With Rajesh Setty on Start-Ups (EN)

You said that you begin “entrepreneurial life the old fashioned way… by failing hard”… could you say something more about it?

Now it seems like a stupid thing to do but at that time it seemed perfectly fine.

Here is the background from my childhood. I started reading early and had read close to 700 books by the time I was nine. My parents would say that every one of those books was useless. Most of them were novels. That is when I got the crazy idea that I can write my own book. I started writing one and by the time I was ten I had completed writing a 200-page novel. After that I thought I want to get it published. I won’t go into all the details but it took me about three years to finally get it published. In the next three years I also got five other books published while I worked as a journalist for a local newspaper. As a journalist I had written a few hundred articles. So in the writing world I had a good set of accomplishments at a young age. This was a good thing and a bad thing.

Good thing because it gave me the confidence, connections and self-esteem. Bad thing because I felt that this “smartness” could be carried on to other domains. With that wrong notion, I founded a company with two other friends as soon as I got out of college. The results were as expected. I call it the “fastest company on earth” because the company went down fast 😦

Hence I say that I began my “entrepreneurial life the old fashioned way – by failing hard”

What does one have to have in order to start a business?

If I have to pick only one, it is the “ability to put together a configuration to superbly execute on an idea”

The flaw in thinking many times is that people wait for “the idea” to start a business. Sometimes they even fantasize that the idea they got is “exclusive” to them.

How far ahead should one plan?

Actually, it is a trick question. Although the immediate response would be to come up with a number (be it months or years) however close I am to an answer, it would only be partially correct.

Times have changed. The answer is simple – it really depends on the nature of your startup. Being involved in the startups in the web world, I can say that it is rare to have plans that are valid for more than one year.

However, the real point is – what can we do in the same one year (in parallel) while we are executing our plans? The answer for that one is to build a structure within the organization that is agile and adaptable for the future years. So, the real question should be: “How quickly should you get your organization to be agile and nimble?” and, the answer should be ASAP

How do you know it is time to quit?

This is a tough question and we both know that there is no simple answer for this question. Let me take a shot at it anyway.

This question comes up when your plans don’t work out. First, one should remember that golden rule stays valid – sometimes things will work out and sometimes things won’t. Here are some times to call it quits

1. When pursuing your dreams threatens to disrupt the balance in your family in a fashion that is not easily repairable.

2. When you don’t have a winning configuration to execute your project and you don’t think you have a chance of attracting that configuration quickly enough.

3. When your identity in the marketplace is threatened in ways that makes it hard to re-build later.

4. When moving forward may introduce serious health risks

5. When the marketplace has shifted and your original idea HAS to be modified if it has any chance of succeeding and you realize that you may not be the person to run with the new idea, structure and configuration.

About Rajesh Setty:

Rajesh Setty is a serial entrepreneur, investor and author based in Silicon Valley. Rajesh is involved in several companies in US and India mostly in some combination of investor, advisor or operating executive. His latest book “Beyond Code” (foreword by Tom Peters) was published late 2005.

Photo by Claus Grünstäudl on Unsplash