Startup lessons, part 1 – humility and beyond …

I have spent most of my life working for startups. It has been an incredible journey – most importantly for the kind of people I have worked with. They were passionate, confident, believers, thinkers and solid executioners. What else would you otherwise expect from any workplace and peers?

Ah, just one thing – humility. Yes, this is something that Indian startups don’t inculcate. I have closely observed where things go wrong and thought penning it down might help fellow newcomers in building a better workplace. Underneath are my learnings -

1. Be humble : It is truly as simple as that. And mind you, it is equally difficult. I lost the art of humility, rather unknowingly, in the last 5 years. It was primarily due to the kind of people I worked with. I was made to believe that everyone other than me and my peers were a chutiya (hindi slang for asshole), every other idea but mine was terrible, every other entrepreneur but us were clueless dumbfucks … While it is absolutely okay to build an opinion at your workplace, it is outrageously dangerous to label everyone else with a prejudiced mind. As the great one once said – stay hungry, stay foolish. Charity begins at home and so does humility. 4 months into pursuing Webklipper, I am glad to share with you that the ugly sense of self superiority has vanished. I am a patient listener now. I respond instead of reacting. I have the ability to hear bad things about me and my product and act upon them. I am a better human being. And all of this has helped me create a better workplace for the awesome men I work with.

2. Hire IIT/IIM kids with care : With due respect to these premier institutions (and the fact that I am a psuedo IIT-ian by degree), don’t merely go by the degrees of a prospective employee. This is no generalization but most of the times these young guns have huge misconceptions. They might be excellent solo performers but many lack the essence of team play. While technical evaluation is mandatory for a job, a startup guy should additionally have humane skills and a solid EQ. It is extremely difficult to find such guys. And this is one big challenge that makes entrepreneurship all the more difficult in our country; but believe me, if you managed to find such guys for your startup, you are golden. Such a team is capable of building not just a company but a whole new brand altogether. It is a rare species but they exist. All the best for your treasure hunt.

3. Build a culture of debate : Asking questions is important. At early stages, thoughts and actions need stricter validations than at later stages. Someone with a lot of gray hairs should not be allowed to take all the calls. There has to be a solid reasoning behind why do it this way over the other. This definitely doesn’t mean going overboard. But killing the habit of asking questions is detrimental to any startup’s health. Everyone in the team should be encouraged to participate. Just because someone has slugged it out all his/her life doesn’t mean that he/she has acquired all the wisdom. As an entrepreneur keep a watch on such kind of people in your team – build a team of learners and not of people who know_it_all.

4. Respect. Period : Joining a startup is a tough decision and as an entrepreneur you need to respect people who chose to join yours. It is very important to know the kind of work your teammates enjoy doing. If you make them do things that they otherwise don’t like, you are making a mistake. Keep them happy with the work assigned to them and believe me good things will follow. Startup kids are capable of building amazing things; give them the opportunity to build something great for you too. Never loose respect for people who chose to work with you. Not even when they decide to move on to something else. After all, people have the right to make their choices in life. If someone doesn’t want to work with you anymore, you need to introspect and not retaliate. As I said earlier, being a good human being is the stepping stone for being a successful entrepreneur.

5. Be humble (again) : You need to continuously remind yourself about how this virtue can help you in a longer run. Be passionate. Be aggressive. Be positive. Be focused. And most importantly – Be humble.

Thanks for reading! Coming soon with another boring post.

11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Shashank Reddy on September 22, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Beautiful post sir. I wish to land in one of such startups which are run by people who think the way you do. Getting to work on things that someone loves to do is a rare thing. I have never heard of it in college. Wish you all the best. Looking forward to meet you in Mumbai.

    Reply

  2. Simple facts of life that not many understand. Hope your company inculcates and lives with these values, you seem to be getting wiser :D

    Reply

  3. Nice post sir….These are most basic fundamentals..which usually we loose in buzz words and complex terms…..Keep Posting!!!

    Reply

  4. “build a team of learners and not of people who know_it_all” I think that is biggest common sense which start-ups ignore while hiring people. Start-up needs a fresh thinking which can not be generated through the people who think they are expert. It doesn’t means that we should not hire any experience guy. I found couple of questions which might help to find these kind of people 1) Ask them what kind of stuff they made for fun. 2) Ask them what system they try to hack apart from PC.

    Reply

  5. Thats a great view sir & I superliked the 2nd point “While technical evaluation is mandatory for a job, a startup guy should additionally have humane skills and a solid EQ.”. Optimisation of IQ & EQ is very necessary for a start-up to have a never ending situation…A team with respect for each other & desire to learn can create wonders. Even an extra expert engineer can’t be act as a poor doctor/lawyer/or watever…
    btw nice start with this blog..we would be watching this column for further interesting posts…. :)

    Reply

  6. Posted by Akanksha Lal on October 20, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    Hey..why don’t you put Facebook ‘share’ and ‘like’ buttons here….many people will need to use it!

    Reply

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