Date archives "July 2010"

How Much Do You Need to Raise?

I watched the latest episode of “The Founders” a short while back, this is definitely a series I would recommend to everyone, specially entrepreneurs. This series gives you a sneak peak at the ‘behind the scenes’  scenario of an entrepreneurship incubator. In it, a venture capitalist I follow (Brad Feld) , asks a group of entrepreneurs the question, “How many of you guys have not figured out how much money you are going to raise”. Far too many hands went up and it struck me that this question is really not given enough attention at all. As bootstrapping entrepreneurs, most of us look to raise a round of capital and more often than not, allocate an arbitrary number as to how much.

He goes on to say “At any moment in time, raise the least amount of money to reach the next moment in time that makes sense.” I thought about that statement for a long while, it made a lot of sense. I believe a majority of technology entrepreneurs envision raising millions of dollars and hopefully morphing into something like Google. We jump the gun, and this has been repeated time and time again by successful entrepreneurs;  raising “too much” funding” plays against you. By setting your round requirements with a tangible milestones that can take you to the next level, forces you to focus on creating a realistic trajectory for your business. Raising a round of funding is not an exit for the entrepreneur, it is actually an additional responsibility, that must be shouldered to reach the next milestone.

In conclusion, the ability to answer the above question, with a methodical and structured plan, will give a much more positive and reassuring signal, rather than telling an investor that you need to raise $X to reach the next milestone. Articulating your vision, as well as not forgetting to bootstrap, will not only help you validate your idea faster, it will enable you to remain agile and be able to pivot when things do not seem to be working as planned.

Purpose Driven Life

This blog has been instrumental in my personal self discovery journey to find my purpose in life. I don’t think I am there yet but I have a feeling that I am getting very close to crystalizing the thought. It started off with the core purpose being to build a company from an early stage startup to a global company. I think a lot of entrepreneurs start off with that vision and some of them actually make it all the way to the end. However the more I spoke to people who have attained great success in all aspects of life I found that none of them had a central purpose of that was singularly driven by material acquisition. In fact the individuals I have met who have placed this purpose at the center of their lives are far from happy as to where they are today.

There was one thing I did know that I loved and it was startups. For the last 7 years I have been hacking away at startups of all types. I have assumed different roles and responsibilities, through this process I have learned about myself. What my strengths are, which areas I require assistance and most importantly learning what I really enjoyed doing on a daily basis. One of the biggest learnings personally has been that I really love what I do on a daily basis. Not only do I work on my own businesses I also assist others in getting started and helping them through the first 2 years of the business where one has to find their footing. Which has slowly brought me to what I really want to focus on as being a core purpose. It is to assist individuals find career paths & professions that bring them a similar sense of satisfaction and enjoyment as I have found in the one I have selected. I still haven’t quite articulated the way that I would like but I know I am very close.

To accelerate this I have a new startup which is currently in development called Identifii. Its core purpose is essentially to assist individuals in making more informed career decisions. It is quite remarkable how both these paths have merged. Over the last few years I have been coaching individuals but always felt constrained by the number of hours in a day. I also became a certified psychometric consultant in 2007 and that was another major factor in learning about personality types and finding appropriate career fit. All of these experiences seem to culminate at this one point where these two paths merge. None of this could have been possible without all the support I have got from my family, my awesome business partners, clients who helped me bankroll myself till date, this blog for being a place to articulate my thoughts and a little bit of luck.

If you are reading this blog and have found your central purpose in life, I would really like to hear from you.

Defending Yourself

Entrepreneurship is a tough business. If you start taking everything that is thrown at you, without putting up a fight, chances are that you will get steam rolled. This will happen whether you are in the right or not. The only option here is to be able to stand your ground. To do this,  several factors  need to be in place:

1. Stick to the stance you have decided to take,  no matter what. This could be in a negotiation, in a conflict or during a normal conversation. If you waiver from one opinion to another, know that you will be shot down. Defending yourself on one front is far simpler and more effective, than attempting to hold up multiple fronts.

2. Keep your words and thoughts in check. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we may do, say or gesture something that can completely derail our position. This is another reason why it is important to defend a single front… it has a lower probability of error.

3. Being diplomatic is one thing, do not however be a push over. Often in many situations, we are placed in a difficult spot, where although we may be right, doing or saying something may easily offend someone on your team. However, when you think that  unfair advantage is being taken of a given situation, it is always better to voice your opinion  rather than creating similar opportunities for others in the future.

The odds often seem  stacked against us entrepreneurs to succeed! This means that the only people to break through will be those with maniacal focus, the ability to defend their ideas and tactics,  and work ways to keep moving forward. I personally think aggressiveness is instilled in most great entrepreneurs. Admittedly it manifests itself in different ways , depending on the personality of the person. I do believe however, that aggressiveness coupled with maniacal focus, and a strong competitive streak,  form the basis of a  basic entrepreneurship blueprint.

Burning Out

A definition of  ‘burnout’ I came across recently was “Burnout is the gradual process by which a person, in response to prolonged stress and physical, mental and emotional strain, detaches from work and other meaningful relationships. The result is lowered productivity, cynicism, confusion…a feeling of being drained, having nothing more to give.”

That sounds really serious. I’m sure that anyone who becomes that disconnected from everything around them, should take serious time out to reflect about what is really going on in their life. However, I see the term burnout being applied a lot more lightly and loosely these days. It has almost become an excuse for not working as hard as you can. Everyone has days when we feel we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders and do not know how much longer we will be able to hold up for. I am having one of those days today as I type this blog post. Juggling multiple projects that have suddenly been  activated after months of pursuing them, has become an extremely complicated and very exhausting exercise. The feeling of exhaustion that I feel at this point is not really burnout. It is simply a case of managing  time optimally to achieve the required results.

The last month has pretty much been 18+ work hour days… all week long! When I got into entrepreneurship and started carving out my own path, I was well aware that these would be my work hours. A good learning curve about working at these levels is, that it is also a test for all the people you work with. You get to know who copes well under pressure, who cannot handle it , who delivers on their targets and who does not. In my experience the only people who really make it through these periods are those who truly love what they do every day. Those who literally live and breathe what they do.

From personal experience,  I find the best way to bring some sense of balance to such strenuous periods is to reward myself when a set series of goals have been met. It helps me to push harder during these busier times, knowing that there will be a short term win around the corner!