Is Failure a risk worth taking?

I have a risk-inclined personality. Or so I’d like to believe. All throughout life, I’ve made choices that I thought were among the riskiest of my peers. Naturally, it came as no surprise to my colleagues when I told them I’d decided to choose the path of Entrepreneurship rather than work in the corporate job I had secured through my campus.

I had no idea that this would be the most difficult journey of my life.

Starting just about 8 months ago (as soon I got out of college), I spent a couple of months with one of the hottest Startup in India right now — Vibe. From my accelerated learning with the Vibe team and everything else I've learnt in this short while of 8 months, here is the gist of it;

1. Stealing Ideas is the least of your problems

All entrepreneurs have been through this stage: what if someone steals my idea? In the simple words of Arjun R Pillai (CEO|Vibe), ‘If someone steals your idea and implements it 10x better, then s/he deserves the success. Ideas are nothing; implementation is everything”

2. You will be grilled

As I painfully learnt, never approach an investor without having a grasp of the basic concept of HOW WILL YOU MAKE MONEY? Man oh man, was I close to tears leaving my first Investor talk. A couple of grillings later, I started learning answers to the most obvious questions, and the learning has still continued. Being an entrepreneur means pitting yourself against the toughest questions, and surviving — over and over again.

3. Pitch is everything

Elevator Pitch? 1-min? 3-min? 15-min? Doesn't matter. Be ready to pitch. And be perfect at pitching. A number of my leads have come from random pitches to people in parties or meetups. And be sure to polish those sly one-liners, and quick anecdotes over and over again, with the same enthusiasm as your first pitch.

4. Product Company? Doesn't matter..

..find a way to survive. It might be a long time until you finally hoodwink someone to invest in yourself, and you need to find means of survival until then. This can either be in the form of Services (Elance, Odesk etc), loans from friends & family, or getting into a Startup Incubator program. Investors and accelerators appreciate teams that are sustainable (even if barely).

5. Conflicts and moving forward

Every relation has its ups and downs. The same applies to co-founders. From the font for your logo to a crucial piece of architecture, conflicts (not too many) are the best indicators of progress in the right direction, if you work to solve them. The easiest way is to find a neutral adviser early on who can help with the decision-making process. If not, Pros vs Cons, Customer Validation etc are quick ways to solve crises. Always make sure to get beer (coffee?) together with the team after confrontations and speak about the mission at large.

6. The Burnout

Work 14-hour days everyday for a few weeks, and you will face Burnouts. They are not pretty. Remember to take breaks along the way. Have ways to unwind — sports, music, beer (coffee?) once in a while. And make sure you have a support-team to get your back when the going gets really tough.

7. The Gartner ally

Seasoned veterans love when you have a grasp of the Gartner Hype Cycle and Emerging Trends for the year. A lot of my conversations have fared better when I mention what little knowledge I have of the Hype Cycle, because the big fish understand that you know (or seem to know) what’s hot and what’s not.

8. Arm yourself (for free, of course..!)

Get the best. Minimize spend as much as you can. Just 2 of the best links below.
Link 1: https://www.ycombinator.com/resources/
Link 2: http://www.quora.com/What-are-the-best-productivity-tools-for-entrepreneurs

9. BONUS: Believe in yourself!

Isn't this obvious? That’s what I thought too. But too often you get blinded by people telling you their vision of success and you might end up following it, because they seem to be in a better position to advice. This led me and my team to a lot of pointless pivots, until we sat ourselves down, aligned ourselves with the mission and then decided to move forward. You will always get advice - make sure you choose something that aligns with your goals.

Is failure worth it? I believe only time can tell. But what I do know is this, I wouldn't have it any other way!

If you believe something here isn’t correct, reach out to me at ashwin.shibu@gmail.com and tell me why. I want to learn!