I remember this poem from my secondary school days – “The Solitary Reaper” by William Wordsworth. It is an amazing characterization of a solo reaper in a grain field who sings and enjoys her work irrespective of who the passer by is; and in the process, she impresses the storyteller by her persistent chants. If life is not too harsh on you right now, read it – you might like it.
Well, before you start thinking that I have gone nuts, lemme set the context right. I am making an attempt to give words to my bumpy startup rides. Entrepreneurship to me is a bug (the corresponding Hindi variant would be Keeda or Khujli). We, unfortunately, live in a world driven by logic. Every action, or the lack of it, has to be logically justified. You are not allowed to get comfortable with the idea of “getting absorbed into something” – as it has a lot of uncertainties and unknowns around it. Here’s a quick monologue of events from 6 years of my work life –
- Nov, 2005 – are you nuts? quiting HCL Technologies within less than 6 months of joining? for joining some freaking Chinese origin sounding startup called Onyomo? and that too by taking a cut in your already meager salary? you must be outta your mind man. lemme remind you that you are a Mineral Engineer. ah did I not mention – from a college called ISM Dhanbad!
- Aug, 2006 – another startup (burrp!) you want to waste your life with? an office in the hall of a suburban flat? what do you want from your life? inconsistent compensation, meaningless equity? what kind of an asshole you are?
- Apr, 2009 – burrp is getting acquired, what next? for god sake, now that you have earned peanuts after all the hard work put in there, please, no more startups.
- Apr, 2010 – quitting your day job? again? lord save you boy.
Getting through #1 and #2 wasn’t easy. People around me made it all the more difficult. I followed my gut. But lemme tell you, those decisions were extremely difficult. I would sit alone all night thinking about pros and cons of joining a startup. Working for startups wasn’t fashionable in 2005 (not much has changed in the last 6 years either). The more I thought the worse it got. So, at a point when I had no answers to my own questions, I decided it was time to choose. I chose to work for startups. At times loneliness is bliss, believe me because I have experienced it.
Burrp got acquired in April, 2009. The blood and sweat I put in for the over 3 years ever since the company’s inception translated to negligible immediate benefits. It was time to answer #3. I had two choices – quit or be a part of the acquiring company. Everyone around me suggested (read insisted) the latter. The reason – fat salaries, a luxury that my startup life eluded me of. The fighter kid in me had to give up. The reason – fat salaries. Everything about the job was great – I was being paid a salary that most humans would kill for, I got a lot of attention, I worked with a team that few of us built in the very first place, I had an office with plenty of coffee machines and beautiful (as well as “well-dressed”) women all around. Ah, but days were difficult to pass by. I was leading a moronic life by doing things that I didn’t like or hated at times. I wanted to quit but the luxurious lifestyle I had (because of the money that came in), wouldn’t let me. The battle with my inner-self intensified on a daily basis. And, I had to give up; give up on living a troublesome life at work everyday. I decided to call it quits in April, 2010. The funny fact of life is that the cause and effect of me quitting was the same – pain. Tonnes of it 🙂
Life after April, 2010
I have been dealing with #4 ever since. It has not been easy. Not at all. First and foremost, there was a financial crisis to deal with. Can you imagine a life without salaries? I know how exactly it feels. To quickly come over it I set very high standards of deliverables for myself. In the process of coping with my own expectations, I added a lot of otherwise unknown emotions to my kitty – anger, depression, anxiety, frustration … Boy, these 12 months were the most difficult phase of my life. And I believe this is where your character as an entrepreneur is tested. To me, entrepreneurship is about your ability to hide these emotions. It is about eating all the negativity with grace so that people around you don’t get affected. It is about being stone-faced irrespective of the emotional turmoil you are going through. It is about generating a positive energy 24X7. Having said that, like my previous two stints, I continue to learn everyday. The joy of finding a new customer, the joy of working with a committed team, the sorrow of failed termsheets, the anxiety of making ends meet after paying bills for the current month, the collective passion to build a world-class product from India … ah, the list is endless. In the process of building my business I came across a wide variety of people – I rate this as the most valuable experience in my journey thus far. From the dumb-asshole kind to the intellectually-stimulating kind, I have had my own share of experiences with all of them. The specific learnings would need a separate post but I thank all those who became a part, and times contributed, to my entrepreneurial journey.
Why am I telling you all this now?
Because, after all the hard work that me and my team has put in, we have managed to secure our first round of capital. Whoa! Yes, you heard that right. Webklipper is now a funded startup backed by some of the most prolific angels in this country. I’ll share the details with you in my next post. While getting funded is no benchmark for success, it is a huge endorsement of an entrepreneur’s dream. My dream run is now being followed by more people. The chase is ON – it makes me all the more committed to give you that world-class consumer internet company from India which I promised an year ago.
Disclaimer: There is no intent to offend anyone with this post. This one is as personal as it gets. Please consider it as an entrepreneur’s diary of pain followed by ecstasy.
Thanks for reading. Coming soon with another boring post.