Entrepreneurs are resourceful. They’ll make hay when the sun doesn’t shine too – and heck even find a way to make it far more effective than when the Sun is out. They “make” the ecosystem, they don’t wait for the ecosystem to emerge – quite the contrary to what is talked about often. Entrepreneurs waiting for an ecosystem is oxymoronic. Oh yes, the ecosystem will emerge, but when it does, the bigger opportunities vanish along with it, because guess what, the biggest opportunities are infact in building the systems and setting the standards.
Who is asking these questions though? Often people tell me that society will not accept failures, and i look around and try to remember the name of the last failed entrepreneur and its not even in my mind. The only person who takes failure badly is us… the entrepreneur. We are not used to handling failure yet (an event or two or three, not life) and it *feels* like the whole world is laughing at us, but that is us being delusional.
I had a mentor who often used to repeat that “Birds fly, fishes swim and startups fail”. Everytime i see a 3 people team trying to take on apple, microsoft or google, you know the odds are so darn skewed and 95% of startups will fail. The 5% is not the norm, its a miracle.
So when someone asks, why something failed, tell them “it was a startup, what else do you expect?”
Fred Wilson has a good post on how you should deal with advise. Know who is saying what and what their overall agenda is. It makes a ton of difference.
To be honest, I am a bit weary of firms that promise access to hundreds of mentors and in 3-6 weeks you get to meet them and you get to be flooded with all the spiel. I never understand what will happen to the mind of an entrepreneur. If they weren’t confused when they came in, they are now. Congratulations.
3-6 mentors, working closely and doing follow up. If you want to give advice but wont follow up, hear/see what worked and didn’t work and do corrective measures, then you aren’t a mentor – you are a fly by night gyan spewer and i wouldn’t let you anywhere near my teams.
Ultimately as entrepreneurs, its important for you to know that you are the ultimate captain of the ship. Someone today asked if that they’d like to brainstorm on an idea together. The point is, me or anyone for that matter will never understand the problem and the insights that you have as much as you do. You are the genius and the smartest person in the room when it comes to that department. If not, be that. Start afterwards.
I am in the middle of building two platforms. One being The Startup Centre, the older one, and its younger sibling In50hrs. In50hrs does get a bit of my attention, partly because I find my soul being there with entrepreneurs, teams, and ideas when they get that Aha! moment of breakthrough and build something. Its priceless being part of those moments.
Most of you might think that In50hrs is extremely well funded, or for that matter, The Startup Centre. I am not at liberty to talk about how much funding went into setting up The Startup Centre (yet), but I can tell you that In50hrs runs on extremely thin budgets.
We knew that overcharging participants is not a way out. People can only pay what they have, and anything more than INR 1500 for an event will become hard to sell – partly because of affordability. Students will need a discount. Which doesn’t leave much room to wiggle around.
If not for the generous support of organizations such as Thoughtworks, One97, Verisign etc who support us, In50hrs would be an impossible dream.
Yet, last year 1600 participants were part of it, 400 ideas were pitched, 283 prototypes were built, and 185 products launched. 28 startups came out of In50hrs and some have even gone on to raise institutional capital. All that, starts very small.
I love the energy when being in the middle of In50hrs. I love the community that Kerala, Pune and these smaller, endearing cities bring about. I love the moments when i have my jaw on the floor when people build amazing things, and talk about ideas bigger than this country, but are nowhere close to the metros. In50hrs is about that first step.
If you are imagining me high flying to most of these places, infact Redbus has been my best friend. We take the cheapest flights out (in cases like cities far to the north) and we exclusively travel by bus for all the neighbouring cities. By We, we mean me. Because, thats all the time that In50hrs can afford (barely).
An Event Platform like In50hrs costs anywhere between 20 – 25L per year to keep it running. While we have had some generous and far thinkers in the corporate world, raising all that money from corporates is turning out to be tough. Partly because I am stubborn not to want to turn In50hrs into a recruitment event. I cannot nudge someone with an amazing idea, and ask them to dare, and on the other hand also pitch a company that might be interested in hiring them and shelf their idea for a few more years. I’m gonna see the end of me, thanks to wanting to be black and white about it.
So in a moment of madness, thats original to entrepreneurs, I am thinking, if this is about the community, why not ask the community to own this as well. So we are going to start small, and raise 10% of the costs from the community (or atleast aim to). I can’t by any measure do this on your own, but if you’ve been a part of In50hrs and would love to help – in anyway – this is that moment to truly own this wonderful platform. Here’s the question then: Knowing all the pains and troubles we have as an ecosystem and country, would you like to be part of the solution, laying one crucial brick in India’s product ecosystem?
Im hoping your answer would be a Yes.