…It’s more than a big idea. It’s also a lot of spunk
I never thought I could be a founder of a robust, sexy start-up.
Indeed, I always thought that founders were a bunch of incredibly smart, nerdy folks, who inhabited a different planet from me, altogether.
The maximum height I imagined I could climb to, during my hey days was to assume the role of a side-kick to the occupant of the corner office, sort of a “right hand man” to the Big Boss, and even that thought would tickle me no end.
Since thoughts always manifest into real life actions, I had the good fortune to one day assume this role, where I was happy carrying out another’s strategic mission, be the operations person, and over-deliver — all of which soon entered me into the good books of the CEO – Oh my! How I loved my job!
Then suddenly, the start-up wasn’t doing so well. It began to falter and fail, top executives broke into sweat and we were so cash strapped, we had to raise capital hard and fast, just to stay afloat and pay the next round of staff salaries.
As expected of me, I worked over-time, meeting people, digging up old contacts, pitching to Fund managers, and as luck would have it, I was finally able to fix it!
I helped them raise $50m in hard cash, but the burn rate was still alarming. We were bleeding money on old, mishandled projects. I was put on a flight to a few offsite locations to salvage a few big customers, which bought us some time, but we all realized that that was not a permanent fix.
I stuck around till the company went bust and could do nothing to avert that, but that one, close brush with disaster, planted in me the seeds of a burning desire – to float my own dream boat into the vast, mean ocean.
Well, that in the nutshell is the story of Jason M. Lemkin, Co-founder and CEO of EchoSign, the developer of an electronic document signature software, designed for enterprise-level entities, as well as small and medium-scale businesses that got quickly acquired by Adobe for a phenomenal $50,000,000, nearly twelve months down the line.
The reason it succeeded? Lemkin adamantly refused to be labeled a failure. That’s one, singular winning trait of a successful entrepreneur – he or she refuses to be cowed down by the weight of his business circumstances, howsoever restraining.
These days, everyone appears to be bitten by the ‘entrepreneurial bug.’ But very few appear to be prepared for the daily grind and the long list of personal sacrifices that this very demanding leadership role calls for. And there hangs the tale – of a successful vis-à-vis a wannabe entrepreneur.
Many people have the spark of a great business idea. But is that enough? You need ammunition to make the engine start – you need oodles of determination, self-belief and conviction to actually run with the idea, until it has acquired life and momentum of its own, which is when, as a promoter, it’s time for you to hatch the next big idea. That’s what all serial entrepreneurs do — and to my mind they are a breed apart in themselves. Think Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Chairman InfoEdge or Ritesh Agarwal, Founder of Oyo Rooms that’s on the verge of emerging as the biggest hotel room aggregator not just in India but across the world and was recently valued at $10 billion. These men are completely driven by what they do and that counts for a lot.
It’s very important to take time to identify your motivation before starting a business from virtually nothing. A case in point is Patricia Narayan, winner of this year’s FICCI ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year,’ who started her career 30 years ago, as mobile cart vendor selling snacks on the Marina beach, after a failed marriage with an addict with whom she had two kids. Today, she owns a chain of restaurants – the Sandeepha Chain of restaurants in Chennai.
Let’s confront it. Whatever be the fad, entrepreneurship is not for everybody. Most are happy dealing with the daily 9 to 6 routine, a needling boss, and a strict regimental routine. Only a few have that risk-taking spark, even if they may not have an MBA degree to boot. They learn their business tactics from life not from Wharton or Kellogg B-school.
Actually, for people of this mantle, it’s not a choice. It’s inevitable. They just can’t be anything but – enterprising, in-charge of their own show. They are a misfit in a classroom-kind of environment, where they are expected to follow the drill. They would rather do their own think and thing.
“Think big, think positive, never show any sign of weakness. Always go for the throat. Buy low, sell high. Fear? That’s the other guy’s problem,” says Dan Aykroyd to Eddie Murphy in this short, cryptic clip In World Trade Center in Trading Places (1983), if you need a quick dose of adrenaline.
As a master of your own business, you really need oodles of excitement and enthusiasm, and can never afford to lose your drive and passion for what you do. As a wag once said be a ‘sponge’ — and soak up every opportunity for learning that comes your way and change course, accordingly.
“Sometimes we feel like throwing our arms in the air and finding somewhere to escape,” writes blogger-entrepreneur Eric Tippetts in What Inspired You to Become an Entrepreneur? “Yes, I do feel this way at times and if you are a new entrepreneur, I will not paint you a picture of everything always being perfect. You will have those days that it feels like you have 2,000 pounds on your shoulders,” he rues.
To cut a long story short, if you’re ready to take the plunge and you want to get started, look no further – here are seven successful entrepreneur stories to inspire you.
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