Hardcore startup. Part 1: How to make your dream come true
7 years ago, an idea settled in me and I could not imagine what I would have to go through in order to realize it. At that moment I was a co-owner of a successful online store in Moscow, we just got out of the crisis, and the business was booming.
Today we can summarize the first results. On the way, I had a lot of NO, several YES, and three choices, which, however, need to be done almost every day.
NO # 1 - from my best friend
I shared ideas with a partner. He liked it, especially the monetization model, but somehow he wasn’t very eager to start something new.
This did not upset me. I plunged headlong into this area, and in the evenings I sat down to study the resources of neighboring countries and world giants. I always liked to look for the pros and cons in each product. So, evening after evening, I began to create my own product and hatched a new business plan.
NO # 2 - logic defeated the heart
Hooray, here comes the day when I broke up with an old partner and could begin to realize a dream. I returned home to Minsk and I had the choice: to start a business in e-commerce (what I was doing in Moscow) or to realize my idea.
I understood that I could make the online store successful, as Minsk was 2-3 years behind Moscow, but I was not sure about the dream: there was little experience. The cold calculation of reason defeated the aspiration of the heart.
NO # 3 - hostage to its success
Climate technology online stores are rapidly gaining momentum, business is growing before our eyes. The staff and turnover of the company crawled up. But the dream was haunting.
And then I realized that I could not leave it and go make a dream. My condition could be described as if I married by calculation and live with a rich wife, whom I can’t leave.
Now, when I create something, I’ll think 10 times! You must immediately be guided by the desire of the heart, since there is nothing more permanent than temporary.
NO # 4 - rejection of the hired director
I decided to get rid of addiction by shifting responsibility to a hired top manager. A lot of interviews and conversations, which you understand that you will probably never find someone you like and you will entrust him with your business. It is almost to entrust a child or a wife!
I was almost desperate, but suddenly found him. Summary and experience are just brilliance, and we shook hands. The delight did not last long, since I created a business for myself, with my own specifics and culture. The collective simply did not accept the person, and rejection occurred.
NO # 5 - crowd opinion
I did not know where to put myself and went to study at the Executive MBA. When writing a graduation project, I gathered cool children from a group into my team to develop an idea. But then they jumped off, following the opinions of other people. In the group, not everyone liked that I, the youngest (25 years old), told them that I was doing a project with a capitalization of more than $ 100 billion. You should have seen their faces!
NO # 6 - don't be like EVERYTHING
We continued to prepare for our first defense when the Executive MBA Program Director saw my capitalization calculations and laughed. She treated me rather biased, as it seemed to me. I did everything in accordance with the academic requirements and was allowed to defend the project in Warsaw.
Teachers are used to listening to local level defenses, but we need to learn how to think in terms of global companies and resources.
NO # 7 - sell or give, just to unstick
I decided to sell the business to competitors. Dozens of meetings and hundreds of letters about nothing. No one is interested in the local market in a small country (Belarus). Local businessmen are not ready to absorb and aggressively develop; they are engaged in the development of their often first business. And there are almost no investors in the country, since after the collapse of the USSR only the first generation of owners grew.
NO # 8 - the sharks ate and did not notice
Since I couldn’t sell the company or move away from its management, I tried to bring it into the lead and start my project with the money I earned. The strategy was to open offline technology stores through our own franchise throughout the country.
Then I made a mistake. I climbed into the "scarlet ocean" - an already formed divided market in which I could not find new opportunities.
Initially, my business started in the “blue ocean” of e-commerce, and I sailed in a growing market. He pulled me at his speed. There was no need to try to take over a traditional business in which I understood little and in which there has long been a bloody battle for each client.
NO # 9 - fire people or die
My experiments ruined me, there was no money, no dreams. A lot of working capital was washed and I approached the point of no return. It was necessary to solve something.
Having considered three development scenarios, it turned out that the best option is to close all retail (fire people chain stores and one office) and focus on what makes a profit.
To dismiss is not to recruit employees when all is well. This decision is difficult to make when you have rallied a team for a long time and pumped people into active development. And then he sharply changed his strategy. I had to do this, although I could lose the whole company.
YES # 1 - Reboot
I decided to take a break for the summer, because I did not understand where I was and how to move on. I was like a beast in a cage that beats in different angles and does not know how to get out of this situation.
Rest rebooted and updated me. The dream began to burn again in my heart, and I realized that the time had come. It was the year 2014.
I handed the company over to my colleague and friend who had worked with me for a long time and managed to grow up. He turned his shoulder, took the company and led it into a brighter future.
YES # 2 - no money, but the coal flames
We rented an apartment for our new project. It was like laying the first stone at the beginning of construction. Money was only a month in advance. However, I had a firm belief that everything would work out.
NO # 10 - pressure inside and out
At the very beginning, I felt serious pressure and attacks from different angles. The old company worked in the red. Family health, project finance, team building, physical fatigue ...
My sister was put in the hospital, then I was told that my mother fainted. I told myself that this was a test of strength, and no matter how hard it was, I would still go after my dream.
neither YES nor NO
We finished making the main mockups and draft TK, and we had to choose a contractor to complete the order. We considered a pair of Belarusian and one Ukrainian company.
On the technical side, they were all similar in the tools and methods of the project, but the financial requests were very different and even caused a smile. Development costs ranged from 50 to 230 thousand dollars! Without options, we agreed to work with a Ukrainian office, it was the cheapest.
YES # 3 - a miracle in the studio
Significant funding is needed to launch a startup. However, at the beginning of the year I did not know where I would get the money from. The first steps were based only on faith.
Then a contract with the Turks appeared in my climate company, which was the answer to our prayers. This was obvious, since the company for 5 years did not even make commercial applications for such amounts. We first worked with such a large order ($ 1 million!).
YES # 4 and YES again - the dream team
I came to the conclusion that we risk a lot if we continue to make the product outsourced: The
contractor can launch a similar resource.
This is a deterrent to growth when investing.
This leads to unjustified risks: if after a period of development the product cannot work, all responsibility for it will still be on you.
Therefore, I began to actively search for a team of programmers at my place in Minsk. And once I remembered the post of my friend, a successful IT entrepreneur on Facebook on this subject (he is now vice president of new products at Mail.Ru Group):
When the time comes to die, and a crowd of grandchildren will surround me, and the oldest will ask: “Grandfather, tell me the most important thing”, I will gather my strength and say:
“Never, never, and never again, my dear grandchildren, don’t give your projects to development outsourcers.
And everything will be fine with them. (c) Yuri Gursky
YES # 5 - your intuition
I understood an important point for myself. If I am the bearer of an idea, and the idea and logic of the resource could fit in my head, then it can also fit in the heads of my users. Of course, you need to listen to criticism addressed to you, but you also need to have firmness and trust yourself, since most people are used to thinking in a stereotyped way.
Here's the theme of the words of Jack Ma, creator of Alibaba.com:
If at the meeting, ninety percent of the participants vote for any proposal, I send it with confidence to the ballot box. The reason for the banality is logical: when all these people have so easily noticed this opportunity, then most likely many other companies are already working on it and we are unlikely to own the leadership.
NO # 11 - forget everything you knew before
As a startup team, I noticed how my management style has changed.
The complexity of a startup is that you create an intellectual product in uncertain conditions, and the usual management style does not work. Leadership works. People must take risks with you. Are they ready to work without a salary for several months or 16 hours a day? They should be as burning an idea as you. And you can’t always plan even a month in advance.
Choice # 1 - to be or not to be a king in the village
Where and how to start? What strategy to choose? To conquer a small market of a single European country or go immediately to a large market, which will enable rapid development. The CIS market in the eyes of the West is a grain of sand, so there is no right answer, and everyone makes their choice.
Choice # 2 - response and adaptability as a way of survival
I know that I know nothing. (c) Socrates
How many wrong assumptions and punctures in the plans during this time! Three times they transferred the output to production, because they did not know how much time it would take for many tasks. During this time, none of my plans came true as I intended. I am a terrible planner, but this is not the most important thing.
It is important to always maintain the foundation (values and principles), move forward and be prepared to change methods and tools. I think that many fell into similar traps when they planned to spend an hour, but it turned out for several days.
Choice # 3 - keep following your dream ... and our updates
Stop, so what kind of idea is that? Aftar! Stay tuned for the next series of startup-hardcore chronicles, I'll tell you all soon.