Start-ups and Experiments

During one of my recent workshops I moderated a small panel discussion in which we had a very senior and experienced entrepreneur in the panel.  His parting advise to the group of young entrepreneurs was “Expect everything to go wrong”Nitrotselluloosi_plahvatus_ehk_peaminister_ennustab_majanduskasvu

Post the panel, I was wondering over what that statement could mean to us and why a senior entrepreneur would share that as his parting words. In a very round about way  what he said just meant “Experiment!”

When a group of people come together with some common expectations and assumptions, and venture into the unknown together, they are called entrepreneurs. There is risk inherent in the expectations and by nature assumptions are anyways risks. Hence Startups are basically experiments.

When you start an experiment you don’t have specific expectations in mind. You normally tend to have broad directions and hope to be surprised. As you keep experimenting anything that arises other than what you know becomes a finding. A moment of surprise. Pursuing these findings unearths the hidden. Finding them gives you wow!

If we look at a startup from this angle, the journey of entrepreneurship could become fun and enjoyable. The moment we try and bring in detailing to our expectations, the surprise does not lead to AHA moments. Anything that deviates from the expectation is seen as a risk. Achieving the expected results is seen as the only yardstick of success.

When you perform an experiment you are curious as to what could be the actual result. When you perform an experiment you are agile to the results of your experiments, adapting, changing and modifying your next attempt. When you perform an experiment you are resilient to the instant of failure, only to experiment again. When you perform an experiment, you are energized by the instant of success only to plod further on.

It is this attitude of experimentation that start-ups must have.  And only this attitude will allow the start-ups to bloom into the next stage.

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3 thoughts on “Start-ups and Experiments

  1. When your bread and butter is from the “experiment” you can hardly relish these so called, findings, aha moments and the theory of agility. However most of this theory can ring true, only if the startup’s mission statement reads something like “I am here to spend my pop’s money, and I call it…whatever.”

    While “attitude” is important for everything in life, managing a small enterprise can be treated more like a stream of science that has a method to the madness. It would be good to view it as something that can be studied, applied, worked upon and improvised by the individual – all hands-on.

    It would help to have more honest case studies (in the public domain) across verticals for Indian Small Enterprises to draw lessons from. Financial institutions and small industry forums/associations that act as policy makers must be educated about these aspects of small industries, their unique challenges and the very many opportunities that exist.

    I’ve been at the receiving end of talking to Small Industry Experts asking me to try Agarbathi making, because of my gender (they said I can’t do IT or any high investment industry, even if I had that experience……because it was perceived that my spouse may be using me as a front-end and blah, blah….and the second reason for suggesting Agarbathi making was that there was a subsidy for it, at that point of time, which I could exploit and write-off later…In effect they were actually giving me an exit policy, as part of the policy and giving me an opportunity to create NPAs. Actually the so-called-support system for Small Enterprises is quite interesting in many ways, yet pathetic in terms of hands-on knowledge and real delivery to the right candidates. All this must change.

    Most often the experts are the ones who fail to understand that a small industry may not have the visibility or branding as perceived in popular media, but can be much more profitable than a large enterprise, vis-a-vis investments. Their suggestions tend to be bookish, and many of them have never ever been part of building a small enterprise…and naturally, they are never likely to know what it takes to be there. They are hopping from one forum to the other, gaining and working on their personal brand!

    The perspectives and the variables on how small enterprises are viewed in India, must change for the better. Only then it makes sense to ask young Indians to look upon entrepreneurship as a viable career option. Let’s remember that these young candidates can create opportunities for millions of fellow-Indians, in small pockets, to the power of infinity. These are the ones who can make a difference to the economy of this country in the next decade. Give them the confidence to try without fear. Give them the confidence that the Indian market is huge and if the rest of the world is eyeing it, then they should learn to tap their back yard with greater ease. Give them the confidence that these are learn-able skills.

    It doesn’t make sense to advise them that they must get ready to fail.

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