Sometime back, I was mentoring two smart engineers from IIT. After a few years spent in tech teams at leading global technology firms in Bengaluru, they chucked their jobs and decided to start-up. After months of hard work, they released the first version of a product that I felt would be well received by consumer brands. Expectedly, there was visible excitement in some of the marketing teams and a top multinational FMCG brand even signed up for a proof of concept. I was so excited at this response that I even put some seed money into the start-up.

Then one of the founders fell in love with a girl from Hyderabad. After a few months of whirlwind dating, they decided to get married and the founder announced that he would be shifting to Hyderabad post the wedding. So far so good, since he could build the product from there and the other founder would drive sales and customer operations from Bengaluru. 

Then the girl’s dad called me. He was a retired government officer and wanted to talk directly with me as I was a senior person and the founders were “just kids”. He said that he had no issues with his daughter marrying the boy but was against start-ups. Ideally his son-in-law should have a government job, he felt, but he was also open to regular employment in a private company, preferably an MNC. 

I wasn’t sure what role I had to play in this personal matter, but nevertheless I explained to the founder that he had to make a decision right away. After due consideration, the founder announced that he would like to move on and seek regular employment in Hyderabad. The start-up shut down, the other founder shifted to Gurgaon to co-found another venture, and I wrote off my investment.

For all the excitement around entrepreneurship, there’s still a lot of social stigma attached to it. Risk-averse parents, who are mostly from the previous generations and struggled for basic comforts, still prefer stable jobs and steady incomes. Entrepreneurs become successful after years of perseverance, but families or friends are rarely willing to lend a supporting hand during this tough journey. 

When more than a decade of prime earning period is wasted due to lack of success, even entrepreneurs get disheartened when they see their college peers doing well in stable careers with growing incomes, assets, and happy families.

For us to truly succeed as a start-up ecosystem, we need investors and supporters who are patient and encourage risk-taking. India is on the cusp of a massive economic resurgence, and start-ups will play a significant role in this. 

So, remember, the next time you meet a prospective son-in-law or daughter-in-law who is launching a start-up, the appropriate question would be, “How can I help?” 

(The writer is a serial entrepreneur and best-selling author of the book ‘Failing to Succeed’; posts on X @vaitheek)