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Lessons from the journey of a young entrepreneur

October 22, 2021

By Vinayak Shrivastav, Co-Founder and CEO, Toch.ai

When I was growing up in a hostel in Mumbai, a poster in my room read, ‘Do what you love, and you will never have a problem with Monday.’ It takes a lot of conviction to start something YOU believe in because it is intangible to others. You have a vision, a dream, and not many will believe in it. People might drag you down, place hurdles, and create blockers, almost making you not believe in your dream. But it is important to remember that it is your dream, not theirs.

Lesson 1: Lead your own vision

Building something from scratch will need audacity, a bucketful of mettle, and intestinal fortitude to shape that vision. While working for someone else will give a good experience, acknowledgment, and even success, but it will always be someone else’s glory. This understanding was one of the biggest motivators for me. It helped me take the risk and reap the benefits of working for myself – at the pace and values that I set for myself.

Lesson 2: Break the vision into smaller parts

As fancy as it may sound, it‘s not all beer and skittles for a young entrepreneur. When you are a team of young entrepreneurs, you’re often faced with biases based on your age and experience. Therefore, getting the investments or even building a team looks like a difficult task. I realized quite early on that the only way to build trust in myself and my vision was to break the business idea down into smaller and more understandable concepts.

Lesson 3: Communicate to build credibility and trust

Regular and clear communication on what my team and I are capable of doing, what we are already doing, and what we can achieve given our potential was pivotal in building trust and credibility with all important stakeholders. (Read here to understand the role of communication in building a brand.)

Lesson 4: Get the right mentors

We were also lucky to get an excellent group of mentors and advisors to help and guide us early in the process. Their advice was golden, and we were extremely fortunate to get some like-minded and sincere people who believed in our vision and gave us their trust. (Read here to know how to identify and get the right advisors)

Lesson 5: Transparency is key

Another major learning during the journey was to stop the practice of micromanaging everything or even overstepping each other’s boundaries of expertise. At Toch.ai, we believe in discussing and brainstorming new ideas and strategies but never meddle in someone else’s work. I truly believe that transparency is beyond imperative, anything opaque crushes the dream irreparably.

Lesson 6: The right attitude is everything

Some traits that might sound monotonous and overdone but are nonetheless invaluable are diligence, resolve, and tenacity. With the right attitude and aptitude, success is inevitable. Everything has its moments – the congruence of the idea, network, team, and time will come. All the initial failures and pivots are good and needed to arrive at the right mix of product and people. Be stubborn as a mule, like your life depends on it, and chase it like a little child chasing a dragonfly. But don’t chase the money. The money will come. There would be days when you would feel it was sheer imbecility to even have started an impossible dream, giving up on a good stable job with designated comfort, money, and recognition. Luck loves the hard work, and it never disappoints you.

Of course, I had my insecurities, my enshrouded fear of failure. Being answerable for a fiasco was top of the list. The “told you so!” lurked like a ghost even in my dreams, but something inside always pushed me towards the idea we believed in. We held ourselves accountable for both success and failure because the dream is ours and ours alone.

Every day you are contributing towards building something substantial. Needless to say, success is preceded by failures and the way you tackle them is your experience, no management school can give that to you. My mantra is what Leonardo Di Caprio says in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street,” the only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.”

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