I have been an entrepreneur on paper since 2009.

I have been an informal entrepreneur though since the age of 11, when my friends and I started a comic-renting ‘startup’ out of a mat (called as ‘chaarpai’ in Indian households).

We made Rs 11 the first day :)

Along the years, I have learnt a great deal.

Mostly through my mistakes.

Reflecting on those mistakes and failures has helped me grow, much more than any success has.

Here are my reflections, stemming from my love for entrepreneurship even before I knew how to pronounce it correctly.

As a founder, if you won’t show up every single day, despite how you are feeling or how the startup is doing or what the press is writing about you or your co-founders not working out or your product failing or your customers shouting, No one is going to do it for you.

. . .

People would much rather work for a competent asshole than an incompetent nice guy.

. . .

Entrepreneurship is f**king hard.

The early excitement of building a team, planning a name, launching the first version will fade away.

And insane details that life has, will begin to emerge.

At that point, there is only one thing that will help.

The stories you tell yourself.

Keep reminding yourself of why you became a founder in the first place.

You wanted to be happy doing it, feel fulfilled being one, or desired peace from it.

Or whatever else it was.

Because that is the only thing that matters.

Capability is rarely the question mark in life.

It is always the intent.

No one lacks talent. People are best at what they do. Or they know how to figure it out.

What people lack is intent.

Lack of intent because they don’t like the leader.

Lack of intent because they are not driven.

Lack of intent because they don’t care.

Lack of intent because they are not acknowledged.

Lack of intent because they work for a person not for a larger good.

When people are driven to bring their right intent to the table, they are the first ones to surprise themselves with their capabilities.

Telling someone they are wrong is never going to convince the person.

Telling someone they don’t see the point is hypocritical.

Telling someone you will never understand is you facing the mirror.

Yes, people do go wrong.

They do not see the point.

Yes, they do not even understand.

None of this is false.

However, entrepreneurship and building a team is ninety per cent understanding and ten per cent execution.

Ninety per cent empathy with ten per cent autocracy.

And hundred per cent patience.

‘If I can’t trust you, it doesn’t matter how smart you are.’

The best advice I have ever got!

My first manager told me this.

After he used to detect errors in my work consistently.

I used to think it was my manager’s work to detect my errors.


It was my job to deliver error-free work. It was my manager’s job to build upon that.

I was failing at my basic job, instead of growing at it.

Your work is not only your work. It is the measure of how much trust your manager places in you. Dip by dip. Day by day. One action at a time.

Entrepreneurship is not a profession.

It’s a state of mind.

You can have a job and think of building new things, energizing your team and making sure you are helping the business grow.

Figure out the right problems to solve. Ask for work beyond your job description. Treat your job like your own business.

You do not necessarily need to have a start-up in order to become an entrepreneur.

You can start where you are. Move things that need to be moved.

Change the status quo for the better. And you are an entrepreneur.

Compounding is the biggest miracle of life.

Founder dilution also is, in a bad way.

For the longest time, you would continue investing religiously, you would see normal gains. Over time, the gains would sky rocket.

So is the case with founder dilution. When your startup is small, you don’t feel you’re giving away much, while inviting external funding.

It is only when the company creates big results, that you as a founder realize that much of your large profits and valuation also get split in a big way.

Compounding, in a way you hadn’t wanted yet signed up for.

When was the last time you bought a product or service, because the founder is from IIT or because the founder hasn’t drawn a salary for the past six months or because the founder is going through depression?

You couldn’t care less! No one cares a f**k about who you are.

What you have done in the past does not have any relevance to how good you are at solving customer problems.

Your success as a founder depend on how close you are able to get people to their solutions.

Who you are and where you came from doesn’t matter.

What you do and where you are going, is all that does.

The market doesn’t care about titles.

The market (rightly) only cares about its tantrums.

Congratulating an entrepreneur on raising funds is like congratulating a chef on buying vegetables.

Money is the ingredient to the startup recipe.

It is the start. Not end.

Acknowledge the milestone.

Wish them well.

Share your faith in them.

But don’t make them believe they have won.

Don’t believe you have won, if you raise funds.

No one has won.

Not as yet.

‘I trust you not because you know everything. I trust you because I know that you will do everything in your capacity to find the answer.’

This is what I tell my most capable team members.

No one knows all the answers.

However, the best players that move the needle forward, know how to figure out solutions to complex problems.

You don’t become the most capable one when you know the answers.

You become the most capable one when you go beyond ‘I don’t know’.

And surprise everyone in the process. Including yourself.

Attitude >> Experience >> Education The hiring principle I have always followed.

Skills can be taught.

Attitude is really hard to teach.

While finding the right people for your team, it always helps to pick the ones who embody the culture of your team.

Even if they lack the skills, their attitude will help them grow.

An optimistic, driven individual will figure out a way to learn more.

A successful skilled individual will struggle hard to grow if they see pessimism in every possibility.

Attitude compensates for skills.

Skills never compensate for attitude.

When I asked my first boss, how come there was always this unequal distribution of work even within the same team, he replied, ‘Good people pay a far higher price for being good than bad people pay for being bad.’

He wasn’t talking about work.

He was talking about life.

Build a team so strong that someone from outside doesn’t know who the boss is!

Do you admit your mistakes?

Do you allow your team to make mistakes?

Do you trust your team members to do their work?

Do you ask questions instead of offering prescriptions?

Do you give them autonomy instead of micromanaging the team?

If this is how you run your team, no one from the outside would be able to guess who leads it. Because now, everyone is a leader!

Entrepreneurship is the most brutal way to discover yourself.

There are initial days of fun of a new office, pristine furniture, and branding.

Then come the finer details.

Making money.

Building a team.

Growing fast.

Developing a culture.

How you handle yourself and your mental state during the times when everything is not a bed of roses, truly determines who you are.

It definitely won’t be as easy or glamorous as you had expected.

However, it will reveal so much to you about yourself, that you won’t wish the journey was different in any way.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, nothing shows you who you are as much as entrepreneurship does.

The toughest skill as a leader is to be calm during the toughest moments.

Anyone can be calm when you are hitting numbers or when a customer is satisfied.

The power to be calm when your team’s morale is low, the power to empower your team members despite their mistakes, and the drive to move them forward when things aren’t moving forward are the greatest skills.

It isn’t easy. That is why leadership is a reflection of who you are.


But a lot easier than losing your temper.

With leadership comes the power to lose your calm.

Leaders who don’t lose it are truly powerful.

Show people who they can be.

Instead of telling them who they shouldn’t be.

One the best lessons I learnt as a people manager.

‘You shouldn’t pull others down, be disrespectful of others or make fun of someone’s mental health issues.’

Stating this is being preachy.

It’s the truth, but it is simply moral science. Everyone knows it.

What if you are the one who shows people their potential.

What if you could show people that it is so empowering to respect others for who they are?

What if you do everything you want your team to embody?

Words are wise.

However, stories strike.

Most people who want to start a business think they should quit their job and start a startup.

Not true, in my opinion.

Work nights/weekends and test your idea out.

The minute you HAVE to push the startup and work to make money, it is very different from ‘let’s see if this even works.’

Irrational optimism is a founder’s death trap!

. . .

The hardest moment while building a startup is when you let down your team.

The most precious moment while building a startup is when you

let down your team and they are the ones who pick you up.

Build a culture that picks people up when they are down.

Be a part of such a culture.

When you raise money, it is not an achievement.

It is an obligation.

When you raise money, you are no longer answerable only to customers.

You are answerable to investors because they desire a return.

Because they have raised money from someone who is also looking for a return.

You are not focusing on growing the business now.

You are under the pressure of growing the business.

And that’s a huge obligation!

Sorry to break your heart . . .

Somebody out there has ALREADY come up with the same idea that you have!

Somebody out there is ALREADY working on the same idea that you have!

Don’t overindex on the idea.

Instead, find out what it is that they know that you don’t.

Ideas are hardly new.

What’s new is solving an unsolved problem in an existing idea.

For that, you first need to learn what it is that others before you already know, that you don’t know as yet.

Your idea is not your startup.

Your approach is your startup.

The worst thing a company does to its employees is: 1. Rate them once a year 2. Tell them how well they did

3. Measure them on metrics they didn’t even know they were being assessed on It’s sad that most employees do not know for the entire twelve months what the management is thinking about them!

The best feedback is:

– stated in real time/fortnightly/weekly

– being candid instead of springing a surprise

– being helpful instead of an FYI

It is the employees that run the company, not the other way around.

– The moment companies become aware of this truth, everything changes!

Asshole founders don’t build institutions.

They merely start and run companies.

It is easy for anyone to start a company.

It is super difficult to build a place where people would love to come to work, where people are respected for who they are, and most importantly, where people grow at work and as individuals.

Anyone can start and run a company.

To be so poor that all they have is money.

The real game is to have conversations with every team member.

To listen to them just with the intent of listening to them.

To know them, because that is what will help you make wiser decisions.

Only courageous founders go beyond themselves and run institutions.

The three worst reasons to become an entrepreneur: 1. I want to make money 2. I hate my current job

3. Everyone is doing it

Entrepreneurship is hard.

For the longest time it won’t give you the luxuries of a salaried job.

Also, you will have multiple bosses instead of one.

Most people fail as entrepreneurs because they pick one of these external reasons to become entrepreneurs.

Only when your drive is internal, you are curious, you are consumed by a problem, you would be able to experience the joy of becoming an entrepreneur.

You want to solve a problem and while you hope for success, you are ready for failure too.

A great leader should be replaceable when it comes to their tasks and actions.

And irreplaceable when it comes to their thoughts and vision.

Great leaders are those who make themselves dispensable over time.

Because they don’t care about feeding their ego.

The best leader allows their team to execute in their absence.

While the leader works to define the purpose and end goal.

In a society where being trusted is not common, operating with trust is a competitive advantage.

People inherently want to be trusted.

I pay my team (interns as well as full-time) on the first day of every month.

Also, I trust them on Day 1 instead of building it over time.

When people are trusted, especially in a trust-deficient context, you get more out of them.

People want to be trusted. They just aren’t given enough opportunities to.

And once they are trusted, they not only surprise you, they also end up surprising themselves by the accountability they deliver!


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