Contributing blogger Kanika Thapar is a tech entrepreneur working on her start-up Doli Diaries in the online wedding space. She finished her MBA from Oxford in September 2013 where she was Co-Chairing the Entrepreneurship Oxford Business Network at her school. Besides entrepreneurship and weddings, she is passionate about travel and fiction with Harry Potter topping her favorites. She believes in a black and white world with a singular moral compass and deeds being either completely right or unequivocally wrong. When she is not nose deep in a Harry Potter book she can be reached at k[email protected]
Entrepreneurship is a 1000 trials even before the customer tries your product.
Many of the trials below especially apply to MBA founders for the simple reason that MBAs that found companies during their studies are blissfully naive about how heroic they can be in time and emotion management.
The purpose of this blog entry is simply to provide some empathy to aspiring MBA entrepreneurs so that they feel a bit less lost, alone or depressed and realize it’s natural to face these tribulations and how to handle them. The purpose is NOT a feel-good entry about how ‘special’ we entrepreneurs are.
As fellow MBA entrepreneurs, you might have heard how you should be quick to build your MVP (minimum variable product) so that you can make mistakes early on and learn from them and pivot. Something behind the curtains that is not discussed much is the trials faced leading up to the MVP. Note I use the word ‘trials’ because I am on optimist; but many first-time entrepreneurs(myself included) will be comfortable interchanging ‘trials’ with ‘failures’ or ‘tears’ during most of their journey.
Trial 1: Societal Doubt
When you start a start-up, it wont be uncommon for people to try to pull you to the ‘other’ side. This includes people not believing you will follow through, people who think its a fad or phase, people who think you don’t have the skills to pull it off and people who think its a past-time till u get a ‘real’ job before graduation. It may also include concerned family and friends who wish you well and don’t want you to fall on hard times.
Remedy: Horse Blinders
You need to be stubborn to the bone to do this and keep a laser sharp focus not unlike horse blinders and tune out the noise because its easy to be convinced otherwise. Believe it.
Trial 2: Pitching ‘Advice’
The infinity hole that is pitching advice will be given by anyone you are willing to listen to (which, to be fair, should be everyone at this point). Being in a fulltime MBA is going to give you an immense pool of perspectives coming from a combination of professors, classmates, angels, VC’s, potential customers, entrepreneurs, industry experts (finance geeks, tech nerds, consultants, designers), colleagues from other business schools, conference crowd or people with an hour to kill
Remedy: Pigeon Hole
It is best to build mental compartments (or virtual ones on your laptop or technology of choice) for all the advice being thrown at you in the MBA. Note if u dont know where to begin, start by talking to one of each listed above. Listen to fellow entrepreneurs, potential customers and VC’s for immediate value.These should be your “I-can-grab-these-drawers-quickly” pigeon holes. The ‘other’ advice must be logged somewhere since you would be surprised what can have future value but doesnt have to be absorbed and implemented at this stage of the start-up. Much of this stray advice will be beneficial in the mature phase of the company incase we can build a mature company
Trial 3: Myopia
The Oxford Dictionary defines myopia as a lack of foresight or intellectual insight. This shortsightedness in people’s behavior was something I was struggling with in the MBA and had heard across different schools the problem persists. It is very common for MBA’s to let the stress of the MBA and job hunting take over and think in a transnational manner in terms of the relationships they build during the program.
For you to build a quintessential start-up with a quintessential team, you will need to cure this myopia and cure it fast.
Remedy: Avoid RGB
In a nutshell, RGB implies ‘DON’T BE A JERK TO ANYONE’. RGB or Red Green Blue is meant to describe people who have 3 moral compasses:
Red : angry, bossy and horrible with ‘juniors’ whether in school or at work
Green : outwardly tolerant and friendly but backstabbing,selfish and indifferent to ‘peers’ like classmates or coworkers
Blue : cool, calm and a**-kissing to ‘superiors’ like potential employers, employers or professors
Even though I must have shown behavior across the spectrum at some point in my MBA no matter how hard I tried not to, I sincerely believe that people need to look at relationships and networks as Black and White – just one moral compass and treat everyone the same. It will pay off, TRUST ME. You don’t want to burn those bridges by being jerks to classmates or juniors, being late to meetings in group assignments (or worse, not showing up at all) and being unwilling to help. They will be your source of power and potential future founders or employers at some point in your careers.
When I sat down to write this, I thought this would be quick because I had been wanting to log this down for a while so that entrepreneurs after me would hopefully be a little less shocked by the realities of entrepreneurship and hopefully a bit comforted and driven to pursue their dreams despite this article.