Founders of startups go through all kinds of predicaments. Not being able to pay themselves and their people. Rejections from clients and investors. Problems with team. Running out of money. Psychological pressure of all the challenges that come with being a founder. Challenges entrepreneurs go through are now well recognized in business community. There are now heaps of studies exploring the psychological cost of being a founder.
The reason that almost 90% of startups fail is that it is hard to build a sustainable business. However, many people suggest that the statistic could be improved through effective measures. While luck and good timing play an out sized role in any success, merely understanding the realities of entrepreneurship could help a founder to persist during a particularly hard time. And often luck is about persistence and staying in the game for a little longer than everybody else. As Paul Graham of Y Contaminator said, if you don’t die (in startup), you get rich.
At Future Startup, we have figured out that founders who are building companies could offer useful advice to that regard, which is one of the reasons we interview founders on a regular basis.
Mehedi Hasan is the Co- Founder and CEO of MyCash Online, an online service company based in Malaysia that aims to bring the online money transaction services for migrant people globally. Founded in November 2015, the company has grown meaningfully over time, expanded to multiple markets and raised multiple rounds of investment.
In a recent interview with Future Startup, Mr. Hasan has offered a handful of practical lessons from his journey on dealing with challenges of being a founder, what kind of startup you should build, why you should prioritize speaking with your customers, raising investment and persistence.
From Mehedi Hasan:
I have learned a lot during these 4 years of my journey. It was a real roller-coaster ride. There were ups and downs almost every day. It will be hard to summarize the whole experience, but I can say that it has made me more fearless and now I am not scared to take any challenges. It has helped me to better understand the market, our competitors and product offerings, and our customers.
Challenges and stress are a never-ending game for the founders of any startup. Apart from marketing and sales, cash flow management is the key to any startups.To manage the company well, I do not deal with everything in the company. I delegate.
We maintain five people rules to keep it easy. Normally, I supervise 5 key people in my team (mostly all C Level Officers). They each supervise 5 people. It helps us to ensure an organized chain of command in the company. It helps everyone including me to keep myself out of unnecessary stress and challenges.
When you are making something, make a painkiller, not a vitamin. A painkiller is much easier to sell than a vitamin. For example, Uber is successful because it is a painkiller. Even in Malaysia, where it was very hard to get a taxi and most of the time, they refuse to go for a short distance and try to cheat tourists, Uber changed it.
On the other hand, OBike was a vitamin because it was not a necessity.
People were using it only for some time and still reluctant to pay for it. People mostly use it to enjoy their discounts and free promotions and eventually they failed after raising so much money. If you simply remember this principle, you will never fail.
The best way to build a company is by speaking with your customers. Your customers are your best advisors and mentors and well-wishers. I have learned that spending more time with your customers is far better than doing almost anything else.
It takes many many days of dedication and tireless effort to raise investment. I have talked with many VCs in the last few years. In my experience raising money is tougher than running the business. It is difficult to make VCs happy and find the right VCs. Finding the right VC is equally difficult like find the right wife. There are many VCs with tons of money, but you need to find the right one for your venture.
Founders need to be mindful when it comes to raising money from certain VCs. There are VCs who would support you and help you grow and there are the ones who would take you down every time you talk to them. Just ignore them, and find and talk to a new one.
Finally, one thing I always follow is that when you want to start raising money, first, talk to some VCs that you do not want to get fund from. They will give you all the negative feedback and help you prepare for the next VCs that you really want to get funding from.
To my fellow entrepreneurs, I would say that never lose your hope. If you have a good product, first, try to have paying customers. If you can achieve that, try to get next 100th then 1000th and eventually 1 millionth paying customers. This will help you to build a rock-solid foundation for your venture.