Its the journey of three friends — from varied walks of life; united by the vision yet separated from their life experiences and skill sets.
What’s the vision?
Yes, three friends wanted to build something of their own that they felt could change something in the world; make lives wee bit simpler.All of them enjoyed building stuff! Hence the ‘three-mid-twenties-something’decided after few pints of beers; well ‘starting up’ would be a good start to build a billion dollar business!
What’s the challenge?
Easier said than done. Decisions based on beer pints are impulsive and emotional. Yet, better than being non decisive — next morning after hangover was rather settled; was the time to execute the decision
Thus, started the non glamorous and less talked about ordeals of founding a startup. Building a business is not a skill you gather working some years at a corporate organization. And the best friends need not necessarily be the best cofounders; not even closest siblings
We believed we had completely complimentary skill sets as a team — we had a full-stack-developer, sales-and-marketing-geek and a psychology-management-consultant-product-geek. Call it ‘achievers-all-through-career’.
However, as was the heterogeneity; there were also heterogeneity in our operating styles.
Now that’s a moment of truth!
Building a startup is all about ‘leveraging’ and cultivating ‘synergy’.In the initial years of a product, uncertainty is the only certainty one has and people are the only asset you have. And you need to learn to make peace with it. Help your co founders careen through such times…
Yes, the hoopla of a ‘great team’ is actually a reality!
We had our share of disagreements on what should the MVP do, what level of scalability should we look at, when do we seek mentoring, how much to develop, which feedback to consider and when was early-yet-not-late-enough to seek feedback; whom to hire, whether to outsource or develop in house and many more. While there were differences; there were enough and more learning we gathered through the way.
So what’s a co-founder equation really like?
- Adapt,learn and iterate your operating style — Yes, operating styles can and need to be flexed and optimized. Two people are not similar.
- Have complete alignment in goals — your single most never failing compass for deciding on your co founder relationship. While we were able to figure out our *alignment on goals* before writing the first code and talking to the first customer — the alignment in operating style developed over months of learning and adapting to each other
- Understand the motivations of your co founder. Just the way an investor, a customer, a shareholder, or for that matter any stakeholder have their own motivations to get attached with your product / startup; so does your co founder. Passion does not speak the same language for every one alike
- Define your roles extremely well and *understand* them even better. You should know where not to poke your nose and where you are completely accountable for every bit of results. You have to work at this demarcation — time and again — especially if you are a first time entrepreneur.
- Be utterly clear about whats happening in each and every aspect of the startup. If you dont know coding, you should know why are you building your website on RoR v/s PhP. If you are a coding geek, you should know why should you leverage Pinterest v/s Facebook — in light of the nature of your product / business
- Take constant feedback on what are your comfort areas and what are your typical demons. Build a culture of honest and critical feedbackearly on in your startup days. Even when we were a garage team of 3 people, we made it binding on us that we shared honestly when we felt the other was not getting out of the comfort zone or was not focusing enough. (Yes, there will be times when even with all the passion and the zest, you will lack the focus!)
- It takes efforts to nurture a productive and meaningful relationship with your cofounder. You will have harsh discussion, blames will be shifted, questions will be raised and results will be challenged. The earlier you understand boundaries of your relationships; better will you be able to work being cognizant of them.
- Respect your co founder. There has not been any bigger learning than this in my startup journey. Every action — active listening, understanding their shortcomings and appreciating their small achievements — is a communication of celebrating the co founder relationship. Do that more often!
- While there are operational details that have an equal share of challenges and that bring to life the intricacies of business; those are details that will be handled later. For everything else, there is always *beer pints*What has been your experience in co founding your startup? Let me know…
This post is written by Arpita Chakraborty, straight from her laptop – sharing learnings and experiences of working across startups for years now. She is a social media geek and loves to question things at GetEchoed. Tweet to her about anything @arpitaambition