Atit is the co-founder at Gigstart.
Now that Gigstart has been funded, I want to share my experiences of how to bootstrap a company. I want to speak the harsh reality, my personal opinions, and I do not intend to negate what the greats of the industry have said. I only mean to share what I have learnt.
Ideate more before, Execute more after
The toughest thing to do is, to start. But, before someone starts working on an idea I would advise them to brainstorm. Share your ideas with as many people as possible. No one will copy your idea because if your idea is good enough, someone must have already thought about it or is already doing it. The only thing to do then is to find a better way to do it.
Once started, don’t spend time ideating over new avenues or business ideas.
Before you set out to build a product, look for people who are already doing it, discover synergies and ways of working together but don’t attend too many networking events.
Date, Live-In and Marry
You should treat finding a co-founder like getting into a relationship. It is better to date, get into a ‘live-in’ and then commit, rather than just acting out of desperation. I totally understand that we need partners to bring our ideas to life but that does not mean that you partner with anyone. Posting on Facebook groups or other places for finding a co-founder is the biggest mistake you could make. This is like a committing to get married on a blind-date. I would advise getting into an assignment based agreement to check compatibility.
Be like Shahrukh Khan and not like Amir Khan
Everybody has limited resources when they start. Obsessing over details and being perfectionists is not the right to do. Don’t worry about design and other softer details too much. In no way I am implying that you should not strive for perfection but there is a right time for everything and IMHO initial days are about shipping and failing until you succeed.
Increase the no. of stakeholders who want you to succeed
How many people in your life want you to succeed apart from your parents, siblings, loved ones and close friends? The number is usually limited to single digits for most of us. For an entrepreneur, this number runs into double digits because of various employees and investors. Maximize this number. For example, every driver in the world wants his cab company to succeed. 50K sellers want Snapdeal to succeed. I have not even started talking about the consumers who have used and liked these products. That number might just run into millions.
Think big but set short term goals
Every startup needs to have a vision and it should be nothing less than to become a billion dollar company. But, it is very important that you focus on today. As a bootstrapped company, the next 30 days from now are the most important days for you. Don’t have too much on your plate. Prioritize. Set short term goals. Achieve them and celebrate.
The 6-3-9 rule
Whenever you start-out you need to have 6 months of expenses that you and your company are going to encounter stored, in your bank. During these 6 months of operations you should be able to generate cash for 3 more months. 9 months would then be enough for you to validate the idea, show some sustained growth and get good valuation.
Pain killers are better than vitamins
Always focus on solving a problem rather than changing user behavior. When you’re a small company limited by resources, this is the best course of action. To give you an example, if you are a small company foraying into the transportation industry, you would want to solve the transportation problem by making a sophisticated and easy system like OLA. Unless you’re a big company, you should not try solving this problem by working on driverless cars.
And remember; always build something you would want to use. Build for consumers, not for investors.
Early traction is just an illusion
Let me bust this myth for you. In today’s world, you would find early adopters for most of the ideas. But, the value lies in scale. The call you need to take here is whether you want to build a lifestyle business or you want to build a venture back able business.
Spray and Pray
Start scouting for investors after 100 days of product roll-out. I am telling this from an e-commerce standpoint but this may differ for product startups. Write to everyone. Be precise about what you need. Don’t waste someone’s time. People in the entrepreneurial eco-system are very helpful in nature so don’t shy away from writing to that billion dollar startup CEO. He is nicer than you think he is.
Team. Team. Team.
All successful businesses have been built by a very strong team. You will have bad times more often than you anticipate. Build a team that will face the fire with you and emerge stronger every time from the ashes. Hire good people and make sure you provide them good work.
Easy is wrong
If it’s easy and everything is going right, then definitely you’re on the wrong track. People who agree to work with you without questioning you and challenging you, investors who agree to invest without asking the hard questions and being critical or the customer who agrees to pay without asking for the terms will back out in the end.
Forget about your personal life
For the first 12 months you will need to give the lowest priority to your personal life. This period can run longer but I wouldn’t know as it has been only a year since we started Gigstart.
Shameless Self Promotion
When you start, you will not have any budgets or even the know-how to market your products. Your early customers will only be your friends, family or their connections and that is why you shouldn’t shy away from promoting your products on Facebook, Whatsapp, SMS’s etc. This also means that your product needs to be good enough as you are staking your reputation over it.
Ownership brings out the best in people
I think this is a learning I would want to propagate. Don’t hesitate from giving equity to your employees. Ownership brings out the best in people.
The entrepreneurial journey is a very humbling one. You will meet various kinds of people, employees and customers and to have humility will ensure that you stay grounded, always. The journey is such that many people will give you their opinions. Listen to them. They might just help you look at things differently. Listen to them, but do what your heart tells you to.
Truthfully, in my journey till now, I have not been able to implement many of these things but if I knew them before hand, I would have surely done everything the way it is written above. I hope this read was informative for you.