10 things I wish I was serious about before starting a startup

  1. Everything gets magnified. Whether it is minor differences or personal shortcomings or the multitasking required. What you think of as a small weakness, will become your biggest weakness. What you think of as a small strength, will be a very big strength.
  2. It is an emotional rollercoaster ride. You can never be prepared for it. But realize what you’re going through.
  3. Expect rejection. Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships, that is why good ideas are always initially resisted.
  4. Shut up, make a core working version first. And get people to use it, even if you have to beg or force people. And keep iterating. After the first few iterations, you will figure out what is the interesting part that makes it work for the user. Focus on that, not on the list of features. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Zahdoo.
  5. Have a plan in writing. Be clear starting from things like how long you can survive, open understanding of when each individual would want to quit, open understanding of why each person in this, etc. right up to imagining you’re going to be doing this for the next ten years, does your plan still remain the same?
  6. Short-term wins are important. Psychological boosts can keep your startup alive. Plan for short-term tangible goals. And keep iterating over your plan with weekly reviews. If you don’t see progress three weeks in a row, the alarm bells should be ringing.
  7. Always start with one person fully dedicated to the business side of things, especially a marketing/sales person or a product manager. Working part-time tech and part-time business is a disaster-in-the-making.
  8. When you’re making a six-month plan, understand what parts are on the critical path that will make or break your startup. And make sure things on that critical path are in your control. Pay attention to dependencies on outsiders, whether they are web designers or outsourcing companies.
  9. If you don’t have enough funds, find people who can fund you before you jump in, or start your own services/consultation business to keep the cash flow going. Otherwise, you’ll end up skydiving.
  10. Do not be wrapped inside your own bubble. Go out and talk to interesting people, find mentors, know what is happening in the field that you are working on. You have to know where dangers for your startup lurk, and you never know where unanticipated opportunities for your startup will come from.
  11. Bonus: If it’s a problem, it’s always a people problem. Learn to understanding each others’ psyche.

7 thoughts on “10 things I wish I was serious about before starting a startup

  1. I agree with each and every point. Additionally, I would add another point:
    12. Conviction about your new venture. If you don’t believe that the new thing you are doing is a winner, you are never going to make your venture win.

  2. Great tips Swaroop.

    I especially like the one about making a core version more and iterating based on user feedback. I have fallen in the features trap before.

  3. Additionally its important not to let you Ego effect the most significant decisions.

    Often ive seen ego being the most important reasons in startup failures .

  4. @Ashwin, Sorry, I don’t believe in conviction, I believe in progress. If you’re actually making things happen, you don’t need conviction to succeed, you’re already succeeding :)

    @Kunal :)

    @Neetish Agreed.

  5. @Swaroop, tidy little article, nice.

    @Neetish, @Kunal, Exactly! And those who funds businesses will thank you too.

    4: features don’t pay the bills. A scrappy, even ugly first version that has some functionality is the key to your sanity and my willingness to fund. Ego out the door, discipline in.

    6: Money loves speed. This is the hardest part – it helps your team, but it also helps my team as we review you. No progress, no clear assessment of past progress . . . no smart money.

    Anyone can give you money, but you only want smart money. Careful with your investors….

  6. Hey,

    A little more optimism would help :) not everything goes wrong or right – but sticking to your guns really do help turn around the corner. Knowing things is the first step in itself, actions follow – Keep up the good work !

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