My Experience in the Startup Ecosystem

My decision to move from the development sector to the startup ecosystem was accidental. It was never an intentional preplanned career move but definitely incidental and surprising.

But this piece is not about the long reflection exercise of how and why things changed; instead, it introduces you to the world of start-ups and how entrepreneurship is changing the landscape of the Indian Economy. And no, I will avoid statistics and data as much as possible because all the data is just a google search away.

I will share my experience in this ecosystem, the everyday hustle of a CEO, and how the Telangana government’s initiative is driving innovation with the right vision.

My first day at T-Hub was a blur. I saw over 200 startups in a single building, and my new boss sat in front of me, explaining how entrepreneurs resolve significant issues the world faces today. 

Wait, what? So what are the governments, non for profits, and academics doing then? Jargons like MVP, burn rate, traction, run rate, B2C, D2C, and bootstrap bombarded my ignorant mind. I had to keep up because ignorance wasn’t bliss here. And I didn’t wish to be thrown out this soon. I had to unravel the mystery of an entrepreneur’s mind. Luckily, my boss was patient and gave me a long reading list.

I started with Shifting Orbits, which is a comprehensive narrative on India’s innovation journey exploring different aspects of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The work simplifies the how, why, when, and what of the startup world. Next was to get a practical understanding of the startups. Most of my work involves shadowing my boss, MSR (as people call him). With 35 years of work experience and having been an entrepreneur himself, MSR starts his day at 5 am and continues to work till 10 pm. He understands the struggle of running a startup and the hardships of rejection by funders. The perks of being his executive assistant were to ensure that I got to meet atleast 5 startups in a day-100+ startup founders in a month. Imagine the access to diverse information that I had.

These startups are from different parts of the globe, at various stages of their business growth, with different mindsets, zeal, and teams, and from different socioeconomic backgrounds. One common thing is their passion for their business idea and how their idea can reshape the world. (I will not get into the critical aspects of how disillusioned some entrepreneurs can be- probably in my next write up)

The startups in T-Hub work in different horizons and verticals, from Blockchain, Web 3.0, Agritech, Health Tech, Ed Tech, Fintech, EV/Mobility to Smart city, space, and the list goes on. Instead of a macro perspective, they have picked up the micro aspect of a bigger problem and are resolving it for the larger good. And no, this is not for instant gratification or social good but purely from a business mindset. At the end of the day, their ultimate goal is income generation. The only success metric is the capital raised.

For an outsider like me, this was confusing as well as uncomfortable. Unlike the development sector, the concept of the beneficiary was altered and often manipulated to serve the companies’ narrative. Where was the idea of the welfare of the general public? Isn’t this an offset of capitalist propaganda? If yes, where is the country moving towards? So many questions and no one to answer!

It was here that I decided to pause, reflect, unlearn and relearn. MSR often says, “Suvidha, to be an entrepreneur, you should let go of your emotions and be shameless.” I never understood this, but I decided to observe and learn. Let us go to the basics-

What is the foundation of entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship relies on imagination, spontaneity, exploration, experimentation, learning from failures, and working in a context of uncertainty.

Why isn’t everyone an entrepreneur?

“Fear is the greatest obstacle to innovation. One cannot inherit innovation; it needs to be cultivated and nurtured…”- Gary P. Pisano.

Entrepreneur needs to work beyond their comfort zone. Or, as MSR says, they need to be shameless. They need to fail and keep learning from their failures without giving up. Failure is not bad; it’s just a road to new learnings. If you are a person like me who is scared of failure, then entrepreneurship is not for you.

What makes one an entrepreneur?

Two attributes that make one a good entrepreneur

1. Experiment and change- Observe, develop and network for new ideas.

2. Unlearn, relearn and reinvent- The importance of taking smart risks in their pursuit of innovation is key to innovation and entrepreneurship

Post-writing this may seem theoretical. Probably unrelatable. But the journey of an entrepreneur can be understood only by an entrepreneur. From meeting multiple funders to getting more and more customers, convincing your friends and family to use your product/service to gaining the right media visibility- the life of an entrepreneur is exciting yet lonely.

As an objective observer, I can sympathize but cannot empathize. I am still learning. As MSR says, “Like it takes a village to raise a child, entrepreneurs also need a strong support mechanism to find their North Star and build something of value for their users.” Definitely, the startup ecosystem is a “cool” place to be in but being an entrepreneur is not everyone’s cup of tea. “Hustle” is the word I would use to define an entrepreneur’s life. And hustling is what will change the world.

Do share your thoughts and critical opinions!

Till next time