I never thought I write well and do not be surprised if you find many errors, this is me, someone who would set out to go out there and do what needs to be done, even if there are tons of mistakes, but will come back completing the task. So, I never thought I write well, but here I am with a list of writing tasks, my autobiography, write-ups on the upcoming mega event & now, could not stop myself from giving you my point of view of this journey of Startups Club, a brand, a meet up group, few aspiring entrepreneurs wanting support, two motivated co-founders / mentors and today, as I write this, a Private Limited company, with one of the world’s best Mentor, 12k+ entrepreneurs registered, 10k+ student entrepreneurs connected, 5 amazing investors on board, some amazing individuals waiting to be associated and a dream of an IPO. How did this happen? Did a business plan do this? Had the founders thought of this plan and/or how did it all come about? This could be a book in itself but will be shrinking it to 2 part write-ups and I hope I do justice to this story, enough for all of you get some take away from this. *ps: these are my thoughts for you….
So, it takes a village to make what it is today but it takes one to accept that village you choose to live in. When I started conducting these meet ups in Bangalore, I had a very mix feeling, I was accepted very well by the entrepreneurs but a very cold behaviour from other meet up organisers. I remember this one meet up I attended, after having conducted around 3 or 4 meet ups under Startups Club, wanted to connect with other meet up organisers to understand what this is all about, wanted to connect with some of our kinds in the system, when I was at the session, few attendees recognised me and spoke very high of Startups Club meetings to others and when I approached the organiser after the session, I was treated as if I did not exist, when I forced a “Hi”, the response was this – ” your some meet up guys right?” thats it, the person walked away, I was like, “ahhhhh.. yes, so are you? some meet up person, so whats so bad about me being that” did not understand. I was concerned, I was so down that Sunday, are we making more haters than followers? we are here to get clients for my mentoring firm and the meet up group was just a brand, to reach out to entrepreneurs and pass on some knowledge, some insights, some experience and some support, but is it causing more damage to us? I remember I was considering closing down the meet up group. Yes, I thought of closing down Startups Club, even before it was anything, but then, that is why a co-founder plays a key role in every journey. There would have been 100s of times when each one us have pulled the other up, with no reason at all, to keep going. Vivek Srinivasan, would have done nothing of all this without you, man….
The Meet ups continued in the coffee shops of Bangalore, numbers kept increasings, some very special members / relationships were being made, Chandramouli, Karthik, Niladri, Najmul and few others were all people who became our best friends, Anshil was our first mentoring project from the community, these numbers kept growing, I was happy, I am a people’s person by nature, I get energised when around entrepreneurs, so things where good, I remember, I would open my mail box and would get few mails with subject as “come to Chennai” “why not Hyderabad?” “Support for our city” “We need Startups Club in Coimbatore” I would smile, send a liner saying, “thank you for the love and trust, we would ( Would – was the key word) some day” Never thought where this was all going, never had a mega plan, business plan or even an idea of the way forward. I guess the take away for you is, DO NOT HAVE A PLAN, HAVE PASSION…
There were two reasons why we ventured out of Bangalore, candid truth, one – members pulled us there, funded our trips at times, second – Vivek’s sister, Sandhya got placed in Chennai and then shifted to Hyderabad, she assured us, that she would help us with the ground level support on venue and city understanding, she did that and really well. When we started driving down to Chennai, we would pass Vellore, that is where, Vellore Institute of Technology was, a place, I had some beautiful memories with my father with his product development, so, we stopped there one day, got connected with Balachandran sir, the Technology Business head, started our community building in campus with students. the Journey continued.. We are the celebrating kinds, we celebrate every thing as co-founders, we would celebrate India’s win over Pakistan in Cricket, by stopping on the high way between cities and jumping around, we celebrate a tyre puncture because, it gave us more time to have fun as we drove on highway, we celebrated 500 members, then the goal would be 1000 from 3 city to 5, and we still celebrate for all those reasons and more, with goals such as 25000 members, touching 3 countries, but celebrations have not stopped, guess it would never.. Your take away – celebrate your achievements, because we as entrepreneurs have this tendency to remember only hardships, but it is important you remember your achievements, your silly smiles. Your journey must define the happy you, not the beaten and bruised you.
We are still a brand, remember this, I am still comfortable, nothing much has changed, traveling cities, getting clients for mentoring, making many connects with investors, incubators, influencers, entrepreneurs and loads of noise on social media, I call Facebook, my hard disk so all most, every thing went up on it. We were still meet up groups. I met this member in Chennai, this young, I must say, handsome guy, I was a bit excited to connect with this guy, he was excited about us, the club and wanted to work with us. He is the founder of Siam Computing, we did not know how a founder of another company could work with us, we needed money for our, even then, the mega event, Demo Day, so pulled him in as sponsor, he agreed, then, he signed us up as his mentors, then, he started giving free suggestions on our website, which until then was a simple website donated ( yes, a member had done it for us for free, forcing us to have a website) then, one day, at a dinner with this young man and his wife with Vivek and I on the table, I just said it, not spoken with Vivek ahead of this moment, “Khuzema, would you be our tech co-founder?” and he did not think for a minute, he did not look around, he did not know how much was the stake holding, what his role is, he said “yes” then I looked at Vivek, he was happy too, I asked him what would be the share holding and doing what he does well, gave a number and it was done, the desert we ordered was in celebration of having this amazing guy as our tech co-founder. Till date, we have our massive fights, we all most stop to pulling each others’s hair, but I love him and he loves me, we are the world’s best BFFs.. We are still a Brand, we still do not have a business plan, we still do not know where all this heading towards, we are just adding more and more crazy people with us. I am still happy, I am still in this comfortable space of mine, Startups Club is still the brand under my mentoring firm, take away here, today we get many mails, many entrepreneurs reach us wanting to connect with a co-founder. It does not work that way, you do not get your co-founders hanging around on trees, where you can just pluck them out. They drop on your heads, like mine did… So, go out there and do what you do best, leave it for the system to deliver your co-founder.
Around the same time, Faraz, my son, he finished his schooling, loved traveling, loved being around me, hated going to college, so joined an evening course for further studies and he joined us. He joined, because of only love, his passion to drive, to be around me, not to build this business, and TODAY, he manages 60% of ground level working of Startups Club and a team of 28 totally crazy people. But Startups Club values and culture is such, love for Startups Club, the team, the goals, the dream of an IPO… At Present, we have a 2 month old team member who goes to his honey moon, post a beautiful picture on Facebook and tags us to say, this is where we will have our party after IPO, Siddharth love you man.. We have a team member, she cries to me, if she misses on her monthly targets saying she will get it next time and I am like, “its okay gal, you will make it” and she goes, “I could have, I must have pushed my self”, in fact we have two of this kinds, our senti girls.. our crazy Soumya & Namratha. Passionate and driven, sometimes more than me.. Take away for you, have a team which is with you, because they love what they are doing, not the salary, they see your dream with you.
Back to those days, we had reached a stage in Startups Club journey, where we have 4 crazy people, 2 even more crazy people and sweetest of campus consultants at the VIT, Avirath and Ratul, all building these two communities of entrepreneurs ( students and non-students) under this BRAND Startups Club. Do you really want to know numbers, because at this point, it did not matter, we all just did not care, we were on a road, which was beautiful, exciting and giving us our clients, so why bother… What awaited us in the next turn, just a month or so from here was a complete Hair Pin Turn, to what we were. The next turn had, co-founder’s struggles to accept change, numbers and goals, commitments and deadlines, team building and cash flow crises, but will just leave you with one thought, we at Startups Club, even today are super happy people, super crazy people, super motivated people, super dreamy ones.. so much more to come in Part 2…