Things I learned from my startup journey

“Remember that life’s greatest lessons are usually learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes.”

Startups are the best educational institutions to learn about business, technology, life, people, and the world. You’ll get lifetime worth of knowledge in mere years of building a startup. Here I’ve noted down the learnings I got from building startups, back since when I started my first business at age 12. I hope this will help aspiring and current entrepreneurs in their startup journey.

  1. Customer care is very important when starting a business.
    (I used to get a lot of queries of games and software not working, back when I started selling games and Softwares online at 12. I had to resolve it with dedication.)
  2. You can learn almost everything online. Don’t let schooling get in a way of education.
  3. Learn by doing. Experiential learning is hundreds of times better than a theoretical one.
  4. The risks in building a startup are more than people realize. Having a safety-net makes things much easier.
  5. Your net worth is determined by the kind of network you have.
  6. Build a community before you build a product.
  7. Startups are hard. People with patience and perseverance will win.
  8. Learn to delegate. Don’t try to run everything yourself. Learn to let go.
  9. Not everything’s gonna work out every time. Get acclimated to failure and never give up on your dreams. Have a Plan-B ready.
  10. Learn some accountability. Treat investor’s money with respect.
  11. Find great co-founders with whom you can work for the rest of your life.
    “You need company to build a company. – Arbob”
  12. Launch the product as fast as possible. Get user feedback and iterate upon it.
    My average MVP time is 5-7 days, max.
    Reid Hoffman’s quote — “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — is a great example.
  13. The biggest mistake you can make is to not learn from your mistakes. Learn from your past experiences and build a better version of yourself. Everyday.
  14. Take care of your health. Exercise. Because it’s impossible to build a startup without good health.
  15. Founder’s vision is the single most important thing while building a team. Money comes second.
  16. No expensive hires at an early stages of the company. Try to hire someone with the highest salary to productivity ratio. As a rule of thumb, any hire should give 10x the RoI of their pay.
  17. More hires doesn’t always mean more productivity.
  18. Be optimistic about the future. Always believe in yourself. If you don’t then nobody else will.
  19. Don’t make the same mistakes other entrepreneurs have already made before. The best way to learn about them is to read books. Make new mistakes. Avoiding stupidity is easier than seeking brilliance.
  20. Participate in pitching contests. Get in front of the crowd, be it online or offline, every chance you get. It’s your idea. You must be the primary promoter and evangelizer of it. Opportunity no longer comes to the most qualified – it goes to the most visibly qualified.
  21. Keep it simple and stupid. If you can’t explain your product to an average person in 15 seconds, then it’s evident that you yourself don’t understand your product. Get back to the drawing board and refine your pitch and understanding of the product.
  22. Try not to scale too fast at the early stages of your startup. Monopolize one small niche and then expand your market slowly and steadily accordingly. Startups are a marathon, not a sprint. The one who survives the longest will win.
    Paraphrasing Bill Gates, “We do overestimate what we can do in just three years. And we dramatically underestimate what we can do closer to 10 years.”
  23. Work on something you’re passionate about. It doesn’t always have to world-changing, universe-altering one like curing cancer or changing the internet. As long as you’re solving problems for enough people who can pay for your solution, you’re good to go.
  24. Learn to appreciate ideas, as ideas are the cornerstone to build any great project.
  25. Have one KPI (Key Performance Indicator) from Day 1. Get your entire focus on that. Ideas will come, every day. Some might be enticing such that you may want to implement in any chance you get. Take a step back and analyze if that idea is going to positively affect your KPI or not.
  26. Be resourceful. Do more with less. Keep everything lean.
  27. Keep your margins high.
  28. When you’re marketing for your product, try all the free alternatives first. Try posting in the right communities, insert yourself into a blog of someone with an influence that might care about your product, Product Hunt, Indie Hackers, etc. This will force you to think harder about your target audience and their needs. It’ll force you to be creative. Paid ads don’t magically knock on your target audience’s door. After you exhaust all your free options then start thinking about pursuing a paid campaign. You’d have learned more about the product in the process and saved money.
  29. Giving away your services and products for free or at minimal cost is fine at the beginning, but make sure you have a strong business model. Running a startup costs money. You’re not always going to pay for it from your own pocket.
  30. Build a scalable tech-based solution for any problem. Operationally intensive solutions are never sustainable and will die quicker than you realize.
  31. When you’re building a startup, you have two families. The one at home. and The one at your office. Treat both with respect and dignity.
  32. Stop dreaming of overnight success. Those startups you see getting millions of dollars in investment and VC funding have worked for years to get there. Sometimes overnight success takes years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication.
  33. It’s highly recommended to enroll in an incubator or accelerator program early on. It will help you with great network support, a better understanding of your business, and will make your startup investment ready at a much faster pace.
  34. Have some core values and abide by it with all your might.
  35. Be ethical.
  36. Work locally, think globally.
  37. It’s fine to look at competition but try not to imitate everything they do. Every startup is unique in its own way. What works for others may not work for you. Plan accordingly.
  38. Innovate. Innovate. Innovate. Innovation is the most important pillar of building a sustainable startup.
  39. Don’t waste your time looking for investors until you get product-market fit (PMF).
  40. Fundraising takes time. A lot of time. Better spend it improving the product. Not to mention you will be in a better negotiating position if you have PMF.
  41. Give more than enough time to hire people. They’re going to be a part of your family and you don’t want someone who can turn the entire startup upside down.
  42. Give 1 hour every day on a side-project, completely different from your primary startup. It’ll make you creative and give you a significant understanding of tech, business, and a different industry as a whole. Who knows in the near future, you may connect the dots and build a universe-altering product.
  43. Have fun. Don’t get succumbed to the stress and work. Take a break. Have a chat with friends. Watch movies you like. Have your favorite food. Go to parties. Startups don’t always have to be lonely.
  44. Find your own “Zone”. Identify what it takes for you to get there. Being in Zone is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Being in the zone gets you 10x work done in much lesser time than normal.
    For e.g. My zone is listening to my massively curated Spotify playlist, with earphones on.
  45. Stay away from vanity metrics as much a possible. Learn more about it here.
  46. Never have a second thought when opportunity knocks your door. Nothing is more regretful than a missed opportunity.
    As Sheryl Sandberg – COO – Facebook, eloquently puts it, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, get on, don’t ask what seat.”
  47. Try to build something for your country too. You may not realize it but you’re obligated to it.

I’ll keep on updating this post as I go along with my life in entrepreneurship.

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