I started my first venture with a friend when I was 22. For the first 18 months we were growing steadily. Until one day, my friend disappeared, with all the money of course. It took me 4 years to overcome self-doubt and confusion and gather the necessary confidence to start again.
This starting up thought happened on a bike trip. I was riding from Bangalore to Ladakh, with my future father-in-law, who was 62 years old at that time. While the entire ride from Delhi onwards to Ladakh was planned, the stretch from Bangalore to Delhi was not. It was more of a gut decision of mine.
When I reached Khardungla pass, the highest motorable road in the world, it was the most fulfilling moment for me in the entire journey. All the hardship and the adventure seemed so justified at that point in time. It was then that I was able to demolish all my fears and self-doubts and decided to start a venture again.
Being a long distance biker has also helped me in my entrepreneurial journey. The qualities that are needed to complete a long distance bike trip are not so different from the ones needed to run a venture. Here is my list:
When riding on highways that went through innumerable towns and cities, it was almost given that we would find local bikers trying to race with us. Although very tempting to race with them, we had to keep reminding ourselves not to burn our energy, and focus on moving forward towards our destination at a constant speed.
Not much different in starting up too. As a startup founding team, we were literally juggling with multiple roles and tasks. And there were always temptations to stray from the decided path and keep exploring everything that came our way. It took tremendous amount of effort to say no to certain things that were not aligned with our growth plan.
While most part of riding is fun, it does sometimes get to you. Especially if you are riding in places where the landscape is barren and looks the same for almost 500 odd kms, the temperatures are soaring at almost 50 degree Celsius, hot winds and dust clouds everywhere. It is during these times that we had to put our head down and keep riding with the destination in mind.
A Start up journey throws many challenges like this. There were times when we were putting in so much effort and getting slow results. In the hindsight, it was also expecting too much fireworks in too less time. It was during these times that we had to bite our tongue and keep working towards the end result.
3. All you need to do is ask:
Just before leaving for the ride, I had taken a print out of the route map from Bangalore to Delhi. With the map in my hand, I was pretty sure there was no chance of losing our way. My father-in-law belongs to the old school of thought and he felt asking local people for directions would do us no harm. I was adamant that the map was good enough to help us and all that we had to do if we ever felt lost was to take it out and consult it. We got lost twice and during most part of the journey we rode right through cities, not knowing that they had by-pass routes. Asking the locals might have helped. ☺
While there is a sea of information about almost everything on the internet today, and of course scores of books written about anything to do with business and starting up, a little advice from experts and experienced folks did no one any harm. While there is nothing wrong in learning just from the Internet and books and other such material, it’s always good to keep an open mind for advice, especially if it is coming from someone with experience.
4. Journey is the destination
While riding is about getting to the destination, the journey to there is the best part about it. If one does not enjoy the journey, the destination is that much farther.
There is absolutely nothing wrong in dreaming about building a billion dollar company or a company that changes the way we behave as society (for the better of course) or any other greater calling you have for your business. I personally think it’s absolutely necessary to have a vision for the company. However, it is equally necessary to be prepared to undertake the often rigorous and challenging journey of building a dream from start. If you are not going to enjoy it, you might just run out of steam.
While I have gotten much busy these days with my startup, I never miss a chance to get on my bike and ride away. I do not know how many such lessons await me, but I am eager to learn more.