Startup Pitfalls & Hidden Struggles
I am a first time entrepreneur. I started a B2B Marketing intelligence software startup in 2013. Here are some pitfalls I went through during my entrepreneurial journey..
1. Starting As A Single Founder
I worked in technology industry for 10 years prior to starting my company. When I had the idea, I looked around for a co founder. I couldn’t find one interested in my idea or who could add value in terms of technical expertise, domain knowledge or commitment. So I didn’t wait for a perfect match day. I bootstrapped and started on my own as a solo founder. For almost 3 yrs, I worked an average of 18 hrs per day starting from the scratch, building a website to writing every bit of digital content, developing the product and running sales campaigns while building a remote team. This has taken a huge toll on my life-style. It almost felt like a social suicide. Loneliness and anxiety bites you every day. Coping with this hurdle made me a stronger and compassionate founder. Opting to go it alone and be a solo startup founder is a hard, but not impossible. It is an incredibly lonely journey. If the idea is good and the execution is quiet good enough, it’s okay to bootstrap solo. You can always bring in a co-founder later.
2. Working With Freelancers
For almost 9 months I worked as a one man shop to create a foundation for the business and built customer traction. Once I got some revenue, I looked around the freelance community to hire a few engineers and data analysts to speed-up product development & beautify my company website. I have mixed experience engaging with freelance workers. While I found an extremely passionate core tech talent, I also encountered delivery delays, non responsiveness, insensitiveness, greed, low quality and flee from several freelancers I tried. You may not be able to build a company solely with freelancers. They may workout as an extension of your in-house team to perform complementary tasks. Luck plays a big role in finding professional freelance talent to work on your projects.
3. Hiring Family & Friends
This perhaps was the biggest mistake of it all. When the business grew, I became desperate for talent to build the team. I became over excited and reached out to friends and family members to join my team. There was a feeling of personal responsibility to do so. When my ex lost her full time job, I decided to support. I inducted her into my company as a women Co Founder to showcase women empowerment impact. Several months into the team building, things began to fall apart. It was almost like a perfect set-up for failure. I faced the most difficult period in my entrepreneurial life facing Passiveness, Insubordination, Excuses, Betrayal, Arrogance, Greed, Laziness, Ego & Substandardness. I realized some of it happened only because I am family. Then followed a nasty separation with my ex, damaged relationship with some friends and family members. This was the lowest point in my startup career ever. It’s important to build company culture first and hire talent into it, exclusively based on skills and deliverable agreed, signed in blood and document it. Try to avoid hiring close ones!
4. Attending Startup Events
Entrepreneurship is being promoted and supported like never before. Startups have tons of opportunities for branding, networking, PR, fund raising, recognition & policy support. Failure’ is accepted and glorified as a great event these days. There is a startup conference & hackathon almost every day. Every street in town has a coworking space. Successful startup poster-boy stories are published every other day in media. Often times, startupers are being carried away with today’s fashionable startup eco-system processes. They get into this loop of hyped-up startup conferences, speaking events, watching what other startups are doing and sometimes get caught in jealousy and selfishness. There are VC’s in every corner who are looking for the next big bucks, some are excellent mentors with great experience and a few are desperate egoists with no entrepreneurial background but riding on some fancy college degree and connections. I went into some co working spaces, attended a few startup conferences, explored some new startup friendships and experienced all of it. The best learning for me was to be selective in startup events that are relevant for your business where your potential customers will attend and network with qualitative people who could introduce you to references, money, customers and help you grow. Stay away from fake mentors, selfish startup friends, judgmental legacy business men and negative people. Don’t waste time on irrelevant startup conferences. You may don’t want to get distracted by the fancy side of startup media world. Prioritize your focus to win customers, revenue, profitability & sustainability.
5. Dealing With Emotional Intelligence
I faced a few difficult employee situations where we had to let go some due to performance and attitude issues which didn’t go smooth. In certain client situations, potential customers could demoralize you as a negotiation tactic. Some will try to drag you down emotionally, tell you your business idea is silly, compare you with competitors and or even try to sabotage your efforts. As founders, we will be extremely passionate about our company and it could make us uncomfortable. You will be judged no matter what. Everyone is your “Friend “ But once you don’t benefit their interests, you won’t matter. There are those who talk, and there are those who do. Don’t Prove Yourself Everywhere. You may think that explaining yourself to these people will make things better. But in most cases, explanations won’t help. Decision Making, Professional Communication & Selective Ignorance is the best approach. Don’t wait for handouts, go hustle and make your money. You don’t have to be perfect for your life to be extraordinary.
6. Building Remote Team
We built a global team in 4 countries. This helped in reducing operational cost while getting more work done faster and cheaper with sustainable higher margins. Time-zone differences, communication gap, cultural differences, performance issues, lack of professionalism and insecurity could add extreme stress in operating through a remote team. It’s extremely important to form the core team as a single unit in one location and work together. The success of a remote team is dependent on flawless execution of work culture and developing professional leadership talent. 75% of startup effort goes into team management and dealing with corresponding stress.
YOU Define Your Own Success. Believe in Yourself. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Knowing your unique strengths and focusing on building on them is key to happiness and success both personally and professionally.
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