I have been very transparent about my startup journey for a while now. In fact, I decided to build New Founder School in public just for this reason. I want to share the REAL #behindthescenes of building a business which oftentimes is UNglamourous and pushed aside for the shiny success that people achieve.
Here are 5 things I wish I knew when I started my founder journey:
Don’t settle for less than your vision
Take that journal and write down what that ideal life looks like for you. Describe a day of that life and go after it. Naysayers will always be asking you to settle for mediocrity. But, the average life was not built for you. Shoot for the stars and land there. I remember, when I moved to silicon valley to start my tech company, I was surrounded by friends and relatives, who asked me to get a ‘normal’ job and have a calm life. I am so grateful that I didn’t listen to them. I wouldn’t have gotten the Alien of Extraordinary Ability Visa because of my startup and would have still been struggling on a work visa in the US. Taking that path less trodden was utterly mad and difficult but I am proud that I took it. Go take that path and shine on.
There is nothing that beats persistence. I was rejected over 1000 times. By investors, by team members, by prospective advisors, and by potential customers. Had it not been for my persistence in the face of continuous failure, I don’t think, I would have created an ed-tech startup that became a semi-finalist in the $15M global learning Xprize, sponsored by Elon Musk. Ask yourself, what is your WHY, what is the purpose you want to work on, and go for it. Luck and success chase persistent ones.
Choose the right tribe
Being an entrepreneur needs sweat, time, and unbridled focus. On this path, you need to have the right partner, friends, and supporters. I got lucky that my partner celebrated my ambition, my parents encouraged my dreams and my friends supported my mission. Entrepreneurship isolates you. You know you have to put a brave front for your employees, customers, and investors. So, find this tribe where you can share your fears, ambitions, and those crazy moments that still make you sane. When I created the New Founder School, I wanted to create this safe space for other new founders so they don’t feel isolated rather supported by people in the same boat.
Use your uniqueness to create innovative companies
We women or minorities bring a new perspective to entrepreneurship. It has only been in the last decade that we have started thinking of the point of view of women or minorities in products. And the movement that solutions for and by women and minorities is only picking up now. So let’s not try to subdue our superpowers, our unique perspectives, and our innovative ideas to fit the traditional entrepreneurship box. My ed-tech company Equally, became a success with moms because I was a teacher and I could bring the empathy of how this product could support working moms and improve their kids’ learning.
I started out scared. When raising our first $150K cheque, I thought I had to ask for a lower valuation because it was my first time being a founder of a tech silicon valley company. I think we always find ways to negotiate poorly in our minds because we think we don’t deserve that. So please, whether it is your company’s equity, first hire, or a simple paycheck, ask for what you deserve.
What lessons would you add to this? Share in comments below:
Love and Light,