A year ago, a bunch of adrenaline junkies quit their high-paying jobs in search of the greater good and to follow their passion. And that’s how Osmnez was born and now it’s time for our first anniversary celebrations.
Soon after we (Naveen, Santhosh and I) quit our jobs, we started doing our homework – the background research on how to start a company. The gatherings took longer than I wanted it to and there were more ideas, advices and opinions on the table than I imagined. The perception I received was mixed and scary – “the market is bad”, “ the bubble is likely to burst anytime”, “VCs are ready to invest but unless you are from IIT, tapping funding is almost next to impossible”. Thankfully, we pushed ourselves through the storm, and on the other side, the reality was blissful. Investors are hunting for talent and if you fit their profile, they chase you down. We renamed Osmnez and launched Zarget (?), a new-age A/B Testing and Heatmap software. Simply put, it enables you to see what exactly are people doing on your website and help increase its performance in terms of conversions, signups, and sales. Today we are back with our legendary story.
Through the last one year of entrepreneurship and years before that as a product evangelist and product marketer, I have learned some tangible things to benefit from. At the same time, I realised the need to cast away some of the learnings which were no longer relevant in this new world.
5 Things I Unlearned From My Past
Escalations vs. Ownership
In the face of arguments and deadlock situations, we always reach out to the upper management for a solution. But that was in the past. Fast forward to the present, we are the upper management. So how do we deal with the impasse? In our office, we created Direct Responsible Individuals (DRIs) for every role- who would discuss with all parties involved, take their suggestions, and help solve every standstill situation, and almost always, their call is the final.
No More “Go To” Guys
Delegating and executing tasks used to be a piece of cake. If I wanted to host an event, I can rely on an event manager, admin, travel concierge, accounting and other teams to handle hall booking, logistics, travel, accommodation and everything else related to the event. In a startup, you ARE the event manager, travel concierge, and accounting team. You are your “go to” guy.
Job vs. Dream
No matter how much you love your job, as an employee you work for 9 hours, have a great work-life balance, weekends and planned vacations. But when you are chasing your dream, there is no stopping at anything. Your passion supercedes everything else. You work relentlessly all the time except when you are asleep.
From Processes to Hustling
Processes are good, maybe, for established companies. There is an early head start on planning, several levels of approvals, cross-team dependencies, iterations and execution. A startup life, however, is a scramble to accomplish everything in limited time with limited resources. We hustle our way out and do whatever it takes to get things done.
Every company’s spending pattern can be traced back to what needs to be accomplished and how soon. If you need to execute something faster, you tend to spend a little more. When I attended events, I booked flights available at our convenience and stayed at the hotel where the event was hosted. But now we are all about booking cheap flights and staying at affordable hotels. All startups live by the word frugal, and budgets overpower convenience.
5 Things I Learned In This Journey
Principles vs Reality
Often you are guided by a school of thought, or vision statement laid down by your mentor or the company you work for. As in the case of most followers, this “dogma” is easily agreed and accepted. The real world, however, is entirely different. One such dogma I snapped out of was that a bootstrapped model was the most sustainable business model. I took it to heart, till I experienced the other side of the world.
Saying “NO” Isn’t Bad
Every step, you take, will attract all kinds of interests- VCs looking to invest, friends and relatives looking for job opportunities, uncalled-for advices, negative feedback, among other things. You find yourself in a pickle. Thoroughly analyse the pros and cons of the opportunities presented. Indulge, if interested; ignore, if not. Always remember not to entertain interests that don’t present value to you.
Call Out “B***S**T”
You are courteous. We get it. It is a nice thing. But it doesn’t win you any brownie points. When you are trying to build something world-class, being diplomatic doesn’t get you anywhere. You need the honest opinion, no matter how blunt or brutal it is to rework on your strategies. It is also equally important that you return the favour. Remember, communication is key. Be transparent in your opinion and complement it with supporting facts and data.
Wearing Different Hats
The startup life comes with all kinds of responsibilities. There is a wide spectrum to cover, right from admin, HR, product management, pre-sales, sales, marketing to right up till support, and all other odd jobs in between. There is no single role for one and that’s the way it is. Our product marketer tackles every job that comes his way with pretty much the same kind of enthusiasm he had when we hired him- be it content writing, product how-to docs, technical support for customers, pre-sales, sales or even product management.
Learn by Doing
It is always easy to hire someone to offload one-time tasks. But, nothing ever comes close to rolling up your sleeves and having a go at it. There is no hiding that something like this takes a lot of your time, but the learning goes a long way and helps you reference pain points in the future. One of our co-founders sat through several weeks to learn, implement and manage AWS servers, something that was not his strongest suit till then.
Zarget first year timeline: