My startup got acquired for a multi-million dollar transaction last year (at age 26). Here are the 10 things to focus on to succeed:
1. Learn to Sell/Convince. You have to sell to customers, you have to convince (sell) talented employees to join you, convince advisors, channel partners, investors, and everybody else who works with you. So best that you learn to sell NOW.
2. Stop chasing Investors, Awards, Events, and Hackathons and start chasing paying customers. ICICI Bank is one of our old customers. I went there so often that their Security Guard had memorized my Laptop Serial Number which is to be provided during entry.
3. Stop thinking and dreaming and start executing. Too many founders waste their time thinking of a perfect startup idea. Start with whatever small you can and then gradually expand to adjacent product lines and adjacent markets. Think big, Act small. Don't get into analysis paralysis.
4. Keep an eye on companies that can help you distribute your products. We worked with Cloud Telephony Providers and WhatsApp API Providers to distribute our products to their customers. One such Provider (Exotel) ended up acquiring us. Channel Partnerships may turn into a life-changing acquisition for you. So build a network of Channel Partners.
5. Build a Culture of Experimentation that accepts failures. To succeed, you need to innovate. To innovate, you need to experiment. To experiment, you need to have a culture that embraces failure because experiments, by definition can fail.
6. Work hard. That's the only parameter you can control in your life. Everything else is out of your control. You can't control how much your customer pays you. But you can control how much you work hard and help them. Go and do that. You can't control how much your employees deliver for you. But you can control how much you take care of them. Go and do that.
7. Track the right metrics. Understand the difference between EBITDA, Cash flow, and Profits vs money in the bank. Money in the Bank is the most important metric. You may have an EBITDA of a million dollars. But if your customer pays you after a year, you'd be out of business soon!
8. Stop chasing competitors. Here is an analogy - if you like a girl, would you focus on what the girl wants or would you spend time thinking about what other boys are doing for her? The same is the case with business. Focus on what your customer wants. Don't waste too much time chasing competitors.
9. Learn to learn. Spend a lot of time reading books, listening to podcasts, talking to other entrepreneurs, and reading articles and blogs that teach you specific skills that you don't know. As an entrepreneur, you have to be a learning machine.
10. Learn to think big. You can't get to the stars if you keep thinking about the moon. If you have aspirations of becoming a millionaire, think big. Don't chase your next increment. Chase the industry. Chase the customers. Chase your BIG dreams.