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My Fuckups Or Playing Loser

21/10/2010

Last month I was attending a project session StartupIndex. I liked People’s Taxi, but considered that requested 6.5 million are inadequate and the kids lack sales-team. Also, I criticized Face Gallery, a good project from very positive MainPeople team. They lack market strategy and knowledge of competitors.

I am both startupper and investor. Some projects make me startupper since I want to sell them to VCs, which forms good sales skills. Every investor has to have her/his own startup since this allows to grasp, if a team can manage the project: the market develops quickly and every investor wants to be involved. Also, in Russia many owners of business also work as directors, immersing themselves into operations.

Challenges: All Are Fired, Thanks To All!

Some of my startups have faced challenges. I have long worked on the creation of several mobile TV start-ups that did not go. The reasons of failure included high expectations of the market and limited frequencies. My burning eyes were enough to prove to all that it can and should work based on Western cases: 3Italy gained a large base of subscribers for mobile TV, or 46% of mobile TV subscribers in England watching it at home, having access to cable or satellite television, or MobiTV in the US received the second round of investment, etc.

Some of the challenges my startups faced were never overcome. At some point, I was told: «Popova, you are almost a loser. You have had six months in minus. Wild minus. And the same expects you further. And even worse. You take a loan amount that you cannot physically pay out with such an approach to returns.” Of course, I was hurt, but I saw the logic behind the words which was that I must be ready to long term investment, and I was not ready, as I wanted to eat and to fly in Turkey for summer vacation. At the same time, I could not stand up in the center of the office and say: «All are fired, thanks to all. It was all in vain.» After a week has passed, and staff became aware that something was wrong, I went into the center of the office and said: «Guys, our project did not go. I offer you two choices: I have almost all of your resumes sent to other companies, and each of you may have a job. This is the first option. And the second option is that I’m starting to do another project in another area. And you do it with me. With zero salary. No money yet, and even no your stake because I am not ready to discuss it. But I will give you 15% option to buy stocks, if our project starts bringing money”. Almost 98% of my employees went to those companies where I sent their resumes, and I was depressed for 2 months. I worked as a market analyst and got a job thinking that all I want at 22 is Taffy and travelling the world each month, working not 24 hours a day, but regular eight, and then still having time to dance or meet with friends.

Business 2.0 Is About Strategy And Knowledge From The Mentors

My friends and relatives helped me to recognize that building startups is a strategy and that mentors help. I did not have business coach, and those two months I was digging in my inner soul, reading smart books and talking with smart people, asking them the same questions: «What kind of mistakes in business have you done? And were they fatal? And what did you have to do to get yourself to start a business again? And what was your sense of self in the world?» All my friends and relatives shared this sweetly condescending and comforting look. But, as Arkady Moreynis says, even a hopeless project can be modified into something logical and promising. Venture is 90% of luck, and for a copycat of Western successful project, 70% is yet the same luck, when hitting the market. Therefore I decided that I needed the second attempt. I built a part-time business and it also proved a failure since all investors told me that I have no experience or, more precisely, I have experience, but not in the area of the business, for which I am asking money.

When I saved some money and persuaded investors, I quit my job and launched business for the third time. The project was a success. I did not have a coach, you have. Now I have projects in the wild the red, there are projects in the black. I have almost no operational control. I delegate. I know that failure is normal that the tactics of management is the key to success, that making mistakes can be logical way to victory, and I insist that entrepreneurship is a constant difficult going up and down, it is the same driving force which develops you and the market. And error is good, if we understand what it is exactly.

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