Posts Tagged ‘Success’

18 Months to Overnight Success

Just two weeks ago we had no money left in the bank and were thinking of shutting shop. One email changed everything! We got an offer from 500Startups for their accelerator program that expedited our investment round, converted naysayers into believers and made us celebrities among our friends. While we are enjoying the limelight and new boost to our young business, I am pondering over our journey to be an overnight success.

It all started 18 months ago with a simple idea. My co-founder and I worked nights to launch our first product and decided to quit our jobs when we crossed 200 (yes just 200!) subscribers of our app. In the next six months we raised angel investment, launched our service and got featured in online media. While we were getting popular in our friend circle we hit the wall on subscribers. We pivoted twice, tried new tactics and spent money on advertising but nothing worked. The suspicion crept in quickly with little money left in the bank and no brilliant sparks to recover. Suddenly the idea of going back to a regular paycheck and ending our pain seemed lucrative. That was the first real test of our resolve to be entrepreneurs.

To our surprise, a few days of frustration, depression and deep introspection reinvigorated our startup bug! We decided to give it one more shot for a simple logic – we are out of jobs anyway, have some money in the bank, and probably this is the last chance [we both are 35+] to try something this crazy. Two months and hurricane Sandy [we live in NJ] later we launched Sverve. This time, however, we had no fanfare but super results. Things change quickly in startup world – now we had traction but no money in the bank. Our investors [prudently] asked us to find new money and we had put in all our savings in the business already so there was no run way left. That was the second big test of our resolve.

Once again we decided to plough through and gave ourselves three more months on borrowed money. With more traction and early revenue, we could excite some new investors and found ourselves in the final round of the selection process of reputed accelerator programs. However, with time and money running out on us and with no firm decision from investors, we were at the brink of giving up. Then the life-changing email arrived! We got into 500Startups, got early money, and are now closing a seed round.

I am writing this on a flight to Silicon Valley as we gear up to start the program in Mountain View next week. My co-founder and I just killed last three hours discussing our hiring plan, product enhancements, and future funding rounds. It is an exciting time and we are thrilled to be back in business with 500Startups.

This was the story of our overnight success. Overnight, yeah right!

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Follow Your Passion

I am returning from a very productive business trip and as usual my plane ride is spurring ideas to write. It might sound strange but the plane take-off reminded me of a topic that I was thinking about earlier in the week – passion in life. It is amazing how much force is needed for a plane to break the inertia and build the momentum to take off.  I was wondering if it is same with big initiatives in our lives. We need to put in lot of focused effort to accomplish big things in life. Gas propels planes; what propels us? Passion!

I remember the time when I was preparing for my entrance exam for under-grad school. I wanted to get into the best school in the country but the competition was brutal. One in hundred used to make into the school of my choice. I hear it is even worse now! What were the chances of a student from a small town with no guidance succeeding while many bright candidates were preparing for the same exam from almost four years in advance? Well, I was determined and passionate to get into that school. So for next two years, I never slept more than two hours and studied almost 19 hours daily. Everybody, including my parents thought I had gone mad. While everybody was sympathizing with me for all the hard-work, I never even once felt like it. I was having fun and was in a totally different world. Waking up after two hours of sleep was a piece of cake because I was so eager to go back to my books. It was a sheer pleasure to spend every minute studying. Those were the best two years of my life. The icing on the cake was passing the test with a good rank. In those two years, I learned many things in math and science, but I learned an important lesson of life: if you are passionate about something, you can always achieve it.

There is no greater pleasure than following your passion. It is even better when your passion becomes your livelihood or way of living. I am convinced that one can scale great heights in career or personal life by pursuing one’s passion. I grew up in India, where kids are not [at least when I was a kid] exposed to arts, sports, and  other activities unlike   kids in the West. Studies are the way of life and a good student is expected to pursue engineering or medicine. Many bright students end up being successful doctors, engineers, and managers but it doesn’t surprise me to learn how many of them are still seeking that one thing they are passionate about. Even though the western education system is not perfect, I like the aspect of exposing kids to many different things early on. I hope my five year old will find that one or maybe more things that he is passionate about and will pursue them for life. There is no greater pleasure than living your passion.

Maximize Your Efforts: Set, Measure, Correct

We make so much effort to do better in every sphere of life – be it giving the best to our kids, improving our personal lives, or proving our worth at work. I wonder why so often we work hard but get disappointing results. There are many reasons for it but one that happens often is that we lack setting, tracking and improving our efforts towards a goal. Goal setting and tracking is a best practice in corporate world and that’s why there are sales quotas, management objectives, appraisals and not to forget notorious quarterly targets for public companies. Then why don’t we follow the same in personal life?

I have been trying to play golf from almost a decade. Hope you notice the word ‘trying’! But when I look back, I most improved my game when I had a target in mind. My first goal was to score in 90s and then 80s.  I could pretty much do it in the first year with regular practice and coaching. Next eight years were a wash because I never set a goal for myself. It was more of a walk in the park with friends, enjoying beer and an occasional great shot. Setting goals is important.

The next step is to measure performance against those goals. It was easy to measure a three-digit round against a goal of being in 90s. However, many times it is not so black and white, or we don’t think deeply enough to set the right metrics. Moreover, there are times when we don’t want to measure to avoid that extra pressure. Come on, don’t we already have enough on our plate with work and family?  However, I felt the best when I met my goals. I still remember my first round of 81. A great feeling that stayed with me for months! It is great to savor small successes but only if we measure them.

Finally the most important – analyze and correct. Once you measure you know where to focus. While hitting long shots was sexy, I found I was losing most shots in the short game. It made me focus on pitching and putting. While practicing putting, we adjust every putt based on how the previous one did. If it falls short of the cup, then we hit the next one a little harder. If it broke too much to the left, we adjust the angle next time. Similarly, it is important to analyze and adjust our efforts based on results.

Now consider practice putting when you can’t see where your last putt landed.  No matter how many times one practices this way, one can never improve putting. If we don’t get feedback, how can we improve? Exactly that’s why it is important to get feedback to correct it.

Well, you got it. To improve you have to correct, to correct you have to measure, and to measure you have to set goals. Alright, it is time for action.

 

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