If you are not committed to your startup, dont expect anyone else to be

I think this post might be one that generates a lot of discussion and debate, so I want to clarify – that is my intent.

I had an awesome 4 hour session yesterday at the offices of Saif partners in Delhi (Gurgaon actually) yesterday as part of the Microsoft ThinkNext event series. Mukul from Saif has been keen to get more events in the NCR region and he was happy to host us for a Marketing diagnostic clinic in Delhi with 30+ entrepreneurs. The ever charming Avinash Raghava from Product Nation used all  the powers of persuasion to pull together few more entrepreneurs and we had an awesome quorum of people to help understand how to get Go to market right for startups.

We had 6 pitches from companies – yonyx, croak.it, 91mobiles, reviews42, touchtalent and zumbl. The format was simple – you pitch your company and give us the GTM problem you have, and the team (everyone participated) helped diagnose & troubleshoot the problem and offer suggestions.

I wanted to highlight one part of the anatomy of the Indian entrepreneur that I find challenging.

From our Microsoft accelerator database, 45% of entrepreneurs have a full time job and  WONT work on their startup full-time until they get funding.

That’s just unacceptable.

If you are not going to take the risk of going into your startup full time, I dont think anyone else will.

If you are not committed to your startup full time, dont expect an investor to get excited about funding you.

I understand many people have commitments to families, EMI’s to pay, and food to put on the table.

I also understand many people feel their “dead-end job” is stifling their creative juices or their full-time job is just that – “a job” and their passions are with their startup.

I also am aware that many “side projects” lead to full time startups eventually.

BUT.

If you are looking to raise money from an investor and will not commit to your startup full time until the investor puts the money into the company dont expect any investor to sign up.

If you say however that you are working on your startup part-time and dont need funds to move things forward, or that it is a side-project or you will hire people just to experiment, by all means, do that.

I dont think the person is being “sensible” when they say they are seeing if the investor is “committed” to funding them by putting money in before the entrepreneur comes on board full-time.

I’d love to hear both opinions, but yesterday when I heard this from an entrepreneur, I was shocked he even asked me for funding or connections to investors who would put money into his venture before he was on board full-time.

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28 thoughts on “If you are not committed to your startup, dont expect anyone else to be

  1. Avinash Raghava

    Awesome Mukund! I have some ideas on what more we can do and will write you soon.

    Best Regards, ~Avi

    +919810273856 | Stay Connected *http://about.me/avinashraghava* ProductNation.in – The Software Product Hub for India.

    Sent from my cool iPhone

    Reply
  2. Ahimanikya Satapathy

    This is one of those topics apart from hiring that has been discussed over and over again at Bootstrap Bangalore Meetups (http://www.meetup.com/Bootstrap-Bangalore/)

    For some startup is yet another job. For some lack of self confidence and may be fear. There is also an element of social factor, I am not sure whether our society in India is conducive for startup yet, its very easy for someone in family brand you JOBless when you are starting. For 1st time entrepreneurs the problems are beyond just the technology and business. So one has to be highly confident and optimistic to get started and stay committed.

    Reply
  3. Pranay Srinivasan (@pranaysrinivasn)

    I agree. Sitting on the fence just hurts your own b#%*s in the end. its fine for co founders not to come on board full time till the project has traction and can support a salary but one person has to be on it full time without which no successful traction and / or scaling in terms of investment and social acceptance is feasible.

    Also having your own money and life on the line injects an urgency which is gut wrenching especially when you have only 12.56 Rs in your bank account and you got to make payroll in 3 days and have to survive somehow… Thats the true sense of survival and most Investors IMHO can sense that in a founder.

    More than the plan and product and roadmap should be the capacity to survive hard knocks that should help an investor decide. Atleast it means that you will not tamely give up at the first sign of resistance.

    Apologies for the rant.

    Thanks,
    Pranay

    Reply
  4. Jarrett Green

    An entrepreneur should clearly focus on strategy and execution with equal or greater passion and vigor that their current & potential investors display everyday with evaluating potential investments while managing growth within their portfolios.

    I’ve received quite an education from working at SOASTA from its beginning days with exposure to some of the best serial entrepreneurs in the software industry. Focus is centered on real innovation, developing market-leading solution portfolios, and creating flexible delivery models for every budget.

    SOASTA isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle for our executive team and the entire company. As a team, we are literally creating the ‘Mercury Interactive of Cloud Computing.’

    Investors respond well to innovation, market potential, and realizing actual growth and invest accordingly in such ventures. These investments are the derivative of passionate entrepreneurs that make it a lifestyle bringing their ideas to market.

    Reply
  5. Bala Natarajan

    Thanks for the interesting data point Mukund.
    I’m shocked how entrepreneurs (current and/or aspiring) would think of raising capital when they are not working full time on their idea/venture. Same applies for co-founders, until you are full time, you should not even be called co-founders. You are freelance consultants who work another full time job.

    Another issue i have noticed is that so many people think that raising money is like an end goal in itself. I’m sure if people do not get it, they will learn the hard way.

    Reply
  6. Srikrishnan Ganesan (@srikrishnang)

    Totally agree. Need to be dedicated enough to work full time on your idea before you expect someone else to put money on your work.
    Thats easy for those of us who have a low opportunity cost in quitting a job, or don’t have big EMI commitments, etc. :)

    Wonder if there is a solution for those who have gotten themselves into situations where they need a sustainable cashflow to support family/ commitments, and still have ambitions to start-up. This is the #1 excuse I see from my network for those who say they really really want to do their own gig but aren’t doing so. I guess it is (a) save up to support yourself for a year, or (b) don’t take that really high paying job, and get into those commitments and lifestyle in the first place!

    Reply
  7. samudranb

    What are your thoughts on student startups?

    I am currently part of a startup where my co-founder is in the 2nd year of his Engineering at BITS Pilani. He loves college, and I also support him getting a college experience (rather than just a college degree)

    So far, we have been working remotely (I am based in Mumbai), and things have not been smooth at all. Communication gaps, while a major problem, can still be worked on. But with him having exams, he will need to pretty much be unavailable for 2 months in a year. With our current team of 3 (including both of us), that is 33% of the workforce being unavailable for 16.67% of the year.

    We are raising a seed round now, and I am seriously beginning to wonder if we can continue working like this. Like all other indian families, his is absolutely against him dropping out of college.

    Thoughts / advice?

    Reply
    1. Mukund Mohan Post author

      Understand the problem about college student startups. Unfortunately I cannot give you good advice on this one. I wont fund a venture (and neither will any of the investors I know) where founders are part-time. He has to make the decision to either get out of college for a year or give up this venture and start again when he finishes in 2 years.

      Reply
  8. Pradip Shah

    For any real entrepreneur what you say is obvious – you need to be committed 100% to the venture.But, I have seen startup analysts valuing the depth of executive experience over commitment.

    Consider this counter point then – an executive working part-time on the startup would be more understanding to an investors end goal in exit, while a risk taking person may be more inclined to build a “real” business with profits rather than growth. Also, the risk taker may be more unwilling to let go control either via additional rounds, etc, your part-time bloke may be more willing to toe the investors line.

    I am sure while your article indicates otherwise, you have seen both types succeed and fail.

    Reply
  9. Rajesh Khatri

    Its always Hen or Egg first situation , in fact it is very very difficult to leave job and venture into entrepreneur but unless you do hardly there is any chances of survival also , Those who play safe have least chances of survival, No body in world can help you unless you help yourselves ,

    Reply
  10. pavanraonavulePavan

    This 45% of the people I presume that “What they had in their mind at the time of implementing their start-up is not consistently remained in their mind.” The possible reasons could be over expectations on the response assumed and less profits because of the inefficient marketing being done by themselves. Out of the 45% Full time Job Holders 90% are not even willing to show up interest only because of the fact that I quoted. And the remaining 10% will still have that burning zeal and are waiting for a very good trigger like response or revenue to get themselves appointed to their start-ups as CEOs.

    Reply
  11. Sahil Parikh (@sahilparikh)

    I am seeing that “getting funded” seems to be more important than actually building a business. So that they can be featured in the media and show off to their friends…it makes them feel that they have “arrived”….so wrong!

    Reply
  12. Bhasker Kode (@bhaskerkode)

    Nice insight Mukund.

    Investors (& employees for that matter) like travellers on a Mumbai local, tend to hop on a moving train, waiting on the sidelines until then. If the entrepreneurs themselves are’nt driving – it’s going to stall forever or loose their edge.

    It isn’t until you meet the “x – 45%” that you realise “perseverance” & “taking the plunge” are easily over-looked in the entrepreneurs that make things happen, but easy to spot in those who don’t. Pretty much the same reason why Nigerian spammers stick to the same script. If someone is nieve enough to fall for theirs emails – the risk in a scam failing drops considerably. If someone doesn’t quit to startup, it’s less obvious to the entrepreneur that they’re not ready as it is to the investor.

    A depleting runway is another comparable time period. It tests you. Admittedly, I remember made the most interesting business development deals at my previous startup few years ago.

    ~B

    Reply
  13. Prasanna

    I have a full time job and also work on the nights for my startup. Only difference I have from this article is, I never thought of quitting the job only when an investor puts his money. I will quit my job when my business needs my full time attention to be given to take it forward. Looking for funding is out of my thoughts till I develop a considerable customer base. And I don’t mix up my office time with the time to my startup. Hope people think twice before opening their mouth for something like this. How about pre-screening startups before they are allowed for demo/pitch/mentorship?

    Reply
  14. Abhinav Sahai (@AbhinavSahai)

    The 45% figure doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Have experienced this before. On more than 3 occasions I have been told by friends/colleagues they have an idea, want to work with me on it but are not willing to leave their jobs. I agreed to them on all 3 cases but then later on pulled out when they said they were not willing quit their job and do it full time! Last month I saw someone launch a product on exactly 1 of those ideas – reason – this guy quit his job and is working full time on it without money since more than an year!
    After reading your post I feel I did the right thing :)

    Reply
  15. viveklath

    Its as simple. If it is my money you are taking, then I want full return on it. If an entrepreneur cannot fully guage the future of his own startup after working on it part time for a while, then better to let him go. Business is a serious and difficult path. If one cannot sacrifice lifestyle then they better stick to that job.

    Reply
  16. Dinesh Malhotra

    Mukund I cannot deny you here. I am also among those who are taking the “passion” as side project.
    I am committed toward my product development and have a team but still not able to get myself full time working on it and Investors also want to see that commitment before betting on your idea.

    Reply
  17. Sunil

    Good thought Mukund. Well i am looking for a good answer for this one. I am working a reputed company in US on H1 Visa. Myself along with my two friends developed a great product in last three months. I see people who are working as full time develop a product over period of years and i am super excited that we did that in 3 months. Our product is extensive and is highly scalable with great revenue model. So when you say that people who are working part time are not fully committed, i won’t agree to that. Our works starts at 6pm when we are back from the office and we work till 2am, so that’s 8 hours of work. I carpool with my partner, we have our meetings during that time, during coffee, during lunch and even at parties and even when we are holidaying. We are from not that established background. We take care of our own family (wife and kids) then our parents. We can afford to do this because of our regular jobs and i am really thankful and grateful to that. But that does not decrease the passion or commitment towards my product. We think about our product all the time, even when i am taking a bath i would be thinking about what kind of design should we have in our front page.

    Last year we were cribbing about our projects all the time. We converted all our negative energy to positive and these days we don’t crib, we talk about requirement, revenue models and technology. Do you think people who has this kind of background should not be thinking big without his regular work? We want to prove it wrong, coz if that happens more people will come out and more innovation will happen. You know there are millions of Zuckerberg hiding behind regular jobs. A thought like this will shut them down and they can never think outside the box.

    Reply
    1. Mukund Mohan Post author

      Sunil, that’s good. I quote “If you are not committed to your startup full time, dont expect an investor to get excited about funding you.” If you dont need funds, go ahead and be part time. Else your project will be a side project and not a committed venture. There’s no harm in running a side project.

      Reply
      1. Sunil

        How I wish there was a startup visa. Leaving a job would have been easy if I was working in India. Here I need Visa to stay and I won’t have that if I leave the job and that’s another issue. But my question is I am not saying that I won’t leave my job even if you invest, all I am saying is I will leave the job immediately after you invest. If an investor wants to invest, then it means he liked the idea and be liked what we have built so why he is bothered about whether I was working full time or not. Shouldn’t they be good as long as you are ready to work full time with immediate effect?

      2. Mukund Mohan Post author

        Good question Sunil. Investors “rarely” invest in idea alone. They invest in the entrepreneurs and their ability to take risks and persist. What you are saying is you are not willing to take a risk. Why should an investor? Right now there is a great supply of full time committed entrepreneurs working full time on their vision. They are a better bet.

  18. Prateek Gupta

    Hi Mukund,

    Will beg to differ.

    I did both. First, a full time startup till after one year I went broke and had to take up a job. Did not have money to keep it going, had to junk that idea.

    This time, its another idea and I’m doing it part time and the only source of funds for that startup is my salary. Moreover, I can go on strong even if an year passes or even 2 years pass as I’ll have funds to get things done. I’ll have energy left to pivot. Would not have been the case if I jumped the ship before starting. Plan to come over full-time either on getting a few paying clients or an investment. I think this is the best approach especially for people who’re not from money but have skills.

    Reply

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