In June 2011 on Father’s Day, I gave myself a gift -- I resigned from my highly satisfying, visible, and rewarding Wall Street job as an Internet analyst based out of Silicon Valley to start ShopClues.com.
Before I became an entrepreneur and started ShopClues.com, over the years, I had probably read hundreds of books and articles on entrepreneurship and always found one thing or another that I could relate to from all those reads. I was also fortunate to be in Silicon Valley before ShopClues and was blessed with a good network, hence was able to receive good advice from so many well-known serial entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
Entrepreneurship is never easy for anyone but for me it presented five unique challenges that were not easy to deal with – 1) I lived in Silicon Valley for the past decade and both of my kids were born and raised in the USA, 2) I was well known Internet analyst in Silicon Valley covering all the most talked about Internet companies such as Google, Amazon, Yahoo!, Expedia, etc, 3) I made close to $1mm in annual household income, 4) I used to appear on CNBC, Fox News, Bloomberg TV and all other major media outlets in US on almost daily basis, and most importantly, 5) my job gave me an opportunity to meet and interact with founders and CEOs of all the major Internet giants on regular basis.
I went through my share of discovering myself, my true passion, my strengths, my weakness, and lots of soul searching to finally start on my own. So here are some lessons I learnt on the way that I am sharing. I am not focusing on what all is required to be a successful entrepreneur or what all is needed to create and/or run a successful start-up i.e. idea, team, capital etc. But what I am actually sharing are some of the lessons I learnt in terms of what does it take to be an entrepreneur first, independent of what follows after that.
Lesson # 1: When do I know that I am ready to take the entrepreneurial plunge?
One question anyone who dares to be an entrepreneur has to answer – when do I know that I am ready to be an entrepreneur? The best advice I got for this was very simple but so powerful. The answer that resonated well with me was – you are ready to be an entrepreneur, when you do not have to ask this question again. This was my big lesson and left a profound impact on my decision to leave my job and start ShopClues.
Lesson # 2: Entrepreneurship and passion go hand-in-hand
In my view, as an entrepreneur what you do and how passionate you are about it go hand-in-hand. Startups are always based on something you feel very strongly and passionately about. You will be fooling yourself if you want to do a startup because it means making lots of money and glamour. You need to be driven by a cause or you need to believe in something (e.g. an opportunity, pain point or innovation) so strongly that you are ready to bet everything you have. This in my view is the right foundation for being an entrepreneur.
Lesson # 3: You cannot cheat yourself
While thinking about entrepreneurship you have to be true to yourself. You can lie or cheat and still do away with it but you have to be honest to yourself when it comes to entrepreneurship. Is entrepreneurship for you and what do you want to follow as your dream as an entrepreneur? These are two things no body can answer for you other than yourself. Please be honest with yourself, as those two things become foundation of what you do next.
Lesson # 4: Life experiences from all walks of life will be handy
I worked at 10 different places including four of Fortune 100 in their headquarters, 2-3 start-ups, and at least half dozen unsuccessful attempts to start a start-up. Today, I feel more equipped to run a start-up because of each successful and more importantly unsuccessful attempts that added to my learning. Every event in my life has taught me something and those learning come very handy as I set up ShopClues along with my team.
Lesson # 5: Entrepreneurship is 110% self-consuming
Being an entrepreneur is so demanding that in your early years you will not have time for anything else. You may be married or dating someone, you may be a parent or have no children, and you may be living in nuclear family or joint family but once you start a startup, this is all you will be doing. All of sudden you will start realising that while you love so many other people in your life, your startup is something you love the most. You will also start noticing that the startup consumes you so much that you will not have time for anything else, no matter how important it is.
Lesson #6: Something that does not kill you makes you stronger
Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. Being an entrepreneur also means that each day will be different and each day may be a roller coaster round. All of sudden, you will start noticing that you can achieve a new high and new low in your life -– many times on the same day. You will have to be emotionally intelligent because not everything goes well in startup.
Lesson #7: Your energy will attract everything else
As an entrepreneur, your energy will be very gravitating and will start attracting people who can eventually become your team, investors, advisors and guides. The more energy you have the more lives you touch as an entrepreneur.
In a nutshell, while entrepreneurship is very beautiful, it is also completely self-consuming and a tough commitment. Follow your dreams but please make sure that you enjoy the process as much as the end outcome.
(Sandeep Aggarwal is the founder and CEO of “ShopClues.com”. He is counted amongst leading Internet experts globally, and has regularly appeared on CNBC, Fox, ABC News and regularly quoted by Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes and other prominent media outlets.)
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