We started off before nearly one year now. The initial cofounder count was four and because of internal bleeding in our startup which happens in all the startups and groups where people with vivid mindset gathers one had to leave the venture after couple of months. We were making lots of mistakes in the beginning. Making mistakes is always appreciable but our mistakes should never get appreciated since many of them was because of being casual or not having any idea of what’s next or a plan of execution. We were all young and students with flourished brains generates ideas and ideas over ideas which we thought as each will make a billion dollar startup. Without even understanding who are our customers and whether this ideas can really be real products which at least a thousand will use daily we planned what we will buy when we get our first billion.
Here’s the mistakes we made till last night in our startup life. Many could’ve been avoided if me, the leader were little more serious about my responsibilities than just saying that cliché name as the CEO. But we did one thing, which is important and we keep on doing that. The learning from mistakes part after facing the effects of the mistakes. It was not like we started learning and understanding from the beginning itself, it also took time. We were not much worried of the after effects of the mistakes in the beginning. We were having some money to burn and our burn rate was not at all the good one since we were a startup making absolutely no revenue that time. But things changed and we started feeling the heat of startup ecosystem. We sat, discussed and we understood that this ain’t a simple thing to do and there is no box of billions coming to us in a not-so-perfect world. Let’s start the mistakes one by one.
1. The untimed delivery of unwanted discussions
We were more like a typical startup in most of the days. We start of the day lately. Takes till the noon to start working on the ideas we thought as the billion dollar products of which none saw the end of development and became a real product. Even if the situation was all negative we were cool and always calculating the billions and things we can buy. Since we were not really working much in a systematic way we had lots of time free and there came the first worst part of the startup journey. Unwanted discussions instead of focusing what was important. We discussed about scaling up without having no understanding of when to scale, how to scale, or nothing other about that, we discussed about equity shares when we had no product, no actual product idea which can become a sellable product which there after have to get us revenue, or anything to be specific as we have. Just a four people sitting in room waiting for the box with billion dollars to get delivered talking about who gets more equity or who gets what, we were not even considering who puts more work and anything relevant even if we can convince someone that’s the equity talk was needy.
We had small fights and small issues between cofounders which is not a big mistake but a common thing in startups but since we do care about the reasons why the mistakes happened we are not going to leave that as a normal issue. The fights were mainly about decisions taken, equity (again), place where we can expand (stupid at that stage of our startup) , resources being used by cofounders (this one is more stupid), and we even had fights that went too emotional over organic and paid marketing techniques which was absolutely an unnecessary discussion that time. One of our cofounder was from outside the state and he was not really able to adjust with the culture and we were also not able to make things upto his level. The small small adjustment issues got worse in time and we started disagreeing on many things in a row. We were, including me, having lots of psychological barriers which we must have taken care of before jump starting. We focused on talking, discussing, planning, dreaming and less on doing and making the real product. None in the world is bad till you go bad against them. The cofounder who left not in a rude way also was not a bad person. He had nothing to do since he’s a person with expertise in marketing mainly. We had no product to market or any viable idea to plan marketing. He was bored of doing nothing relevant and we were also feeling the same. Losing a cofounder who could’ve been useful in a long run is one bad after effect we faced from our mistakes.
2. Pivoting without real need of pivoting
It’s not like we had the worst product ideas all the time. We too had great ideas which we saw becoming products and some exactly like how we planned and dreamed after months we pivoted from the idea. We kept on pivoting from one idea to another and the process continued. Whenever we see a person saying that this isn’t a good product we started developing a negative feel about those ideas we were working that time and eventually we do pivot. The issue was not always the idea being bad but the reality that we were not a stable startup to decide goals, plan the paths to the goal and execute it well. We were not expecting lots of works but we needed all the benefits to come. When we faced a real need of work input we start thinking about pivoting and moving to a new idea and for the sake of God there were hell lot of ideas coming up in that frustrated mind. One idea looked more shinier than the other. So like children we went for the shinier one. The team were not stable nor the leader which was me. The team got inherited from me to the idea of not working and pivoting.
Sometimes we saw the wrong customer and got bad response. That’s a very excellent mistake we made which is being made by many startups all around the world. Finding the wrong customer and market. The wrong customer is not going to pay for your product and he or she might not be finding your product as that useful or interesting. Even if you heard an expert say that your idea or product isn’t valuable make sure that the expert is from your market with expertise in your own market. Pivoting is the trend and in my view that was a big mistake we made. We could’ve made those products after a good quality research and validation of idea and market and see the response from the users and iterate with findings till we hit a dead end or a success instead of blindly believing something and dropping. Ideas are worthless unless it’s executed well. The persuasion, dedication and love for doing mixed with confidence is what a good entrepreneur should have instead of a ear which hears everything and a brain which doesn’t work much to skip what’s not important.
3. Focus was all on the infinity where nothing was there for us
We made it. The mistake that made lots of startups have a hard time on their road. We were not able to focus ourselves to work for the best output. We failed in the beginning to set our priorities, our goals and obviously we had no plans to execute on. We jumped from doing one part of the project to the other when a new shiny bubble popped up. We failed to stick on and put something even if it sounds great and shines like a star in the backdrops and finish what we must do first. This was a mistake which was fatal from my view. We were taking decisions without thinking much and most of the time decisions led to disastrous outputs. We were literally finishing nothing but doing everything at once. That was a very very bad days we lived as a startup.
4. Always thinking that we need more resources and people to do things without understanding that we can do it ourself
Not everything requires an expert to sit in it to get developed. We had enough expertise and skilled individuals to get things done. We had an exceptional developer who can make anything as our CTO. We were not requiring Mac Pros or workstations to get our MVPs made or even to develop the actual product. We had more than enough resources but we kept on saying that we need more and better to be make things developed. We should’ve started making instead of talking about making. We should’ve tried doing instead blindly saying that we cannot do. We were under estimating ourselves just because our subconsciousness kept on saying pivoting and being unstable is good and we don’t have to work much. We should’ve realised that that was not the dream on which we decided to startup. I started this entrepreneurship journey from the age of 13. I was not with full of resources when I achieved the best of my life. I clearly knew that I had nothing in my hand but decided to fight. As a leader I failed in the bad beginning of my startup to inherit this life lessons to the team and empower it to believe on its strength and abilities to start doing and winning.
5. Pitching, making deck, investment, hiring and all this illusions which kept the reality hidden.
We started making pitch decks. I am an average designer who have 4+ years experience in presentation designing I always felt happy to make pitch deck preparation as the first step of every startup idea. I used to make pitch decks after pitch decks for each ideas we pivoted from. I never thought of a business model, revenue model, financial projection or anything which is relevant or important than any other documentation. Not just from an investment perspective but from a leadership perspective I could’ve put my energy and time in planning, researching and building my startup instead of thinking and making presentations. We have learned, brainstormed, improvised and did bring lots of things that added value to our startup in the past year. We were blessed with ability to accept mistakes so we learned after getting blessed of that, meaning that we were arrogant enough not to mind the after effects of our mistakes first. Still we have lot to learn. We don’t have a business plan now in a documented format and I’m really working hard to make it now.
We knew, especially I knew that it’s important than anything. But we pitched to a wonderful person last night. Paul Jiten, a professional who have more than two decades of industry experience gave us a chance to pitch to him and that went not as we expected. He poured positive energy to me from the first minute of the call till the end. He told me that business plan is what I should make now and he appreciated the fact that we have made the product already without external funding. For me it was a great opportunity to hear from such an experienced person. I accepted that I just be having but I had no documented business plan nor I was able to convince him with what I’ve in hand which was nearly nothing from the business perspective. That was another mistake we made and that too last night. But I stayed up till 3 in the morning and woke up early and spent whole day and night learning about making a great documented business plan. We knew our product well and how it’s going to work out. It’s a problem driven product and we have done good validation of it from studies from Facebook and other reputed industry leaders. So we have to put what we know and what we should be knowing into a well documented plan to set goals, plan actions, strategies, policies and everything and execute it to meet the ends. We are working on what’s important, what’s necessary and what brings more value to our venture instead of what makes us just happy for the moment. He gave us good advises, gave us a a light to what an investor really look in a startup before outing his money and that was very helpful for us since we were always ready to learn and improvise. He didn’t say that he will invest or will not invest but accepted our request to get back once we are up with the documents and all the things an investor look for made upto our level best. Experience is what makes the actions more precise.