Lords Of The Things
An internet startup is like a journey in Lord of the Rings. At different stages you meet different creatures and monsters like Elves, Gollums, Black Riders, Orcs and other strange tribes. Here are some to look out for:
UI PUNDITS: These are the master advisors on user interface. They have no art degree, no design knowledge, no understanding on the basics of eye movement and readability, yet in an instant know that there is something wrong with your UI. In the early days when I met prospective funders and other experts they would always finish the meeting with ‘you gotta do something about that UI; it’s not up to the mark.’ After a while I got fed up and told them where they could insert my UI.
TECHNOPOMPAS: This stands for Technologically Pompous Professionals. They may or may not know about technology but they always know your technology is weak. They used to hit me with sentences like ‘mobile is the key, you have to optimise for bandwidth and portability’…till I learned to say stuff like ‘it’s actually a matter of calibrating cascading style sheets till you can afford a native app’. One of these jokers almost crashed our mission — he was appointed a lead liason by a funding consortium and he spent 11 minutes in office and decided we knew nothing!
USERIDICULOUSERS: Some astrologers tell your future by reading your palm. Some predict what’s going to come by reading tea leaves. These jackasses can tell how many users you are going to get by…by…smelling the Internet bandwidth, I guess. They will look at your site and your strategy and say, ‘I don’t think you’ll get traction.’ Give the guy an Olympic Gold Medal — for mind vault!
FUNDERFINDERS: So so so many of these. Self-proclaimed experts at getting you funding. We had a bunch who walked into our office led by an athletic man in a thousand-dollar suit. The girls in the office found him so handsome they voted to give him a six-month exclusive mandate. They didn’t raise enough money to pay for the tea coffee and biscuits we fed them!
VALUATIONINJAS: We got our first valuation calculations done by Deloitte over six meetings and 45 days. The company called Wodehouse we went to next didn’t agree with them and did their own calculations over eight meetings and two months. The next company disagreed with both. The truth is there is the DCF formula, the Multiplier formula, the Page View Formula, GMV—but it’s like Sarojini Nagar—the price is what someone agrees to pay!
TORMENTORS: Ok, let me start by saying I quite like our Mentor from IAN — Vikas — though he and I fight at times, he has run a business before so understands our challenges.
Having said that let me also observe that most so-called Mentors are back-seat drivers with a big chip on their shoulder. They have an immense need for self-importance and think the office should come to a stop and they should be garlanded whenever they enter. They would demand cheerleaders chanting their name if they could.
BUSINESS PLANKTONS: The first time someone made a business plan for me he said, ‘Congrats I just finished your business plan and you don’t need any funds in the second year because you are going to make a profit of 8 crores.’ He looked at me feeling glad and I looked at him feeling he was mad. The truth is that only you can do your own business plan. It’s like writing your CV — someone can help you polish it up but it has to come from you!
The list could go on, but I’ll let you discover your own creatures. All the best for your startup journey, Hobbits!