Is it Scary to Start up? [and how I beat it?]

When I wanted to start my own company, there were several things that worried me,

  • Will I be able to get enough customers to get going?
  • What are the legal, tax implications?
  • What if I become lazy and dumb due to all the free time I get?
  • What will my immediate social circle think of this move? Will they understand and accept it?
  • Who would I turn to for advice, mentoring and support in the times of trouble?
  • Will I be able to generate at least Rs. 20k a month to support my family?

These are what I call “Scary Thoughts”. Scary because we dont the answers.

While I do not say that startups are not scary, I find that start ups are natural to human beings.

This is how I think you can beat the scary thoughts and start your own venture:

  • Talk to your spouse: This is the most important. Talk to your spouse about your worries and fears. We often feel that expressing our fears will make us vulnerable in relationships. But this is not true. You will be surprised to notice the amount of support and confidence boost your spouse can give you.
    Of course if you are single then you probably dont have many scary thoughts.
  • Test the markets before starting: You do not need to have a company to test whether customers will buy your product. I launched my first online product in Feb 2009. It was a simple e-book explaining excel formulas and I sold it for $5. It didnt go that well, but it taught me various lessons on how to launch products online. Plus it showed me that I have a real market and if I do things right, customers will buy from me.
  • Live Frugal: Most scary thoughts boil down to financial concerns like “will I be able to feed my family for 6 months while I work in basement on the next big idea?”. You can convincingly address this by living frugal. Spend as little as possible and never spend more than what you make. Establish frugal lifestyle way before you make the leap, that way you dont see the transition when you start up. We were spending only 20% of our income every month on running home (so we knew that if we save one month’s salary we can live 5 months without money and that is a huge confidence boost for me.)
  • Develop Surplus Cash: Whenever possible save madly. Dont hesitate to pick up the extra work or take up a small consulting engagement on part time basis. Add all these funds to your bank account and make it plum. At one point we were sitting on funds that could last us 60 months without salary.
  • Dont take mortgage or any other long-term loans: Simple, if you have a loan, then you need regular income to pay it off. So dont go for any. Instead just buy what you want with cash. If you cannot buy something, just rent it. I made a mistake and bought a house in 2007. But the loan tenure was only 7 years. I took some of the surplus generated in 2008/2009 to pay off the loan (I still have 18 months left on it, but I am not really worried now.)
  • Make new friendships: Find people who have started companies and develop friendships with them. Listen to them intently and treat them as your mentors. I am lucky to find such mentor in 2009. He has started a company and worked on his own for almost 20 years. I have shared my worries with him and he understood and told me how he handled the same.
  • Talk to an auditor: In India there are lots of myths on “how to start a company?”. But for most part it is ridiculously simple. Talk to an auditor and ask clearly how you will be taxed, what happens to the money you get from foreign clients etc. The new tax laws in financial bill 2010 allow you to keep more of your money in the pockets.
  • Accept the fear: It is natural to be frightened by unknown. Even if you are employed, you could be fired because someone was ignorant about their loans (housing bubble) or exuberant about their business (IT bubble). You could be making less money and working more because your company decides suddenly freeze salaries and increase working hours (happened in India for lots of IT companies). Just accept the fact that life is uncertain. Instead of fearing it, just embrace it.

What are the scary thoughts holding you down?

These are just a few pointers from my experience. What about you? What thoughts are holding you down from achieving even more?

Please share using comments.

9 thoughts on “Is it Scary to Start up? [and how I beat it?]”

  1. One scary thought is Do I get scuceed in the competative martket, as lot of competitor in the market with lot of experience…??

  2. Congrats Chandoo!
    Hear so much about your new venture from Akshat these days. It’s a fun ride, almost like a game. And like you said..embrace it!
    Wish you all the best!

  3. 🙂 it might have been foolish for us to take the plunge given our situation…..but the learnings along the way have only made us stronger and totally agree with you on the first point if your spouse supports you the sky is the limit…..

    One more way to do away with the scary thought is decide which one of you will continue working till the business becomes stable especially if both you and your partner are deciding to take the plunge…

  4. Dear Chandoo,

    The tips given by you are relevant and true for every business. The point “not to take mortgage loan” is no-no initially but it is a value addition after your business establishes. As your money goes into acquiring the asset which will enhance your worth and beat the inflation. At later stage, the cost of acquiring of same property would become unimaginable. A small step in value addition by asset acquisition is not bad.

  5. Hi Chandoo,

    Very inspiring blog! But how did you target your audience. Why were you so sure these audience are going to buy from you and this market is large enough to make profit. If possible can you describe your typical customer? Are they young professionals or students or entrepreneurs?

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