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.


Anonymous said...

Interesting blog! You may be interested in my blog, as I am in the process of building my own startup from scratch, and am writing about my experiences in the lead-up to the launch on Birth of a Startup. I would very much appreciate your support and advice!

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