All of us humans, are born with capabilities which are unique to each one of us. It is only when we identify our capabilities that we start growing.
Passion is a great driver - But for how long?
During 2013, Raunak (my cofounder) and I were working on our own product FounderMates, which was a passion that we harbored since 2012. FounderMates, which was aimed at helping entrepreneurs connect to mentors, was receiving a lot of excitement from early stage entrepreneurs. Our vision with FounderMates was to become "The Go-To" place for all entrepreneurs. If you have a startup challenge, FounderMates aspired to help you out. We used to interact with several entrepreneurs everyday who had multitude of different challenges - from funding, to idea validation, to customer acquisition to hiring to scaling and so on.
As part of knowledge sharing, we were producing startup focused articles which attracted 500 visitors/day in just about 2-3 months' time. During this time, we were also self-learning SEO so that we could reach more users organically through search engines.
However, the sad part was, FounderMates failed to generate any tangible revenue. Even with multiple tweaks and business models, revenue was just not coming in. It is during these times when reality hits you hard. Passion is a great driver, but unless someone pays you for it, you cannot survive.
The Opportunity and Realization
At the dawn of 2014, a 3D architectural designer approached us to consult him on how to go about developing a platform based product like FounderMates. We took the assignment and that was a game changer for us. We realized that our previous work experience and education could add a lot of value to entrepreneurs.
Thus RankHigher.in was born in January 2014. My co-founder and I decided to put our SEO learnings into practice and one of the registered entrepreneurs on FounderMates decided to trust and give us the responsibility of doing SEO for his website. He spoke to us and liked our consultative approach to SEO.
And after 3 months, this guy dominated Google for his business related search queries. And cut to December 2014 (at the time of drafting this article), he is still ruling the search engines and has increased his revenue by over 30%.
Today as I draft this post, in just about 11 months, we have completed over 15 successful SEO projects, have a profitable business, have been featured as one of the Top 5 most promising SEO companies in an industry magazine and growing further. We have received tremendous encouragement from our clients who have supported us in our journey. And all this when just a year back, we were at crossroads as to how to take FounderMates forward, with no money coming in.
Most of us entrepreneurs, are known to be passionate people who are there to change the world for better. We live by our dreams which keep us going even through tougher times. However, one of the pitfalls of this romanticism is we tend to drift away from the harsh reality that Cash is the Only King. Everything else is vanity.
If you cannot generate money from your business, or someone funds you indefinitely, how will you pay your bills, how will you survive? One can go on living a hard life for months, but for how long? Can you keep following your passion indefinitely hoping one day things will work out, when your immediate needs are not being met?
To me, achievement lies in the fact that we grabbed an opportunity, played to our strengths and built a business out of it.
Here are some learnings which I would like to share with our readers, who are also dreamers like us and want to do some kick-ass stuff:
1. Trying to build a business without an upfront business model is tougher than you may think, especially in India. Cash is reality.
2. Always play to your strengths. Be a domain expert.
3. Success begets success. As you help other people become successful, soon you will have more people approaching you, and the cycle continues.
4. Add tangible value to your customers. Make them your brand ambassadors.
5. Never ever stop learning your core skills. Knowledge and Self Improvement will be your only differentiator.
6. Start a business as soon as you can. As you grow older, your liabilities will increase, which will make it tougher to run your business.
7. Do not worry about competition. There will always be someone selling cheaper than you do. Just be honest at what you do and put your best efforts. Everything else will follow.
8. Love your idea but get real. Build a business first. You can always go back to your idea when you have money and resources
9. Your life will be more stressful when your business starts generating revenue. Your responsibilities towards your customers and your team grows manifold. And that is your true test of grit, determination and character. But it is all worth it at the end, when you see your work impacting a lot of lives directly/indirectly.
10. There is power in faith.
On that note, wish you a very happy, prosperous and successful 2015.