December 5, 2018
7 Lessons in Entrepreneurship
A hair-raising drive from Kathmandu to the Nepalese town of Hetuada provides the lessons of entrepreneurship in microcosm.
Nepal is famous for the Himalayas, Momos (Nepalese spiced dumplings), temples (did you know that Buddha was born in Nepal?) and dangerous roads. I recently was sitting in the front seat on travels from Kathmandu (the capital) to Hetuada (an industrial town). The distance is approximately 87 kilometers, or roughly 55 miles, and it was a five-hour journey due to many factors that I’ll discuss shortly. The drive made me think about the similarities to entrepreneurship and lessons from my three-year journey.
The first start of the journey was smooth; the roads were wide and then, very quickly, the roads started getting narrow and curvier. Lesson #1: The initial glory days of starting a company can soon surprise you with curveballs. There are so many firsts during startup years, such as first hires, first social media campaign, first time giving a 60-second commercial. Keep your eye on the goal, and don’t let the narrow roads or curves take you off-guard.
80% of the journey from Kathmandu to Hetuada were on unpaved roads. Imagine driving on gravel roads for more than three hours. Lesson #2: There will be bumps on the road. Don’t complain. Prepare and plan for the journey. Get the right tools for the job (vehicle). Know that bumps will occur and will disappear with time (and experience).
There were several places during our journey where roads were congested. Competition is fierce, and, even if you are first to market, you are at best six months before other startups start offering similar value propositions. Lesson #3: Having a strong sense of direction, strength and perseverance will allow you to navigate the congestion. Have the right people in place to handle difficult tasks (driver in our case). It may at times seem near impossible to get out of the congestion, but, with the right maneuvers, you can come out triumphant.
There are no road systems, or like a DOT (Department of Transportation) in Nepal. and cars, motorbikes, buses, horse carts and other vehicles with wheels will sneak in and pass you. There are times where our car did the same, depending on the opportunity. At times, it may seem others are getting ahead and are succeeding. Lesson #4: Don’t get discouraged – if you are solving the right pain points, have a strong team and present a solution, when the right opportunity arises you will succeed and make a pass. When I started my entrepreneurship journey, my co-founder and I built a product that was a “vitamin,” not a pain-killer. It was when we met an individual in 2016 who shared with us the pain points within the life/annuity industry that he experienced while selling and servicing products in the life insurance sector. Both of us fell in love with the pain points and joined forces through a company called Benekiva. We found the right pain point, a strong team and our solution, which incorporates portion of our initial solution.
See also: The Entrepreneur as Leader and Manager
The drivers in Nepal are completely bold. One wrong turn, and you may not exist. Lesson #5: Be fearless. A startup is not like a trip in the Himalayas. Fail and fail fast. A failed startup does not kill you, it makes your stronger. Also, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. If you want a stable and normal life with steady work hours and pay, then it may not be a right fit. If you are a creator and have a fear of mediocrity, then you are in the right club. I recently read a fantastic blog – Fearing Mediocrity from Ryan Hanley, which summarizes my thoughts on being fearless.
There was a place during our journey where we stopped to take a stretch and tea break. Lesson #6: Make sure you recharge. Lori Greiner, from Shark Tank, has a famous quote, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.” The statement is so true, and as entrepreneurs you don’t want to experience burnout. My break is this! I’m visiting my family and friends for three weeks, and my responsibilities for Benekiva are handled. I’ve delegated to my co-founder or my staff. I just have to be willing to check in. I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work even though some of my meetings are at 2:00 am or 3:00 am; it doesn’t bother me.
See also: AI Still Needs Business Expertise
Though the travel is treacherous, and a short distance takes hours, the ride is gorgeous. Tall, beautiful mountains, breathtaking views and an amazing landscape. Lesson #7: Enjoy the journey. You will encounter amazing people, mentors, other like-minded individuals and people who make you think, “Where have you been all my life?” You will get to participate with leaders of industry, attend amazing conferences where knowledge is abundant and work with others to create ideas.
Enjoy the journey, my friends. As Dr. Seuss says in “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”:
“You’re off to Great Places!
“Today is your day!
“Your mountain is waiting,
“So… get on your way!”
Thank you for reading this article!