A useful primer for wannabe entrepreneurs

Chandu Nair | Updated on: Jan 10, 2022
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The book is packed with practical “how to” advice from the idea stage, going all the way to an IPO, and is laid out in simple language and peppered with earthy tips.

Written by serial entrepreneur Shirish Nadkarni, co-founder, Livemocha, TeamOn Systems and ex-Microsoft, this book is based upon his own start-up journey and also has useful interviews with other successful techpreneurs.

There’s no doubt he has loads of hands-on experience to share, given that two of his companies were acquired -- Livemocha (which pioneered the concept of social language learning) by RosettaStone and TeamOn Systems (a mobile wireless e-mail pioneer) by Research in Motion in 2002.

The book is structured in a logical-sequential manner; I suspect it reflects the personality of the author and the default approach he used in his entrepreneurial life. Look at the way the book has been divided into parts –

Part I is about ideation (36 pages); Part II – company formation (22 pages); Part III – moves into fundraising (78 pages); Part IV – on the nuts and bolts of running your company (61 pages), and Part V – dwells on finding an exit (38 pages)

Each is neatly sub-divided into chapters. As can be expected, certain parts have more meat such as fundraising and running your company. For instance, Chapter 4 on Running Your Company covers aspects such as Recruiting Great Employees, Creating a Vibrant Company Culture, Becoming a Great Leader, Managing your Board of Directors, etc.

Useful primer

Packed with practical “how to” advice from the idea stage going all the way to an IPO, this is a useful 101 primer for any wannabe entrepreneur. Plus, it is laid out in simple, easy to understand language, and peppered with earthy tips.

There are quite a few things that he emphasises in his book. And he illustrates it with examples from his own experience. One, is it really important to tell a great story. The entrepreneur needs to clearly demonstrate what it is that is allowing his company to emerge, and disrupt existing players in the industry. Take Nadkarni’s company Livemocha, for example. In 2007, when he started, it was in the middle of the globalisation phenomenon, when outsourcing was in full swing. There was a significant demand for learning English. So, he painted a picture of this globalisation trend, and that there were a billion plus people interested in learning English. Such a real number made people take notice.

What does painting such a scenario do? Other key stakeholders, including potential funders, partners, key employees, could visualise along with you, the entrepreneur, how big the opportunity really is, and the real possibility of taking on and overtaking existing players in the market.

Similarly, he gives great suggestions on how to manage your board of directors. Example - find board members who have either deep start-up experience or deep operational experience. Or how to run your first board meeting; explain to them what your strategy is, especially how you’re going to acquire customers. Then establish a budget. Once there is agreement on those two main things, proceed to the next set of board meetings. He also recommends creating a standard template or using existing templates such as that of Sequoia Capital.

Company culture

In the section on ‘Running your company’, he talks about the importance of establishing a company culture. He believes that “few start-up founders spend time explicitly thinking about the culture they want to establish at their company.” He avers, “A company culture models the behaviour of the company and the decisions it makes when the founders are not around.” Culture has a significant impact on employee and customer satisfaction; it also serves as a valuable moat.

This book helps entrepreneurs figure out:

* What tech start-ups need to do well in all stages of their journey, from idea right up to IPO

* The nuts and bolts of fund-raising, be it from angels, VCs or venture debt, covering aspects such as compelling investor pitches, types of instruments and agreement terms

* How to run your company well; Nadkarni clearly understands that winging it is not going to cut it, it is essential to have clear systems and processes

* The process of finding and managing an exit, either through a strategic sale, or going IPO

* What lessons to learn from the journeys of other successful techpreneurs

In the concluding chapter, he re-emphasises three key aspects that are vital for success – establishing product market fit for your start-up idea, the quality of the founding team and a sound go-to-market strategy. A glossary of terms and appendix consisting of memorandum of terms typical in shareholder agreements are useful additions.

Overall, this is a helpful guide from a successful founder for entrepreneurs to help skilfully navigate the various phases of the tech start-up journey.

(Chandu Nair, an alumnus of IIMA, is an Entrepreneur-Advisor and an angel investor)

From Startup to Exit: An Insider’s Guide to Launching and Scaling Your Tech Business

Shirish Nadkarni,

Published by HarperCollins Leadership

Pages 317

Rs 376

Check out the book on Amazon here

Published on January 10, 2022

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