I had a very good entrepreneur who came by and talked to me yesterday about his company. After 2+ years of being at it, he finally claimed he “got a break” when he was selected to be interviewed for YCombinator. He had applied a couple of times before and was not shortlisted. He was obviously excited and I was thrilled as well. He and his cofounder are really awesome folks who are among those very rare breed who make everyone around them feel good even when the chips are down. They are both fairly young and an absolute pleasure to hang out with.
The last month, had been extremely tough for them. They figured out that the market in India was not quite ready for their web service, both culturally and also from the ability to monetize. They had both been in the US, and moved back to India so they could lower their costs during the prototype phase. They were facing the choice of moving out of India to the valley or just pivoting to another idea.
In the evening after the initial euphoria had died down, though, he made a remark that surprised me. He said “this is make or break time for us”.
I could understand, but there was a tinge of disappointment in my heart. Two years in a startup can do this to anyone. Two years in an Indian startup is even tougher for most founders. I have a theory about startup in India.
There’s one part of about the Indian entrepreneur that struck me as their unique value proposition.
You survive after starting your company, beyond the first year, you deserve an achievement award.
So imagine all you are trying to do is to stay alive, making some revenue, but not quite making it big. That’s the only stage you are hoping to get to. Till the breakthrough idea, investor, channel, customer or accelerator comes by. Breakthrough in the context of giving your venture a fillip.
Lets then imagine you get that break.
Chances are, that break will not suffice. Not because its not the break you wanted, but because the chances of it being the only thing that propels you to the next step in the ladder are slim.
That’s the case to keep going and building momentum. That’s because 90% of people will give up at the stage.
If you dont get past the YCombinator interview, have a plan B. Keep going. Dont give up. That was my advice to him.
I know that’s easy to say but very hard to execute. 2 years of no paycheck is bound to turn any person cynical and jaded.
Here’s hoping he reads this and makes up his mind to have a plan B if the YC plan does not work out.