It’s a common misconception that there is a fixed formula for startup success when in reality working at a startup is completely chaotic. Take it from my friend, entrepreneur Tejpaul Bhatia, who started and ran a seed funded startup for several years before successfully merging it with another startup. In this post he dispels two of the biggest misconceptions about working at a startup. -John
What’s most misunderstood about working at a startup?
Some people, including investors and industry pundits, like to tell startups what to do — as if there is a prescribed formula on how to build a successful startup. This is bullshit. Every startup is unique and no one has any clue how things will turn out.
There are incubators, angel investors, and venture capitalists that make it seem like there is a framework for all this. There is no framework. It is all chaos. Entrepreneurs figure out how to turn chaos into order (and then usually back into chaos again).
Everyone thinks “tech” and “funding” when they think startup. If you took any of the principles applied to funded tech startups and applied them to REAL startup businesses like stores and restaurants it would be a complete shit show (i.e. like tech startups)!
What misperception about working at a startup would you most like to change?
I’d like to change the misperception that working at a startup is all about working hard. Of course you have to work hard. But sometimes startups go down a really bad path when they think “we are not successful because we aren’t working hard enough.” This results in a toxic culture of micromanagement, disengagement, and fear.
Working at a startup is all about working when you want (which is always if the rest of the sentence is completed), on what you want, where you want, with the people you want to be with, all without asking or questioning why you are doing it.
You’ve recently become involved with the Startup Leadership Program, where you are helping train the next generation of startup leaders. Tell me about the program and how it helped you and your company get through the chaos you mentioned earlier.
In the six months before selling Kaptur I participated in a fellowship called the Startup Leadership Program (SLP). It was amazing. While I was in the program I scaled my company from 0 to 1 million registered users and exited it to Ahalife – and I wasn’t the only one in my class who had this kind of transformative experience. I loved it so much that I volunteered to help coordinate the New York chapter this year.
SLP is a global community of founders who go through a 6 month global curriculum that is managed locally by current fellows. Each class of 30 entrepreneurs discusses everything from ideation to co-founder conflict to negotiating term sheets to exiting your startup every other Tuesday for 6 months.
While the curriculum is nuts and bolts about startups, the community and program is all about the entrepreneur and his/her journey.
I recommend it to every entrepreneur at any stage of this awesome journey.