Last month, our Gurugram hub witnessed the second edition of our infamous event property, Fuck Up Nights and boy, what a stellar selection of entrepreneurs we had lined up for our attendees. First up we had Ankur Warikoo, CEO and co-founder of Nearbuy (formerly known as Groupon India). Followed by Chandan Gupta who is a techie at heart and now holds the position of Sr. Director at Snapdeal. Our final speaker was Raghav Verma, co-founder of the very popular chai company, Chaayos.
Keeping in mind the theme of our lovingly named property, Fuck Up Nights, all three of them spoke to us about their major fuck ups over the years and their learnings from those which have led to them being where they are today; highly successful entrepreneurs (isn’t that something all of us want to be?).
So, let’s get right to it. This post will talk about the various fuck ups and learnings from Ankur who is infamous for using the ‘F’ word and hence we really didn’t have to do much convincing to be a part of the event. He spoke about how passionately he felt for failures and how they should be spoken about a lot more given how much we can all learn from failures and mistakes.
Answering To Investor
When his startup came to life, he soon received an enormous round of funding, $17 Mn to be precise. But his first big fuck up was that he was answering to someone who didn’t really understand the passion he felt towards his business.
“Investors are in the business of entering and exiting businesses” said Ankur.
Their primary goal is to exit a company at some point and this is the exact opposite of how a founder feels. A founder always wants his business to last forever. Investors always tend to get anxious and start asking for growth numbers. However, you must ask them what do they mean by growth? Is it topline, bottomline or revenue?
All the news one hears about the mass layoffs at startups is all a result of the herd mentality of investors. So the major learning form this was that you must always question your investor as you know your business best. Just because the investor is footing the bill doesn’t mean he gets to be the final decision maker.
Never Put The Investor Before The Customer
Warikoo’s second major fuck up was that he put the investor before the customer and that’s something you must never do. His learning out of this was that you must never build a company for an investor, always build it for the customer.
Solve Problems That Exist
His third major fuck up was that he tried to solve a problem that didn’t really exist. For example, his first startup was in the used car marketplace sector and he soon learnt that the offline used car marketplace was thriving efficiently and hence the timing of his startup was just plain wrong.
His major learnings from this stint were that you mustn’t build a company for yourself just so that you can have the pleasure of solving a problem. First, understand how truly big the problem is and how many people are affected by it. Then gauge whether this problem is going to get bigger as time passes. Ask yourself these questions before getting into a business.
Then began a short and swift Q&A session:
How Do You Deal With And Manage Your Investor(s)?
Ankur: It must be a relationship and not just a transaction you share with your investor. I always confide in my investors and this means sometimes means I must show them some vulnerability every now and then. People like to see leaders who are human and that’s what inspires them.
Remember, investors don’t know the business, they only know the MIS (management information system). Smartness is not defined by the kind of solution you give to a problem. Smart people offer solutions, smarter people throw the right questions back at the person who empowers him to answer the questions himself.
How Does One Keep The Hunger Alive To Solve The Same Problem Day In And Day Out?
Ankur: Well, the only answer is conviction. Conviction to the level of insanity in some cases.
You must know and accept beforehand that it’s going to be a very steep uphill slope and that sometimes it’s going to drain you of all your time and energy and yet you wouldn’t have moved an inch.
The Final Word
He was then asked to share one piece of advice for bootstrappers too, to which he promptly replied “Always think of how you can make money because it’s only fashionable to raise money”.
All these collective fuck ups and learnings have made Ankur Warikoo who he is today. The CEO and co-founder of a company that plans to achieve a gross billing of INR 1,000 Cr in 2016-17.
[This post first appeared on 91springboard.com and has been reproduced with permission. 91springboard is a vibrant coworking community created for startups, freelancers and business owners with a startup mindset.]