Lessons in Starting Up

Entrepreneurship is counterintuitive. Some of the most celebrated business school learnings may not hold water when it comes to starting up. I have tried to share some of my learnings which I have gained through experience which I feel might be of value to many aspiring entrepreneurs out there.
You never start up to get funded!
I think in today’s day and age, funding is over-rated. Most of the entrepreneurs start with asking the question – ‘will I get funded?’ and post a round of funding, they feel that they have achieved their goal. But little do they realise that this is just a means to an end. I think celebrating funding is like congratulating an athlete for buying new running shoes before the race has started. An entrepreneur generally starts their journey to solve a pain point that they are really passionate about eradicating. So, they must continue to focus on their primary objective and let funding simply nudge them further on their journey ahead.
Know your customer well
If you have noticed, I have written ‘customer’ and not ‘customers’. This is very crucial when you are starting up to have the ‘one customer’ in your mind and know them really well. By really well, I mean – you should know their name, where they live or work, what they do every day etc. Live and breathe their life.
Your product/solution may solve the pain point of various customer segments. But it is important for you to have the razor sharp focus on one customer. This has multiple benefits – from designing your product really well to chalking out an impeccable marketing campaign to communicate to your very customer. In the initial stages of a start-up, there is always this urge to expand the definition of your customer segment so that you can reach out to a much larger customer base. But it requires a lot of discipline to stay focused. When we designed the program to target working professionals, we got a lot of interest from colleges and corporates to offer the same program to students and employees. But we stuck to catering to the working professionals – with a single agenda to wow them.
Go all out to wow your first set of customers
When you are starting up, you are low on resources with a limited marketing budget. Your best source of getting a good word out for your venture and the product is your ‘satisfied customers’. Therefore in early days, it is important for entrepreneurs to focus on ensuring that your customers are happy using your product and are willing to recommend the same to their peers. In the process of doing this, you will end up doing things that may be difficult to scale up. However, your focus should be on getting and giving the best experience to your consumer. Try to get continuous feedback from those who have tried and used your products and keep improvising accordingly.
At the end of the day, a start-up is a continuous learning process. These are just a few lessons out of the countless ones I come across on a daily basis. So if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, all I would say is don’t run after funding, let it run after you; believe in your product and listen to your customers even when they are just whispering and everything else will fall into place.

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