It has been over 2 years since I took the plunge. Started with one idea. Failed. Moved on to another. Doing amazing with it. Underneath are some life changing experiences from my journey of shaping WebEngage into a company, the way you know it today.
About giving up
I believed in my first product. I still do. That said, I gave up pretty quick on that idea. Why? Lemme tell you a small story. The very first institutional investor who expressed interest in me and my idea was Ojas Ventures – this was way back in 2010. I didn’t even have a product at that time. Rajesh, a partner at the fund, was kind enough to meet me on a Sunday to discuss. He loved the idea. The deal didn’t go through for other reasons, but during the conversation he said: “Avlesh, majority of startups fail. Most likely yours will, as well. Let’s say you succeeded. Do you want to work against all odds and succeed by creating a small company with small returns? So much hard work, just for peanuts?” I am sure he doesn’t remember this. I thank him from the bottom of my heart because, post meeting him, I started conditioning myself to think big. The product idea had potential. It needed a bigger gestation period and could have been a decent size play. Big enough a reward for all the hard work? No. So, I gave up. It ain’t easy, believe me. But I learnt to give up. I have given up several times after that – in product meetings, in future roadmap discussions, while setting revenue targets etc. Giving up is not a bad thing. I have realized that it makes me a better human being and keeps me focused on the bigger goal of building a large company. End of the day, that’s what matters.
About giving away
My buddy Anand shared this with me recently – there is this corporate training guy who engages people in his company with all sort of activities. In one such session, he asked participants to breathe-in and breathe-out. He asked participants to inhale more and more without breathing out. People got choked and exhaled all of a sudden. The rationale? You can’t keep taking-in more and more. You have to give away. While the sequence of events mentioned above have nothing to do with building a company, the learning does. I have been giving away all this while during the course of building my company – equity, esops, control, sponsorship money etc. Why? Because, in the bigger scheme of things, these don’t matter. I am in the middle of hiring a very senior sales executive for our company. The guy is over 20 years in experience, has amazing credentials and capability. He is more expensive than me and my co-founder put together. So? Nothing. I am pitching hard to hire him by giving away ego, control and compensation. Point? Giving away is the only way to get more people to be a part of your dream run. It doesn’t come in easy, especially if you are born in my part of the world, but believe me it makes you a better individual.
About not giving in
WebEngage has done well. Mostly because me and my team have not slept well in the past 18 months. We (me and my co-founder Ankit) take support calls every midnight. Even today. You think that’s fun? Trust me, its not. We are rolling out significant product updates every week. You think that’s easy? No, its not. I am meeting my revenue targets month-on-month for the last 6 months. Can I continue to do that so consistently? No. Does that bother me? Yes. So, what is this all about? We work very very hard to be what we are. And we’ll need to work 10 times harder to get where we want to be in, say, 12 months from now. One needs a lot of love and support to be able to do that. In my part of the world, however, there is no dearth of cynics – very recently, one such genius wrote a blog post raising suspicion over our numbers, and several others aligned themselves to his views. For the first time, ever, did someone question my integrity. Did I get angry? Oh yes, a lot. Did I react, Oh yes. Was there a need to do it? No. That’s not giving in for you. As and when you grow, people will try to pull you back. Post this episode, I exchanged a few emails with Vijay Anand who did a great job of making me understand why I shouldn’t be giving in to such attempts. Take away? Simple, it distracts you from the bigger goal of building a large company. And then, being angry ain’t a good thing either. I have been brought up a bit differently – “you are what you stand for” kinds. So, not giving in, doesn’t come naturally to me. But then, I am really really working hard on it. Because now, I understand its importance.
That’s it my friends. There’s a lot more to share. I have kept those for later. You have my support in building your company, because I believe there’s only one way of doing it right – to do it together: https://avlesh.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/lets-build-valuable-companies-together/