09 Jul 2020 18:05 IST

The impatient mind of a start-up

The ‘upstarts’ are passionate, bursting with ideas, and always seeking mentorship

Starting your own business is like riding a roller coaster. There are highs and lows, and every turn you take is another twist. The lows are really low, but the highs can be really high. You have to be strong, keep your stomach tight, and ride along with the roller coaster that you started. — Lindsay Manseau, photographer and entrepreneur

I have always been intrigued by start-ups and the youngest kids on the block. As you get older I guess you obsess more about age than a twenty-year-old perhaps! But on a more serious note I wanted the team to understand the mind of a start-up as an important starting point (oh, dear) for our understanding of this important segment in business.

Let’s not forget that even in these Covid-ridden times, people are still coming up with new business ideas as though there is no tomorrow. It is precisely for this reason that I had requested S. Ghosh, the Managing Director of Celsius100 Consulting, to talk to the team on what makes start-ups tick. After all he had spent a majority of his consulting life mentoring, nurturing and guiding start-ups, even if he has lost his hair in the bargain!

Upstart? Did I get that right?

Did you, for instance, know that the origin of the word start-up is upstart! And it seems so right! I remember one of the toppers in my IIM class wanting to quit in term VI of the two-year PGP programme, just weeks before the programme ended, as he thought he was losing time! So the first dictum is that you will be meeting intelligent, passionate, impatient young upstarts who may not have the time for people who are unable to give them ideas. They are probably looking for mentorship without saying so in as many words.

Young man in a hurry

Whilst passion for their idea is the guiding force behind all successful start-ups, there is probably a much greater sense of urgency to this whole exercise. They are constantly looking for opportunities to rejig their product or service, morph their business models and opportunities for growth, often changing their roles and designations in the bargain! So how do you become part of their own growth process?

You can’t do this from the outside but have to get into their ecosystem and workspace to understand, assimilate and contribute; and then, despite the age difference, they may see you as one of them. We are all familiar with entrepreneurs who have pawned their wives’ jewels or mortgaged their properties to be able to build their businesses; such passion is perhaps a modern version of the same determined drive, if not more intense.

Ideas stoke their fire

As this generation has embraced opportunities like our generation did education, they place a premium on constant changes and ideas that form the basis for that change. We might, with the chains of our experience, feel that some of them are futile. But it is so much more fun to learn at your own expense and experience, they might tell us!

Your contribution to their progress, in terms of suggestions more than anything else, demonstrate your keenness to help their venture succeed and that puts you ahead of the game. They have no respect for the status quo, and you can’t ever cue that in your thoughts, words or demeanour!

Talk to me in my language

People in the communication business talk of integration, but they still are comfortable talking about advertising, public relations, events and digital marketing! But the young start-up entrepreneur does not understand this. He is looking for solutions wherever they may come from. Your big story in the biggest business newspaper means less to them than a trending piece on social media! That’s their life blood, and that’s what drives them. So, service providers must start thinking in terms of solutions rather than deliverables. And for some of us that could mean a seismic shift in thinking.

So here’s the checklist of the dos and don’ts for dealing with start-ups:

● Don’t lecture, get involved

● Don’t advise from the outside; get your hands dirty inside

● Don’t parent but do mentor

● Don’t talk coverage or deliverables but what it does in terms of results

● Let your involvement show in more ways than one

Mind the gap

I read somewhere that four years is one generation when we talk of generation gap. So just think how much younger than us some of these future Steve Jobs are! And as someone who is constantly battling to be heard by one’s own children, I can assure you that it’s probably more profitable to be heard by someone your children’s age but someone who could be a lot more successful!

I am bracing myself to jump into the start-up challenge. How about you?