When most of my friends decided to do an MBA after the engineering course, I began dreaming about starting up. Rather go the conventional route, I told myself to take the plunge and figure out what happens. Loon Games was born and lived till 5 years before I made the decision to shut it down. Revenue was not the main problem for me, Recurring Revenue was the main cause of concern.
I looked at the retention and monetisation conversion rates and the acquisition costs required to even get to the numbers required to make revenues. The marketing cost was more than the development cost required to create games. The same fundamentals applied to my clients, who were either Indian or International companies and individuals who loved games and wanted to create the best games for the world to see. The success of these games required tremendous ad driven acquisition (some companies abroad were spending $6K(USD) – $10K(USD) per day to make this happen), a difficult feat for anyone considering the fact that gaming has been a hit or miss, sort of like making movies, very unpredictable when it comes to customer adoption and revenue.
I decided to shut shop and move to a predictable job. Most company HRs kept rejecting me on the grounds that there was no proof I was self employed before. Some HRs insinuated I was making up my startup experience to hide the 5 years of employment gap. They say you learn more from failures than from successes. I struggled, learnt and worked on whatever I could find as a freelance consultant just to keep the money rolling in. I created products for POS (Point of Sale) machines, built a sales CMS, multiple HRMS solutions, an ad exchange platform, a content delivery platform and of course, lots of games. And I learnt.
Should you startup? Some things to ponder.
Don’t go into a startup if the sole reason is you hate your current boss. People skills matter and you can still switch off from your job after your work day ends. If it’s your own startup in the initial days, you are going to stay up late worrying and planning salaries, sales, hiring, deliveries etc. It takes it’s toll on your mental and physical health.
If you are not self disciplined and just want to startup to be your own boss, forget it. A job is easier. Much, much easier, than having to worry about how you can pull in those 2 big clients or plan salaries.
Do you have a plan to sustain yourself while you build your startup? Will day to day expenses be a concern?
Do you see a market demand? Do you believe you have the product / services that can adequately supply to that market demand?
Will people pay for what you are offering? How much?
Who are your competitors? Are the features that you are offering better than or equal to your market competitors?
Things I wish I had told my younger self.
- Delegate. You cannot do everything by yourself, a startup will quickly drain your energy. Even if you are the sole founder, ensure you put in proper people and processes to whom you can delegate to.
- Pricing: Study market trends and price accordingly. Don’t lower pricing just to win a contract. If your team is providing high value, let your pricing reflect that.
- Finance, Sales and Operations are the three pillars to any company. Get your three pillars right and the rest will follow. These are the foundations of your business.
- Network. Your business depends on it. Communication skills are vital. When I asked a friend (Mandeep Sharma) who seemed to have a natural knack for people skills told me a decade ago, “I don’t build contacts, I build relationships”. Rather than be transactional, he seemed to just be natural and let things flow rather than forcing relationships. Seems to work.
- Get your hiring right and treat people like how you would want to be treated if you were in their place. In that respect, you will get what you give. Trust them and they will help you grow. They are people with feelings, hopes and dreams, just like you.
- Dedicate time for leisure. You only get one life. If you don’t have your health, is there really any value in anything else? Plan time to relax and mentally switch off. Relax, things will work out. Things will get better with time.
- Spend more time in creating internal processes and hire for execution rather than spending time executing everything yourself. Why? For the simple reason that your business will not scale if you spend time in executing.
- Enjoy life. Celebrate the small moments. Stop taking everything so seriously. Chill.
People are inherently good. I met some terrific people along the way, successful yet grounded, humble. The kind of people that push inexperienced young people to give it just one more chance, rather than put you down for trying. Because somewhere in their journey, they have fought, and they have come out stronger. You make the world a better place just by being you. Thank you for your kindness. Very grateful that I could learn from each one of you.
You can read Understanding Market Demand to fine tune your product during the ideation stage. Achieving Product Market Fit will help you further optimize your offerings after the initial rollout and attract a large audience.