maybe even own an island. All of that can be done in a month, and at a max of a year. What after that?

Age and maturity, though can be manipulated, do go hand in hand. I personally know that a lot of people think I am older than I am, and life has thrown me a fair share of trials (was diagnosed with tumor when I was quite young) which has contributed to all that, but at the end of the day, I know I am what my age is. The needs, how society categorizes you, and how you feel when you are alone with no one watching, reflects the age you are in. A lot of folks have become rich and famous at such a young age thanks to their talent, but not everyone can handle it. Money, comes with a fair bit of attention, a lot of pretentious love and care, and a lot of fabricated relationships. It can get a lot harder to see through what is what without losing your radar and moral compass.

Whats the hurry?
When I recently Met Subho Roi of IAMAI, he was casually mentioning how these days everybody is in a hurry to build a company, a product and sell it all under six months and max a year and move on. He rightly was expressing how much of a sad thing it is, and how most mature and stable businesses are built over time – and so are markets and products. I do concur with him.

A stable product takes atleast five years to mature. The Linux kernel, The Google search engine and even look at skype and companies which have built companies and products that have revolutionized things. The so-called first release was after a rough period of four to five years. The time it takes to build a service on the web, and the development process per se has been radically altered lately, but six months is still cutting it close – very close. The market analysis and product evolution would barely begin within a year or two. Market tractions take time, and so does customer adoption and loyalty building. Only time can build a company that can stand its test.

As much as revenue models are essential for a business, clarity in direction and vision for an entrepreneur as an individual is extremely important. At the end of the day, when all is said and done,you want to be satisfied with what you leave behind – and not some skeletons of the past by-gone era, a legacy worth remembering, and an impact that atleast a few would not forget. Take it easy. In the words of David Heinemeier Hansson (DHH) of 37signals, there will always be work in a startup. From bootstrapping to growing to scaling, you will always have plenty of work which will constantly keep overwhelming you. But define your own pace. Define what you want. Define who you are, and what are the values you hold. Evolve your own principles of what you will do and what you will never do. Live by it. If you don’t know who you are, moreso who you are not, survival itself will become an issue.

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8 Responses to "An Entrepreneur’s Diary: Succeeding Early."

Personally, I like the way you look at the whole startup system.

The links here and there are pretty useful.

I have heard people dreaming about making it big asap. Somehow, I didn’t know how it would happen to every other fellow as well. great reasoning on that. good gyan for me. 😀

“Character will keep you there”,very much!

You have the right Punch line ‘ The startup Guy’ to your blog , good way to start my week now, i shall keep in mind, Startup Guru 🙂

You exactly pointed out what young guy think about his business,revenues .. so on!

its true that everyone want to show them big at least with his/her community,friends.

virtual mentoring for people like me. Thanks a lot and keep such good posts coming

Vision + Audacity + Steadfastness = Entrepreneur.

You hit the nail on the head. Before starting something you gotto know who you are, why are you doing this and what is the higher purpose? Without this, once the excitement of the business fads away, you will be left with nothing but “work”.

This sense of urgency has been all around us for the last few years. If you notice, its everywhere – people hopping jobs for small increments, short term hedges in the market, real estate etc. People want to ‘make it rich’ overnight. Remembers me the famous stock market movie ‘Boiler Room’.

As someone wise told me – You goto look at yourself in a historical context, think about how you want to be remembered when you die, what you have accomplished and contributed to the world, how you have left it a better place. What is important? What is meaningful? Given your gifts and talents and capabilities, what would make the most difference?

Thats when being on this entrepreneurial journey will make the most sense and you will define what it means to be successful – at the end of the day, its NOT about the money.

Enlightening Thoughts! 🙂

Startup are alway the most difficult time of a young entrepreneur. You aren’t too sure of what you are doing, you are entering into the unknown and you really want to succeed and some think that it comes quickly when in fact( as you mentioned in your blog), it takes five years for a stable product to reach maturity. Great post!

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