67 years ago, our Constitution came into force, completing the country’s transition towards becoming an independent republic. The Constitution is a living document, an instrument which makes the government system work. While concluding his book – ‘Making of India’s Constitution’ – Justice Hans Raj Khanna wrote, “If the Indian constitution is our heritage bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, no less are we, the people of India, the trustees and custodians of the values which pulsate within its provisions! A constitution is not a parchment of paper, it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, its only keepers are the people.”
Our startup ecosystem is growing at a rapid pace and it would certainly be great if we had a set of rules in place to keep anarchy at bay. This Republic day, we at Inc42, have compiled a set of guidelines that was not drafted by us, but compiled from the list of 10 Commandments that some of the key stakeholders of the ecosystem shared with us. They each shared a list of 10 Commandments for the ecosystem that they think, would ensure seamless operations, rapid growth and ward off unwanted and uncomfortable circumstances.
Ajeet Khurana, Angel Investor, Mentor & Former CEO of IIT Bombay’s SINE
- It’s easy to be stupid in the startup world. Don’t.
- Just because there’s a lot of buzz about something doesn’t make it worthwhile.
- Don’t blindly follow the gurus. The rules are still being written in this space, so there isn’t really any such thing as a guru.
- The risk of failure is quite intense. You will quite likely lose everything that you put at stake. Don’t come in unless that seems acceptable to you.
- Startup equity and publicly listed equity are cousins. Just because publicly-listed equity is far more understood, it doesn’t mean that public equity principles (or should I say superstitions), are any less asinine than those found in the startup equity space.
- Fundamental principles of economics cannot be violated even in the startup space; but they do get temporarily suspended from time to time. Don’t be fooled by that.
- Every participant in the startup space goes through an unending emotional rollercoaster. It’s important to appreciate this and make reasonable decisions nonetheless.
- The total number of commandments need not always be 10.
- More commandments need to be added all the time.
- Most commandments are created just to impress others of one’s wisdom, and are violated all the time.
Naveen Tewari, Founder & CEO, InMobi
- Think Big – Can skyscrapers be built only with a vision of the first floor? We all know the answer to that. So think big, think scale and build for the future, as what works for a million does not work for a billion.
- Culture is everything – Invest in growing the right culture in your organization from the very beginning. It unleashes the true potential of people and creates an environment of free thinking. This will lead to innovation and disruption.
- Trust your people – Remember how bad you wanted that someone (mom/ father/ teacher/ superior) to believe in you? So believe in people by giving them greater responsibilities and they will often pleasantly surprise you.
- Fail but do not stop – Failing helps you gain early experience of what does not work. Ups and downs are inevitable. Grit and perseverance is what it takes to succeed.
- Continue to be a startup – Too many cooks spoil the broth. Break teams to be more nimble: aligning business, technology and engineering teams together. This helps solve for the inertia and deliver quicker and better.
- Discover the power of iteration – Time is the only non-constant so keep moving really fast. Fail, build, break, and repeat till you succeed. Innovation is not a ‘Eureka’ moment; it’s an ongoing experience.
- Rule of 50-30-20 – Invest 50% of efforts into business as usual, revenue generating efforts. 30% focus should be on strategic bets which will bear the fruit of success in the short term. And finally, ensure that there is at least 10% effort on moon shots, which may or may not culminate into wins, but are necessary none the less!
- Build IP – One mistake that most startups make is to focus only on beating the competition. If an organization has to survive in the long run, then they have to build IP.
- Go ‘Glocal’ – Don’t take shortcuts while entering new parts of the world. Hire local people in these regions and trust their decisions.
- Founders Connect – We at InMobi meet formally every week for an hour to discuss, brainstorm, chat, have critical conversations and take decisions. We share, we learn from each other and question everything that any of us proposes. This helps us take informed decision. Such collaboration is needed across the ecosystem where founders from different startups can meet, share and learn from each other.
Sanjay Mehta, Angel & PE Investor
- Be curious, ask lot of questions
- No text book rules to do business & do not clone other business.
- Get the customer pitching right is more important than investors pitching.
- Funding is not equal to success
- Do not innovate in finance & legal
- So-called expert consultants are clueless, figure out yourself.
- Do not short your vision or ideas early.
- Do not hire management team till series A funding.
- Be tolerant of ambiguity
- Ideas are fragile, nurture it.
K.Ganesh, Partner-Growthstory.in, Founder – Portea Medical
- Know your reason for starting up – wrong reasons are – want to make money, want to have more work-life balance, want to be won boss
- Do or Don’t – never try – In entrepreneurship , like pregnancy, you can’t be half pregnant – either you are an entrepreneur or you are NOT
- Avoid Vanity Metrics & goals – Media coverage, awards, Likes and retweets are not what makes a company
- Go for the stars – be bold and attempt to change the world. Even if you fail, fail spectacularly
- Funding is a milestone, not the goal post.
- First deserve, then desire – put your head down and work, don’t get distracted by noise around
- 95 % of the startups fail but that does not make you a failure- get up and start again, again and again till you succeed.
- Spreadsheet and PPT do not make a company – on ground execution is brutal and hard – prepare for it,
- Success is 50% luck + 50 % timing – rest is about your smartness! But 110% work, 28 hours a day has to come from you.
- Startups rule of 3 – everything takes 3 times the effort , 3 times the capital and 3 times the time that what you plan for.
Abhishek Goyal, Founder, Tracxn
- Focus on finding product-Market Fit before scaling aggressively
- Take advice from People who have done something similar before
- Take Feedback, a lot of it
- Focus on solving customer’s problem, instead of competition
- Always remember the MOAT(economic) of your business
- Keep refining how your market will look like in 5 years
- While getting early investors, focus on getting ones who are excited about your business as much as by the team
- Hire people with right attitude, function-specific skills can be learnt
- If you keep low-performers, your good performers will leave soon
- Don’t run out of money
Shailesh Vikram Singh, Executive Director, Seedfund Ventures
- Fundraising is the beginning of the struggle and not the end of it. So do not hype or over emphasise it.
- PR is important but not everything, and the one who is talked about maximum, also fades out fastest.
- Profitability is important and so is growth. A healthy balance is required, so build your hypothesis as you grow rather than having deterministic approach.
- Experts are in the end experts, the arm chair ones. Ignore them if you wish to build a business.
- All startup theories are at the end theories. Build your own.
- Leadership is more important than team structure / co-founders.
- Entrepreneur is most important element in the ecosystem. Keep focus away from them.
- Government has to become enabler rather than provider. Hence friction-less business environment is more imp than tax sops.
- Respect failure but don’t glorify failure as well.
- There is life beyond startups. Live well.
- Bonus Commandment – there are no rules, just play at your peak and hit hard
Vishal Gondal, founder and CEO, GOQii Inc
- Thou shall have balls and not business-plans
- Thou shall develop relationships and not transactions
- Thou shall focus on real pain-points
- Thou shall be number 1 or 2
- Thou shall focus on top 20%
- Thou shall avoid MBAs and spreadsheet-makers
- Thou shall celebrate failures and enjoy your journey
- Thou shall not want to sell
- Thou shall stay fit
- Thou shall win with…passion
Sairee Chahal, Founder & CEO of SHEROES
- Work towards high quality free internet for all
- Keep an eye on diversity at all times
- Don’t forget good corporate governance, as companies grow
- The ecosystem will grow as ones who are not in it are welcomed in
- Learn from failures and build on them
- Be mindful of echo chambers
- Revisit the basics often
- Employee health above all
- Be kind to the environment
- Achievers need to turn mentors
Rajat Tandon, Vice President, Nasscom
- Have the courage and conviction to back your ideas and face the challenges – If you aren’t confident of your own idea, there is no way you can convince investors to back you.
- Develop relationships beyond business; those who can’t help you today will prove to be valuable in time of need.
- Look at solving an everyday problem and focus on making a difference rather than making a living.
- Celebrate failures to focus on building a culture that focuses more on enjoying your entrepreneurial journey and keep moving forward – No one can teach you better as much as the failures would.
- Keep raising the bar and strive to get better every day – One should challenge himself to achieve more than his/her targets.
- Keep learning, unlearning and relearning every day.
- Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare some more for that pitch meeting to ably impress a potential investor and be prepared to answer questions concisely
- Know your core competencies and focus on them – No one knows your idea and approach better than you yourself.
- Grab the right opportunities at the right time – A smart entrepreneur knows when to grab the right opportunity and make the best use of it.
- Look for a right mentor and guide – Startup founders should find proficient mentors and a guide who can help evade bad decisions and provide the best advice they need in order to scale up fast. Behind every successful entrepreneur is also a great advisor. No startup can succeed completely on their own.
Although these commandments are not set in stone (as the real ones), these certainly have the ability to help you survive in this competitive ecosystem. These valuable inputs from these key stakeholders are casted with the undying passion for entrepreneurship and forged with years of priceless experiences. Thou shalt abide by these commandments!