Yesterday, a friend disclosed that she is planning a planning a startup with an aquaintance. Some questions popped up, and I was only keen to share some thoughts. She shared that they have an idea, and are discussing the way forward. I am not sure about her potential cofounder, but she definitely has a stable job, and is looking to also settle down maritally in the next few months. The many complications one has, often lands us in a spot about the decision making, whether or not to start up.
Here are some thoughts from the discussion we had.
It all starts with an idea.
This may be the first step for most startups. Especially if you are ambitious about being a problem solver. The keyword here is “problem solving”. Very often, startup junkies are “product developers” or “product managers” because they are able to create viable products, which solve customers’ problems. When you have an idea – nothing else matters. It does not matter whether your idea is good or bad. There is no judgement on it, until you screw up. The question you need to answer is, are you willing to take the risk?
Many people start up because they are frustrated in their jobs, and do not like what they are doing. They feel a sense of void, and want to do something different. Some lose their jobs, because of external factors, and do not have a choice but to start up. These are circumstances that can fuel idea generation, and should not stop you from starting up. The trick is, you need to become an idea generator. Which is true, even for those who have started with an idea, because as we go down the road, we will be faced with multiple problems that resist our progress, and we would need idea after idea to go around those problems. Do not fear risks.
Fuel it with hunger.
The next problem she faces is the problem of time. The one problem I always had while making friends was, people would call me boring. As a founder, your social life will be limited to what you do. Yes, if you are doing a startup that deals with food, you will eat out. If you have a startup that deals with travel, you shall. Entrepreneurs go through a journey where self-actualisation is achieved by solving problems. If you are chasing a problem solution, you will find time to make sure you solve the problem.
One of the concerns is about the safety net. She has a well-paying job. Probably has a few personal loans to pay off. And is looking to get settled in the next few months. Hence, she cannot give up her job just yet. She is not sure where she will find time to pursue her idea.
I recommend one should look at the hybrid work model, maybe work from home. If one is efficient enough, we should try to multi-task. If you need more focus, you wil have to consider giving up the job at some point, but if you can’t immediately, you will need to ensure you have time available to work. It could be early mornings, late at night, or over the weekends and holidays.
Where it really makes a difference is the hunger to achieve. The question you have to answer here is, “how important is this idea for you?” Would you prefer watching a movie over the weekend, go shopping, hang out with friends at the mall or at a resort, or will you want to give all that extra time to pursue what you are passionate about?
This will determine your success. As Steve Jobs said “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” Unless you get hungry to achieve, and this is not just about money, you won’t fuel your idea with passion. And half the passion won’t get you there.
Build your support system.
Once you have your idea sorted out, the next step is to find your support system. In many cases, the support comes from a cofounder, who is willing to offer something on the table. I would discuss co-founders in another post, but the point here is when you have an idea, you need to find unconditional support from it. The problem most people face, are the demands of attention that come from the immediate circle – that include family and friends. The way to be successful here, is not to have them convinced about your idea, but have them convinced about your hunger and your drive. The fact that you are now going to focus your attention (not merely divert) on something you want to do for your self, your higher spirit. You have to let them know, this is where your satisfaction, happiness and hunger lies.
Many life partners will resist the change. It challenges the space you share with them. This is a difficult equation that you will have to manage. You will have to empathise with them on the sacrifice they are making. Always recognise they have a subconscious effect on how you function, even if they are not actively part of your idea. Make sure you offer them a good deal.
If you do not realise your own dreams, you will be living to realise someone else’s. As the enlightened President of India, Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam once said, “dreams are not what you see in your sleep, dreams are those that do not let you sleep.”
This is your first step. Be determined and do it.