You jump in to a start-up assuming that you can break-even in some time and cross that time with good bank balance, some funding. You are confident with good amount of friends you are in touch and good team members, clients and colleagues you have and this gives you confidence to start. Your spouse lives a frugal life and you enjoy the same and know you have limited expenses and needs for money and see that you have 18 months to go and explore. You know technology and frustrated with cost of education. You really wanted to solve problems in Indian learning space for the people at the bottom of the pyramid. You know khan academy does not reach Indian people at the bottom and are inspired to create something for others. I used to not like fear, loneliness and uncertainty.
Joined friends with similar community mind-set and I am in midst of start-up.You develop your products to solve problem you perceive, meet customers, explain your business case, collaborate with them and perform pilots. You meet a lot of students in various institutions and happy that the students use the product and feels satisfied personally. You changed your term from bottom of the pyramid to “rest of the pyramid”. The sense of personal satisfaction makes you build even lot more and you are fascinated what you build. Some of your well wishers are surprised with the focus you are working foregoing big pay packets and this boosts your ego. You get a lot of pride in what your doing talking to a large students and teacher audience.
You need learning content in platform. Then you realize content is not the trick, the content provider has no great content and all their content are looking same, but to part their content they are looking for large share. Either the service you offer should have high price which would not reach the target segment you choose. You realize that you need marketing and you find that your skills are not that. You learn trying hard at marketing yourself but fail to create the impact to generate money. You realize that average student and teacher are not tech savvy(they might have mobiles) and teachers have no clue to even use discussion forum. You find that there are similar solutions and some of them target the top of the pyramid.
You are joined by some one who promises to create sales channels. You work with mobile companies and realize that they are looking for you increase their device sales through you and not interested in the education space. You work with some educators who wants to work with you, but are interested to exploit students and you walk out calling ethics. Some of them say that you are too early in the market. You learn that cellular operators are not interested in solving problem and naturally interested in top-line and are ready to give freebies for offline model. You are not going anywhere. An educator company wants to invest in you and you come to know that they follow corrupt practices to make deals and you shoo them away.(this was good as they were embroiled later in media).
You have earned the friendship of great educators who are focused on education and realize that you might have to spend 5 to 10 years to become successful in education space. What you saw as opportunity continues to be one, but you need more time and skills to break in to opportunity. You realize that personal satisfaction has loses its priority with the money in your hand starts dwindling and also with the responsibility to pay salaries. In focus to solve problems,you have overseen the fact “You need money. The money need not come from solving a problem and not even from a customer; it can be a grant.”.
- For the first time I realize a lot of things in life that
- downside of loving technology work. Has it made me dull?. . Your technology focus is a not helping with skills needed for your business. your start-up focus has distanced yourself from your family and friends. Your family wants you to make money, but assume that that you are drowned in start-up. Your customers have started doing next pilot with next start-up.(they have not paid any one yet).
- the importance of having money. I need not spend. You might a frugal guy, but you need the comfort of having money. Your spouse gets pressure from family social circle and questioning herself “Are my family goals taken care of?”. For the first time, she looks in to bank balance and starts tracking after 10 years. She comes with valid point that ” Salaries have come down and prices have gone up”.
- You realize that you are selfish.For the first time, she calls me how much are you looking in to other well-being. You realize for the first time that you have been too selfish in what you were doing, to get personal satisfaction and you have not achieved your goals. For the first time, i realize the need to measure whether goals are achieved or not and important to measure this and keep changing.
- Need to plan actions and their impact by measuring results of actions.. You have measured results in your office with the intent that you always valued the efforts of individual more than the results and the same you applied for yourself.All was fine with money in bank and cushion job. It is not more the same when there is no money.
Life is lonely at start-up, there is fear for dear-ones and there is uncertainty going forward. I am learning to live with them. Started doing some consulting projects to remove uncertainty, reach to friends to get rid of loneliness and also catch new opportunities and thereby learning to live with fear. Going forward, I need to plan actions being aware of these feelings in me and my family.