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iTraveller – Pursuing your startup dream: About the lessons not regrets

It isn’t uncommon to see people quit their corporate jobs to pursue their startup dreams. Of course it works for some and doesn’t for others. What then, is it that people do to ensure they are met with success? Is there a tried and tested formula that exists? 

“Everything you want is on the other side of fear”- Jack Canfield
 
I recently came across an article by Ali Mese, where Ali speaks about quitting his corporate job to pursue his startup dream…and, it failed! Another person who undertook a similar journey back in 2011 was, Shiju Radhakrishnan, the Founder of iTraveller, although unlike Ali, Shiju was not met by failure. That is not to say, his journey was an easy one. 
 
It isn’t uncommon to see people quit their corporate jobs to pursue their startup dreams. Of course it works for some and doesn’t for others. What then, is it that people do to ensure they are met with success? Is there a tried and tested formula that exists? 
We spoke to Shiju to unravel his journey and get insights into what it was that worked for him. 
 
Here’s what we found, and it’s quite simple really! At a basic level it is what Ali Mese also advocates after his journey through the startup world and back, on his blog.
 
The journey isn’t about winning or losing, it is the lessons learnt on the way. 
 
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemmingway
 
Every person’s journey is unique, but after all an entrepreneur is the one who understands his peers better than anyone else. So here are few simple things that could optimize your results and minimize the struggle, based on a conversation with Shiju Radhakrishnan, CEO and Founder of iTraveller. 
 
1.    Starting before the beginning, 
How is it even possible to “start” before you have begun? The answer to that is more obvious and a lot simpler than one would expect it to be. You start by creating your base via Research. This, by the way doesn’t need to be extensive. And if you have already ensured to recognize and apply this step, you have begun your journey on the right foot. 
 
Shiju says he briefly researched the Travel and Hospitality sector, as it wasn’t passion for travel that influenced him to get into creating iTraveller, rather it was his decision based on the market at the time that made him pursue this. He recognized the problem that existed and also what he wanted to solve via setting up the startup. 
 
You need to equip yourself with just enough knowledge around your focus area enabling your decision making about the options available to you. Apart from which you need to recognize what you want to achieve ultimately. All this needs to be done, before you have decided to quit your full time job. 
 
“6moths prior to quitting my corporate job, I initiated research, created my documentation and set my ground rules. All of this was done well in advance and based on the market opportunity at the time. Things were in place and by the time I finally quit and I had started receiving traction.” 
 
2.    Three key factors to keep in mind when beginning your journey into the world of startups: 
 
  • Define and design processes for Scalability. Everyone ultimately looks forward to reaching a point where they have gathered traction. We all have plans of steadily expanding our workforce and creating a smooth flow of work, thus solid plans for scaling are a stand out element for a good business model. 
”I was obsessed with the concept of scale, as I found a lot of people complained about the scalability part of the business, It helps when you are adding more man power. If you don’t have the DNA of scale, you will end up creating a business model that is not sustainable” 
 
  • Handle your money efficiently. Being frugal when starting out is a good idea. Spending on office space, furniture etc. is not as important as keeping funds in hand. There is the underlying uncertainty of if things will work the next day or not. Thus having funds to fall back, like a safety net is always essential 
“We were always conscious of the cost aspect. We never spent more than the required amount on office interiors etc. In fact we were prepared for any uncertainty that may arise so much so that we were ready to wind up and shift our business to a garage if the situation demanded it”
 
  • Forming a dedicated team is better than choosing a team purely on the basis of their achievement. Having a team of averagely talented people or those we call average achievers could still be a lot better than a team chosen purely on the basis of their talent. It is because dedication is something that binds a team together at the core and enables a good communication flow, which in turn is essential for progress internally (within the startup) 
“I was careful about having a team that wasn’t necessarily exceptional in terms of talent, but commitment and dedication were the stand out qualities I looked for. A team needs hardworking and flexible people who are prepared to deal with the uncertainty of working in a startup” 
 

3. Interacting with investors

Initially scaling up can be quite difficult and time consuming, but stay focused while trying to begin fundraising.When interacting with investors, keep in mind every interaction is important and provides a learning experience. The lack of interest from an investor’s side is not a waste of time; rather it facilitates a feedback process and enables revision. Every conversation with an investor provides insights into different features and these are extremely important ingredients for growth. 
 
A key point to be noted here is that investors are going to be interested in these key aspects when you approach them;
  1. Your pitch and presentation
  2. Your projections
  3. The Team 
“Having the team by your side and on par with you instills the confidence that investors are looking for, and that in turn urges them to believe in your execution. The team needs to have a good flow of communication. This transparency helps convergence within the team keeping the overall objective in focus”
 
Make sure you have everything you require in place when you begin meeting and interacting with investors. 
 
“If I were to track my milestones that led to quicker fundraising, I would say talking to Anup, from LetsVenture helped me a lot. We created an amazing profile on LV’s platform which included all the information necessary to increase visibility from investors. This was very important as it is a good complete profile that attracts investors. Post creating the profile we requested LV to help us start actively fundraising. Here when you notice activity on your profile. Reach out to the guys that visit your screen. You will notice your fundraising will flow a lot smoother after this”
 

4. Time is of  essence; work more and worry less

“A goal without a timeline is just a dream.” —Robert Herjavec
 
Creating a timeline has proven to be an effective method to track your journey and it helps as a review tool with checkpoints to channel your focus. Spending more than 6 to 8 months on trying to raise funds especially if you do so without a lead, would be an ineffectual endeavor during this process. It is necessary to see some movement within this time frame. If you find a lead investor who can talk on your behalf, you have struck gold! 
 
Having a lead investor automatically facilitates an increase in interest and you will notice the funding happens a lot quicker after the initial amount is raised. 
 
If investors seem disinterested initially, move ahead.  A good timeline would look at raising funds by the end of one year. If that doesn’t happen, one risks burning out. 
 
“Stop thinking, take a plunge and worry about learning while you run” – Shiju Radhakrishnan
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