In recent days, while working with the MVP portfolio companies and reflecting back on the days of madhouse, we have identified this phenomenon we are calling ‘startup madness’.
It’s visible and present from the time when you start thinking of your million dollar/world changing idea to the steady state point (personal satisfaction, acquisition, IPO or maybe shutdown). Things that you do, don’t make any sense to outsiders and they are like ‘This guy is crazy’ and even when you look back at that period you think “what was I thinking when I did this?”
Looking back at the time when we got the idea to start madhouse, we did not know anything about business, we were just two 27 year old kids (later three of us, with Ankur joining us). We had tried a variety of things in our lives and had managed to do reasonably well in whatever we put our hands into, may be that’s what gave us the stupid confidence. Very importantly we were quite ignorant about ‘real business’ and hence came up with our own take on every business problem we faced.
This streak of startup madness showed at various places:
- We did not hear NO: not from vendors, not from people we were trying to hire, not from investors, customers, no one. A NO just meant we had to come back with new ideas and try again.
- We would never get tired of talking about madhouse and we could talk to any one about it. Most times the other guy did not give a damn , for him/her it was just a blabber
- We just worked non-stop for three years , not even a day off (except when forced by illness)
- Other than work everything else was just plain unimportant : sleeping, eating, meeting friends, attending social functions, family, watching TV, movies, newspaper – all of this had very little place in our lives. We just filled all our day with work with average working day of 16-18 hrs all thru.
- We worked out of anywhere and everywhere. Our tools were a Fujitsu laptop and a CDMA phone which could be used like a modem. Restaurants, inside a car / train / auto rickshaw / bus, out on the road, in the park, bedroom, living room and the loo, locations stopped to matter, where place was work place.
- We did not need a lot of money to live and we were happier than ever (no purchases of over 1000 for 3 years, eating at economical places, shamelessly staying with friends / relatives / acquaintances in cities we visited on work )
- ‘The world impossible was missing” - we just did not believe that there was any problem that we could not solve or anything we could not do. Our minds were one track – focus hard, think hard, work hard and just do whatever it takes.
- We had access to this inhuman energy that allowed us to just keep going – “never get tired” or “never run out of steam”.
- Each time we met a new person, we were constantly thinking of how this person can help our venture, . Everywhere we went, we explored if there was something there that could benefit our startup. Frankly we were classical ‘opportunity hounds” and quite shamelessly so
- We were basically “stuck” in our own world in which we could not fail. While we adapted like crazy, we sort of forced business to work the way we thought it should work, without caring a lot about the outside world.
This madness is the essence of start-ups; it signifies the purity of a startup. It makes the startup tick and makes it successful and enjoyable. The same madness makes you innovate, over perform, challenge your skill set, think out of the box or even out of the world, take 28 hrs out of a 24 hrs a day, it gets you to focus but does not let you blindly focus!
Its also important to figure out how can you keep re-fueling the desire, the madness, so that it lasts forever, not just for days, weeks or months, start ups that click need to be at it for years. For an individual or team to succeed as a startup, having the startup madness is a must.
If you are an entrepreneur look inside you and make an honest assessment. Do you have the streak?
- If yes, great.
- If no. But you think you can build it – nice, go ahead and do it at the highest priority.
- If you don’t have it and you can’t build it – I am not sure you should continue being an entrepreneur.
On that other hand, if you are not yet an entrepreneur you should also look inside you and make the same honest assessment. Do I have the mad streak?
- If yes, you fool, leave your job right now – the world of ‘startup madness’ is calling
- If no, it would best for you to avoid the path of entrepreneurship, until the ‘madness streak’ gets to you