The Life of a Startup: Destroy – Pause – Rebuild

Destroy, pause, Rebuild

I haven’t posted anything in a while for a whole lot of reasons, the most important being that, I have come to a point where all that I have learnt over the past 5 years of “starting up” is coming together to finally create something that I believe will truly bring real change to this world. It involves remapping my vision based on these life altering lessons so as to rebuild from the ruins of past mistakes. In my first year at University, I got together with a couple of friends and built a company called Neolab Technology. We chose not to define this company and ventured out to learn and experiment and find out what it could become, and more importantly, what we could become. It is something that I think every student should do whilst at university because it is the best ( and probably the only) time when you can start something, and if it fails, be able to rebuild it without taking on too much risk. It is important that you learn about yourself and about how far you can stretch before you break.

Now having left university, I have decided to look back on all that I have learnt, all the failures and experiences, and from that, build something of real value. This in part means leaving most of what I have been working on over the past 5 years so that I can focus on this one thing and turn it into gold. The challenge is that it is not easy to simply just close shop. As entrepreneurs, we live in a society that looks down on anything that doesn’t resemble resounding success. This fear of failure is the number one reason why a lot of people do not act on their dreams. We have been told that starting a company means you have to become exceedingly rich in no time at all and we confuse innovation with profitability, entrepreneurship, and salesmanship. We very quickly become slaves to our societal expectations, and what we assume is expected of us.

It is very easy for us as entrepreneurs to lose sight of why we started up in the first place, we become blinded by the flashing lights, the glitz, and glamour of being “your own boss” or the silent whispering of those who disapprove and question our daring to be different. I know this because I found myself in that place many a time, where I would ask myself ” How did I even get here?” and more importantly “How do I make it work again?” The fact is that we simply have to learn and get moving again, if it is already bad, then it cannot get worse that it already is. It means that the only way from there onwards is up.

It might seem easy saying it now, but the truth is, it is grueling, it is hard. We know in our rational minds that it is time to stop, time to rethink, to restrategize and take a new direction, yet we chain ourselves to the steering wheel of this train on a disastrous collision course. We add more skin into the game and strap ourselves in for a Kamikaze style almost certain death. A crash that as entrepreneurs, we might not be able to rise from. I am not saying that we should bolt at the first sign of trouble, not at all. Being an entrepreneur means going out to look for that trouble, for those problems to solve, and wrestling with them until you find a scalable and sustainable solution. But sometimes after taking considerable punches we realize that the problem is just too big for one man, that it requires the combined effort of entrepreneurs each hacking away at the different parts of it. Remember, in trying to solve one real problem, you have to solve *seven others first, and it becomes easier when you and your seven friends take on the real problem, each striking blow by blow to victory.

I have mastered the art of bouncing back, now to master the art of not having to.

It is from this realisation that I decided to leave one of the very first startups that I was involved in and decided to tour the country by public transportation in a bid to try and understand the people that we are trying to build technology for. I met numerous people solving problems in their own way and discovered valuable resources that our country is blessed with. Armed with my years of some success and much failure and a renewed vision, I have begun on this new journey to build this thing of beauty, backed by a community of entrepreneurs hell-bent on changing the world. Having accepted the destruction, and taken the time to reflect on it, it is time to rebuild. I look forward to sharing what I learnt in later posts.

 

Notes

*It is a proverbial number, sometimes you just have just that one problem, and at other times, you have to solve other things first before you can get to the real problem at hand. Think about having to provide electricity first before giving rural folk free WiFi.

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