In general, leadership has many hard and soft skills. I am a student of perpetual leadership theory and practice and I learn continuously. However this piece about is my Startup Journey as a leader, what I consider are important and how I fared .

I consider the following factors important

  • Belief
  • Product Building
  • A Bias for action
  • Enlisting People
  • Finding Customers
  • Raising Money
  • Getting out of comfort zone
  • Making tough calls

I shall rate myself on a scale of 1 – 5. The scale definition is as below

1 – Miserable Failure

2 –  Ill equipped Struggle

3 – Half Hearted Attempt

4 – Could have delivered more

5 – Did well

Here is my score

Factor Score
Belief 5
Product Building 4
A Bias for action 3
Enlisting People 1
Finding Customers 2
Raising Money 3
Getting out of comfort zone 2
Making tough calls 1


Belief – I still believe in the product and one day I shall get back to give it a different shape. Currently I am in a recovery mode. I was able to spread the belief as well.

Product Building – I did a pretty decent job, considering the timeframe and the constraints I had. The only regret I had here is that I should have been possibly more hands on. I am fixing it now.

A Bias for action – Dates should have been sacrosanct. I was very accommodative of the continuous slip in dates for everything we had planned.

Enlisting People – Quite frankly, this was a surprise to me. This was the most important lesson to me in the last eleven months. I could not enlist people to trust me to deliver on the overall business.  I had prided myself as a capable leader, but the last eleven months have been trial by fire and I would have to say I have been humbled. I am deep diving into this and figuring out my erroneous zones. I am finding there are many , but I am confident that I will fix them.

Finding Customers – Here the lesson is I need to get out more and be in touch with customers directly. If you are starting a company, this is your number one job. Period. Period.

Raising Money – I was bootstrapping mostly and did meet investors for friendly chats. Never did a serious pitch.  My preferred model is still boot strapping in any venture till we get sustained traction. Investors are really a blessing in case you have access to them and are willing to extend a slightly long rope to you initially. Entrepreneurship without access to capital is setting yourself for failure and anyone who is willing to believe in you should be worshipped. However, I would be cautious here, as if I do not feel confident about the money returning more than what the market would return, I  do not feel good about asking for it. I am not sure if its right or wrong, but this is just my view.

Getting out of comfort zone – I stayed within my comfort zones during the initial months and only did what I was good at. I did not bother about every aspect of the business, thinking those things will fall in place. However it did not. By the time I ventured to step out of comfort zones, it was too little, too late.

Making tough calls – In the early stages, I stood by some personal values (I am not sure if it was right or wrong) and did not make calls that would have spearheaded this particular idea. It was a choice between leapfrogging this idea and ability to sleep better in the night . I chose the latter and I will be never sure which would have been the right thing to do. Some things will die with me.

As you see, I did not fare well and most of them are not entirely unexpected. My close friend summarized it well for me. He told  me,  Zunder, You never showed the ‘sense of urgency’ that a Startup requires. All I can say in my I never revealed the sense of urgency. The fire was always there, but I did not make it look obvious, but maybe I just do not want to accept what he is saying.

So, where does it leave me now ?

Should I write myself off ?

Should I continue this journey ?

Frankly, I do not know.

I have gotten back to what I am reasonably good at, which is ‘Building Products’ and delving into the roots of my erroneous zones that let me down during the first iteration. Right now I am not in a position to say if I will emerge victorious.

Judgement reserved.

If all the sounds like baloney and you just need one piece of input, I would say this. If you are starting up, there is only one damned job that you need to 24/7.

Find a paying customer for your idea. Repeat.

Everything else will fall in place.

If you digest and memorize the above simple fact, my rant of seventeen weeks would have served its purpose.

We are almost near the end of this series. This is the penultimate article  and  I promise next week I shall end this. Seriously!

I shall provide a brief summary of the complete journey and associated resources that you could use to spearhead your journeys be it within the organization our outside the organization or use it as reference any point in time.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)