By Jatin Detwani
“I want to be an entrepreneur”
“I want to work in a start-up”
“I want to work for myself and not for someone else”
These are the statements which I hear very often these days. With the success of start-ups such as Flipkart and Ola in India and Facebook and Uber in the United States and the abundance of investment capital and technology, more and more people are looking to become an entrepreneur or join a start-up. Although building a start-up is fun and exciting and promises to offer lots of learning opportunities, it is an incredibly hard job to transform an idea and bring it to life.
I clearly remember my early days of helping new start-ups, my first one being right after I finished my MBA. From haggling with vendors for a few dollars off on office furniture to set up a basic security system in the office to calling potential customers, I was responsible for it all. Up until my experience with startups, I had led a majorly comfortable life with 10 years of experience under my belt as a senior executive. However, during my time setting up a new enterprise I had the humbling experience of executives yelling at me in the middle of a pitch and learnt to deal with vendors who would not pick my calls up for weeks on end.
After being a part of this journey a few times, I view working in early-stage start-ups in any capacity as a new adventure, where one of the only assets you can truly bank upon is your team. People with certain characteristics make a great team which increases the odds of success. I believe HIPPO’s embody the ideal team members of startups. “HIPPOs” here refers to people who have these characteristics: hungry to achieve more, innovative, perseverant, passionate about building a good business and optimistic.
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Perhaps one of the most important characteristics to look for in startup members are people who are hungry to achieve more, do more and be more. They are bold, strong and willing to chart their own destiny, even if it involves challenging the norm.
Similarly, innovation is another key characteristic. Innovative people look for solutions even for problems deemed to be “impossible” to solve. Here it is important to note that the magnitude of the innovation itself is not relevant as even small innovations have proven to be successful business ideas. The mindset of constantly thinking about different ways to do things, trying new things, challenging the status-quo, and not being afraid of failure is what could produce breakthrough results.
Since only a handful of startups survive in the long-run, perseverance is the fuel that keeps you going. For me, this helped me to improve my success rate of converting potential customers on a cold call from 1 in 10 to about 3 in 10 after 100 calls over a period of 4 days. Another thing that is equally as important to help innovation and perseverance be sustainable is passion, this ensures you keep going for as long as required to achieve your goals. Combine these characteristics with a bit of optimism and you will be propelled to the top.
Jatin Detwani has been the CFO for APAC region for Rocket Internet Asia JV, global CFO of an education technology fund and is now the co-founder a new technology start-up.