Saturday, December 23, 2006

The birth of a startup

The birth of a startup is a fun but painful state to be for the entrepreneur.

I am a mentor at MIT's Venture Mentor Service, and I also hear from lot of you from this blog, so I do think about a lot about startups.

I came into that state recently when I interviewed Tony Conrad of Sphere for StartupStories. It was about an early stage startup from a passionate entrepreneur, whose passion for his startup just lingers on and I cannot stop thinking about it, I dream about the growth of that startup, think about challenges and fun options and begin analyzing that startup as if I were part of it. Would they take up this idea, what are some of the execution challenges, is this a real direction, can they monetize this way .. Oh the crazy mind of an entrepreneur!

I went through that with Coola, my first startup. My co-founder had another finance idea better developed, and we took it to Fidelity. Its still a viable idea even today, which we thought we were not well equipped to scale then and did not pursue. More important, I did not feel the passion to give me the adrenal required for the crazy hours.

Entrepreneurs can go through a lot of cycles to find that new idea.

The funny thing is that this stage is the awakening of the entrepreneur in you! You would do this if you woke up with an idea and went to check it out. There are two simultaneous path to pursue, one is to validate the idea, the technology behind it and find people who know the technology or space to bounce off the size of the idea. Other is to check frantically whether someone else if solving the same problem. I heard an investor say that if its a real problem, chances are that 2 more people are trying to solve it in the world and its validation of the idea.

Life gets crazy when the entrepreneur in you is woken up and you don't own one idea but have several new ideas. The challenge is to focus, its easier said than done. You still have to chase multiple paths and check the viability and find the team that can help scale the idea, but figure out which is the one for you and own it, dream it and nurture it with your whole heart, mind and soul.

Personally for me, I iterate between these modes, but my real startup is born when I have a team, then its real for me. Its a commitment of my time and my partner. That makes me look at all the ideas on the table in different stages to focus and put my entire energy into one. If you have done it before you know its people not ideas that matter.

Its scary to see many new entrepreneurs today, with lot of tech ideas, but wasting their energy by dissipating it among a bunch of ideas. None get to the next level. Worse is if they muddle up all the ideas and try to bring them to one startup. I am not kidding, I've myself attempted it once. In some sense I see that as an early stage of the growth of an entrepreneur.

We can dream up ideas, can try to figure out what is viable, chat with friends and dream up options. Some take it further to validate an idea with who they believe are customers or market experts. Many loop at this stage because they ask too many questions too soon and theorize on having all answers.

Real entrepreneurs grow up to the next level when they learn to focus, and push their execution plans to their limits and dare to find people who can complement their skills and make the plunge to execute and find the real answers - thats when viable startups are born.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

StartupStories - Real Stories. Real Inspiration.

I have been writing my own startup experience here. I am amazed by the number of brilliant smart entrepreneurs who contact me and wish there were more honest information out there for people starting up.

The biggest challenge new entrepreneurs face is to insert themselves into the startup ecosystem. If is no different from moving to a new school, job, church or city, you have to be in it to become part of it.

I've talking to some of you about how to expand this to bring in real experience of more entreprenuers beyond me.

I've partnered with a friend and begun writing real, inspiring stories of entrepreneurs at Our real success would be when people get inspired and become entrepreneurs. We decided to keep it a clean layout and not even ask users to post it on reddit or digg. We want real market feedback.

I've been an Internet geek and entrepreneur since the early boom of the web. I've worked in Marketing in large companies and have used the latest tools and techniques for reaching customers and users.

Still, it never ever ceases to amaze me when I sense a new user's excitement on the net, accepting value that I've worked to build for them!

On thursday, a user posted our first story from to's consumers know their power and quickly users voted up our article to 238 points and we were on the front page and got tons of users, comments and lots of subscriptions with the hope that we'll offer more such stories.

We've built a pipeline of more stories and I am having fun meeting interesting people. We are focusing on real stories of people on how they got started from an idea and their values in growing their startups, finding business models and their exits and on the early funding cycle.

Is there any person's story or specific startup topic you'd like to see from someone's experience? You know, I'd be sure to get it for you.