The above is an understatement. I remember seeing When was the last time you did something for the first time? on someone’s facebook wall sometime back. And the answer, for last 10 months, has been just today! And that sums it up. From starting a blog back in January, to quitting a full time job to work out of a 8*10 hole (picture below), it has been all about learning something new EVERYDAY. Today, I want to talk about 2 biggest learnings that I have had so far –
1. The world is full of people who want to help: – Yes, its also full of people who may want to cheat, do it wrong way; but why focus on minority. Majority of us, I believe and have found, are genuinely interested in helping a fellow human being.
When I started Internshala, I knew nothing about setting up a web portal, did not have a facebook account, had done no press & media, knew none of the 200+ organizations that have used Internshala till date, and the only student that I knew looking for an internship was my own cousin. The words like entrepreneurship, stake holding, angel investors, VC funding, company incorporation were distant and at times scary dreams. But we did move needle a bit in last 10 months and how was this made possible?
All I did was to reach out to friends and strangers with a question that I may have been looking an answer to and hoped they would help. And boy, help they did! Be it Khushroo at Indianblooddonors.com, Deepinder at zomato.com, Roshan at mindstix.com, Apurv at Pagalguy.com, Ankit at gyancentral.com, Pranay at CIIE-Ahmedabad, Meera & Pooja from The Hindu & HT Cafe, Himanshu at IBM, Aparna and Somna in Hyderabad, Vaishnavi & Surya in Mumbai, or the entire IIT Madras support system (faculty, students, and alumni), the list is practically endless. And why did they help? It was not as if they were getting something out of it and neither I knew them upfront – they helped because they wanted to. As simple as that.
Friends of course (again the list is endless and they know who they are) chipped in with whatever they could and that made a huge difference. I personally feel that there is a VERY strong eco-system that exists today for an idea to take shape of reality and for a start up to take wings. So remember, whenever you need help, just shout! Someone somewhere would hear it and echo back with a solution – just keep your ears and eyes open!
2. As a start up, your team is the ONLY asset that you have – so invest in it. And investing does not necessarily mean money (you will not have much of it anyway) but time!
In first couple of months, I was caught up in the dilemma of whether to outsource most of the operations and execute rest of it myself as I wanted things to move fast. Finding a co-founder and building a team felt like such a herculean and time consuming task. I was afraid that I would spend all my time meeting up people and not do anything on setting up the website; but again better sense prevailed.
Today with a team of 14 members in place (a mix of interns, free lancers, friends who chip in part time, and active mentors), I can safely say that the investment pays off. A team not only helps you execute quicker, but more importantly helps you stay on track for the long term vision. I have had my fair share of moments of self-doubt, desperation, and frustration and reaching out to someone in the team (more often than not its either of Ankur, Chaitanya or Ashish who plays the Agony Aunt), helps you de-stress and re-energize.
Another lesson that I have learned about team building is to hire only the best (preferably youngsters with zero or minimal experience but tonnes of intelligence and fire in the belly), indoctrinate them into the vision, and let them loose. You may be surprised by the unleashed collective creativity of the team.
These are my 2 cents. Would be great to hear from fellow start up visitors on what have been their top 2 or 3 learnings in the initial days of starting up. I will keep updating the list as I learn more. As promised, a picture of Internshala’s first office is below. I really wish I had got ourselves a garage – that seems to be a prerequisite for a successful venture, or atleast it sounds so much cooler than a store room!