What does it take to be an entrepreneur!

November 18, 2010

Why exactly do (or did) you choose to become an entrepreneur? Do you have a brilliant product idea? Do you see a large unmet opportunity for your idea?

Rajesh Subramaniam, MD, Walden India Advisors.

Rajesh Subramaniam, MD, Walden India Advisors.

Or, did you leave your job and become an entrepreneur as you either hated your boss or job? Did you think it is fashionable to be on your own? Did you think you could become a ‘trend setter’? Will a VC fund that great idea of yours? Is that idea going to be sustainable in the long run? Well, the reason could just about be anything!

Rajesh Subramaniam of Walden India Advisors Pvt Ltd presented an interesting talk on ‘What does it take to be an entrepreneur’ during the CDNLive India University conference — apparently aimed at the several students among the audience.

Ideation and execution
The first thing as an entrepreneur is to have clear ideation and execution. Ideation and a clear path to execution are the most important attributes to get you started. The idea should be conceived from a real gap that exists in the system, and not what you perceive it to be! Also, it is advised that you always stay with demand, not supply.

Subramanian  advised budding entrepreneurs to talk to as many people to see validity of your hypothesis. If you cannot sell your product, then nobody can. Also, if it is not scalable, it is not going to get out of your garage.

Also, you are not going to cut much ice in case you turn out to be a ‘me-too’ company. Always look for that differentiator! Finally, God is in execution — as they say: “In God we trust, the rest we check.”

Choose your team wisely
It is important that as an entrepreneur, you choose your team wisely. It is never a one-man show. Having a good team is the most important thing. A good team can make ‘not such a good idea’ work great. Also, your team should echo your passion and company roadmap.

The interests of your team members should be aligned with the growth of the company. and not independent of it. Also, they should be committed to you and the company through the journey — good and bad. Your worst nightmare — your key empolyees/founders leaving  you in the time of crisis.

Manage yourself
Next, it is key that you as an entrepreneur, learn to manage yourself. Treat the company as a company, not as an image of your own self.  Do not do everything on your own — you cannot be CEO/COO/CFO/CTO/office attendant and so on. Next, it is not important to be the CEO of your company. If you think that someone else can do a better job, get that person on board.

Listen, listen and keep listening. Take inputs from friends, customers and your own team. Be open minded and receptive to feedback. Also, never get emotionally attached. Learn when to let go — very important.

If something is not working, then it is just NOT working. Stop it right there, and try something else to make it work.
Rework budgeting as many times as you can. It is better to be prepared for the worst case than burn your capital, anticipating the best case,  when signals are otherwise. Learn to be responsible as it is not just your neck on the line. Finally, don’t have an ‘ostrich policy’.

Find the right partner — the VC
Well, this is easy or tricky, depending on what you want to do. For starters, you can either take or borrow money from your dad. Or, you can choose to select and find a VC.

If you opt for the second one, ask yourself these questions. What do I want from the VC? What is their track record? Do they have deep pockets? Will they support future funding? Can they improve my company and bring in high standards of governance? Can the VC help me with advice? Can the VC be my sourcing board?

Very few VCs will give you highest valuation for what they bring to the table, added Subramaniam. “You and you alone are answerable and accountable to your VCs. It is important that you as an entrepreneur have the maturity to act on advice rather than perceive it as interference.Through the entire fund raising journey, stay rational and be upfront about any issues you may have, lest they return to bite you later.”

What does a VC look for in you?
Finally, it is important to know what are the qualities that a VC would typically look for, when talking to you, the entrepreneur. First, integrity and ethics, followed by organizational and business clarity. There should also be a strong team of co-founders and like minded people.

Next, the VC will probe whether you can deliver on promises and are being consistent in values. Similarly, communication, committment and consistency are three key attributes for an entrepreneur. Be pen minded and resourceful. Have the energy and stamina, as well as the necessary financial discipline. Finally, don’t ever be modest. Show your credentials and gather endorsements, as required.

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