Questions of a Lifetime
13th December 2020 : 21:32:14 IST
Today was a special day. Not that something happened. And to the consistent readers of my posts (If there are any :p), this is not the usual one. Today is the day when I feel like writing a diary, but I don’t have one. I don’t have a pen, let alone paper. So, this is the only place where I can say something, and it’ll probably stay for months and years to come, reminding me of this day, this moment when this thought came to me. When I finally understood 10% of what I do and more importantly why I do it. And don’t judge me just yet, it might completely be BS.
Anyways, a girl named Nikitha from E-Cell IIT Mandi messaged me and asked “Could you please make a 1 minute video of yourself explaining about furrble or about startups in general. We are planning to have the Freshers introduction on 14th. So if you could do a video, it would be inspiring for them. If video is not possible a short testimonial would also suffice.”. I instantly knew that video was not possible, and anything planned is super difficult.
I asked her if I could appear in the live call, because that would require much less (~0) preparation from my side, I can say whatever I feel like saying and it’ll all work, but she denied saying they don’t have time.
At first, I did not take the question very seriously, so I felt like it is something super easy, I anyways just have to help motivate few first year students to pursue startups, explore entrepreneurship etc. I decided I would just write a testimonial and it was tough. Anything that I wrote did not make sense. It felt artificial, fake and something that you will listen all the other entrepreneurs/VCs saying.
I freaked out and reached out to a few people. It was like, I am being questioned what do I do and why I do what I do. But I don’t have answers to any of those questions. I left everything for a moment.
Some Random Memory
I was talking to my mother, on how she used to fool me saying, “Study now, you will get a plenty of time to watch TV and play games.”. I was arguing that it was a shit hole all-together. One never gets time. To which she replied, “It’s you who have chosen this lifestyle. You can just do your day job and have the whole evening to yourself.”
13th December 2020 : 23:05:51 IST
And snap. I understood everything. Stopped questioning stuff, messaged a “Thankyou” to Niveditha and Amol.
Conclusion, and the beginning
I personally hate the word “entrepreneur”. I don’t identify myself as one. I feel it’s hyped up. Being an entrepreneur is hyped up. A lot of us forget ourselves in the quest of becoming an entrepreneur. I recognise myself as a Tech Person (Something I always have been), someone who loves Physics, Astronomy, Economics(latest) and India.
Everything I wrote earlier was true for an entrepreneur, exactly something I was not. Few other things pointed towards me solving a deep problem in the society, and let’s be honest, no successful company has done that. And I am not an exception. I am not solving a problem worth solving. I just am not.
For past so many days and months, I told people that I don’t know what I am doing and where am I going. It’s like my eyes are wide open and still, I can not see anything. The feeling is terrible. I will digress a bit.
I was in my final semester, I had four choices in the companies I could join: Slack: An established company, Toppr: A 5 year old startup, Siemens Healthineers: Conglomerate, and lastly Semut.io: A very early stage startup. Other than the monetary benefits, they were also building something very cool. Something I would like to work on. Something which would feel useful. I chose Semut. It was a tough choice to make. From having a very hard time in getting a job in campus, I had a fear of everything. But still I chose Semut. Why? Honestly, I don’t know.
Back to the the reason of why I am doing a startup. So, I ruled out multiple things. I knew I probably wouldn’t make a lot of money from my first startup. It’d be great if I do, but given the market probabilities and statistics of first time founders, chances are lean. Returns only matter when the returns are in Billions and Millions. Otherwise, maybe the returns are good, but you don’t count the sleepless nights, soul and blood one puts in to build a company. And from my 7-8 month experience, let me be very clear, building a company is hard. It’s not as easy as it sounds and as glamorous as everyone portrays. Managing a team of 12 who don’t get paid for their efforts directly, because you don’t have money is hard.
Another thing that I have learnt is, funding is a catalyst in the longer process. It’s not direct success.
I have been questioning my life choices for past so many years now. And I usually fail at what I do. I am not a bright kid, nor a very hardworking and focused student. I probably have answer for one question out of so many coming to my mind. And it feels like a relief. Let me explain using a few questions:
- What is a Startup?
A startup is the people who build it and the way they execute. There is no idea which no one else ever had. Concept of Hotel booking is not new, Facebook was not the first social media platform, whatsapp was not the first chat platform, flipkart was not the first e-commerce website.
There is a finer detail here. The detail is, the team who made that was special. NO, THE TEAM WAS NOT MADE OF SUPERHUMANS. Infact no one is. If Steve Jobs did not have Woz with him, maybe apple would be different. Both are geniuses, but they need each other to make apple what it is.
If you find those correct set of like minded people, you will succeed. You will not succeed because you will earn money, or revenue, or profits. You will succeed because you will love working on your product. Rest will probably happen automatically.
I found the right set of people. For me, working with Shilpi, Garvit and Neelotpal was ought to be fun. That made my mind in the first place. I knew that if I am going to do something interesting, it’d rather be with my friends. I also saw a recent tweet by Kunal Shah:
I have met zero companies with reasonable success where the co-founders didn’t know each other from much before starting the company.— Kunal Shah (@kunalb11) December 12, 2020
Seems like arranged marriage model doesn’t work in building companies.
- Why should you do a Startup?
Because you will make the best friends you ever made in these 4 years. You will get people whom you can trust with blindfolds on your eyes. I just found those people. That in my opinion, is a good enough reason to build a product. You release, you monetise or not. This will surely be a one heck of a learning experience.
I will mention a few things that happened in the past:
1) India got a government who supports Businesses. Our Ease of doing business ranking rose from 134 in 2013 to 63 in 2020.
2) Government made a huge blunder: Demonetization. But hey, that blunder wasn’t all that bad. India started it’s journey on the path of being a cashless economy. Now you can actually pay money to someone without getting banks directly involved. UPI Came in. Rise of PayTM, PhonePay, Zerodha, and many other startups can be directly attributed to this.
3) Government opened PPP Model in various sectors. Economy opened up. KYC became easy, thanks to Aadhar and digitisation.
4) And at the end, Excessive Smartphone Penetration and Dirt Cheap Data in hands of people holding cheap made in India phones.
5) And then, biggest of all, COVID19 Happened!!! EVERYONE UNDERSTOOD WHAT IT MEANT TO BE ONLINE, EVERY BUSINESS, EVERY STUDENT, EVERY EMPLOYEE went online.
You have historically the largest amount of people holding smartphones with internet connection. You are in a country which is creating Millionaires at the craziest rate.
At the end of it all, India is still solving 1st degree problems. Unlike the USA, where there are too many startups that they have already solved almost all their 1st and 2nd degree problems. Their DoorDash already saw an IPO a few days back, while our Zomato’s and Swiggy’s have just begun. There are a million problems to be solved, there are a billion people to be served.
The last and the most important reason
After all that, you still need that one idea. We got that as well, a very promising one indeed. In a sector which sees enormous growth every year. Indian Pet Market is the fastest growing pet market in the world with no major players yet.
But it was more than that. Now that I see this, it was just the dopamine rush that I felt while working. I was bored, I needed a kick. That is it. My main reason for doing a startup is the dopamine rush it brings when you are creating a product. The race with your competitors, the race of getting there asap, the thrill of having discussions on something that one day you wish would bring in Million Dollars in revenue.
To the future me, this is a good enough justification of why you are doing what you are doing. We’ll chase stability later. It’s the time to chase madness. If this doesn’t go right, I am not sorry for this.