books-1031699_640 (1)

My journey into the entrepreneurial and start-up world started in my first year of college, when I got into the “Entrepreneurship Development Cell” of IIT Roorkee, known as EDC. EDC is a group whose aim is to promote the entrepreneurial culture amongst the college junta. I owe a lot to EDC for paving my career path into this spectacular world of startups.

I am, right now (as on November 2015), working at Zimply, an early stage startup and the experience has been nothing short of overwhelming. Closing in on the 6-month milestone of working here, I thought of writing this article dedicated to my fellow mates at EDC, to give them an insider’s view. Here are my top 6 learning in the first 6 months.

  1. When you can’t innovate, copy! *

Probably a bad way to start the discussion, but that is the top learning. The idea is never unique. Almost every time. It would be one in a million case if it is. Most new startups are usually built on similar concepts with some improvised business model changes. So next time you have an idea, get on with your research, make a list of 20 companies in your domain, and then see how you can be different for your target market.

*After doing your homework, only if you truly believe in the idea and its need, then go ahead and kick some ass!

2. Nothing needs to be perfect

In the beginning at least. Quickly develop a prototype of your product/service and test it out with the early adopters. See the response at a fundamental level. Don’t worry too much about the UI of the product, or waste time in tasks like writing the perfect content. After gaining user response and insights, iterate over your product to find the right “product-market fit”. Once you are sure about the fundamentals of your business, it’s time for some growth hacks!

3. Know everything about one thing and a little about everything

If you’re either the founder or an employee, you need to have decent knowledge about everything that runs your company. For example, my role in the company involves me working hands-on with the product, design, development, content and HR team as I lead the e-commerce services platform. When we are involved in making a new product (say a dashboard for the experts), we conceptualize the product, benchmark it against competitors, develop wire-frames with the UX Lead keeping in mind it’s technical feasibility, ensure a magical user-flow, write content and we’re almost there. Now we hand it over to the designers and developers to do the rest. Only if you know how each department works can you lead an entire category of your company end-to-end. It saves a lot of time to do a particular task when you’ve worked in different departments and know the fundamentals of the business. Hence I suggest you to get your hands dirty in as many things as possible so that you know enough to be a rockstar!

4. Culture matters the most

Making a startup successful is a daunting task. There will be a dozen factors affecting its success. One factor I want to particularly talk about is the culture of the company. But how do you describe an ideal culture? I think of an ideal workplace as where people are motivated. Motivated towards one goal. This does not mean everybody truly likes what they do. It just means people know they are making an impact every single day. Even though they are burdened with a lot of work, they are never really burdened! See what I mean? The environment is relaxed, flexible, and positive. There’s happiness around. The environment should feel like a  startup where ideas are promoted and new things are tried. Most importantly, everybody should feel from within that the work they do is adding real value towards achieving the goal.

5. Interact and learn

Make most of your free time while in office. Talk to people about their work, their past, their passion, and learn new things everyday. People have crazy knowledge about a lot of things you don’t know and should know. Learn at least 3 new things from every single person in the company. Being in a small team, you can afford to do that. Use your time wisely and widen your knowledge horizon. So, the next time you have lunch at work, you know what to do!

6. Life’s too short to NOT code!

Okay wait! For the non-coders, I don’t mean that you should drop everything you do and start coding. But what I do suggest is that you do enough to understand the basics of what the technical guys are up to. It’ll make your life much easier. Especially if you are one whose work involves working with the developers at any level. If you know stuff, you’ll be able to ‘talk’ to the developers about work, and will be able to get things done. The developers should see you as a person whom they respect not just for the person you are but also for your knowledge about development and more. So get your hands a little dirty each day, and know the basics of front-end, back-end, android, servers, and so on. And oh one more thing, it’s really not as ‘technical’ as you think it is.