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From Side Project to Startup - things I learned in a year.
It's been a roller-coaster ride full of excitement! One article is pretty short to summarise this, yet I tried my best.
5th Aug 2022, Peerlist marks its first year!
A big deal? Obviously, yes!
Looking back in time and seeing a year has passed, building a product from scratch is overwhelming. Too many thoughts, learnings, wins, and failures but a journey worth cherishing. On this note, and without boring you much, gonna straight jump to the topic of discussion 👇
From Side Project to a Startup, how did it begin, and what did I learn?
We started Peerlist as a side project while working full-time. If you had asked me same time a year back, I would have never imagined that one year down the line, I would be doing this full-time for the past 10 months!!! 🤯
On this note, its a story-time!
The dilemma of going full-time!
We started working on Peerlist around April as a side project and released an invite-only beta in August. We all were working full-time, and everything was going fine for us. We used to work in the evenings and during weekends. After releasing this beta project, we started talking to people around the startup ecosystem. As first-time founders, we were new to understanding this world.
In every conversation, one topic was prominent, when are you going full-time, or are you keeping it as a side project forever?
We were okay to keep it as a side project initially. But looking at the response and traction, we started thinking otherwise—the option to continue it as a side project started to fade.
But being husband-wife co-founders has its pros and cons. The major concern here was not having any other financial support system.
Going to a startup full-time as a cofounder means you have to give up your salary. From your decent-paying comfortable life, you will be signing up for something where you are not sure when you will get paid. This feels risky, uncomfortable, intimidating!
I struggled with this decision. I panicked because I was the first of two to leave the job. I wanted to have plan B if this fails! So before leaving my job, I started searching for a job! To take this decision, I wanted to have the proper signal and know my worth; what if this goes wrong?
Akash and I had a deal; "if I get a job offer within two weeks, I will go full-time for Peerlist." That way, if things don't work out, I will still be able to return to my job, aka salary! I received a pretty amazing offer within ten days of deciding this, and our decision was made. I put down my papers and decided to do Peerlist full-time! :)
This process of how we took this decision is not something I feel proud of, but you have to figure out your way to bring conviction and confidence.
Back to our topic...
It's difficult for me to share all my learnings and experiences in a single article. Yet I am trying to cover the most I can. This one is coming straight from the heart, without filters! So here is what I learned in a year in no particular order.
Do not take anything too seriously and personally.
When you build something or create something, you have a pretty obvious expectation of people liking it. This will happen, but not every time. Some people like it and some will not! Some will be very generous and kind, but some might be rude too! This does not mean what you are doing is wrong.
There are high chances they cannot see what you can see about your project! They might be unaware of what you know about the subject/domain! So when you stop taking things too seriously, you can keep calm, think of everything happening around you, and make right decisions.
Always remember, the world is kinder than you think and more brutal than you imagine! So, going along with your emotions is never a good thing to do!
Have a vision of 5 years but a plan of 3 months.
This might sound weird, but worked every time for us! Akash and I were sure from day 0 about what we wanted Peerlist to be! The goal is pretty much clear to both of us, but our execution plans are always changing.
No one can predict what will happen, and you cannot control the outcome. So it's better to have a clear vision and keep rest of the things flexible.
We had some features planned to go out soon after we launched invite-only beta. Some of them are not even in development yet! We also had some features that have been live for the past few months, which were never planned! Peerlist Scroll is one of them 😅
It's always noisy. Be comfortable with chaos!
A year back, I was so naive to think that building a good product is all it takes to build a startup! Trust me, it's not true.
You have to wear so many hats, from talking to users, to marketing, to building product, to managing finances, to raising money; it will be a plate full of to-dos, always and every day. Though this is obvious, the major problem is having a focused time for execution. Everything will need your attention, and you will always be dealing with more than one problem at a time.
This will be annoying initially, but the early you accept this change and adapt it to your work routine, the more productive you will be.
Be shameless while asking for help!
Though I am still improving, this is one of my best learnings. I used to feel so uncomfortable asking for help. The thought of people judging me or my low self-esteem used to hold me back from asking anything.
But the last year, my thinking has changed. We reached out to some amazing people we admired, and almost all of them helped us somehow. One learning in that is, if you ask the right way, people go beyond their way to help you. So never ever shy away while asking for something.
If you are growing 10x, you will face 10x challenges!
When they say there is no substitute for hard work and consistency, they mean it! 😅 This has not been an easy journey, and we still have to do a lot of work. But results are worth it. Every day we face a new challenge. But after a while, you get used to handling it. Things start shaping up one step at a time, but we just lack patience.
Accepting that there will always be challenges makes things easier. Ultimately everything is a process, and you will have to trust it. (You don't have any better option anyway 😆)
Only first No is hard!
We seek validation in everything, and that's okay. But that will not always happen. I remember last year we met with one potential investor. We were getting praised everywhere, and people were talking about us; everything was going fine, but our plans did not align, and the deal couldn't materialize! This was unexpected, and we received our first No!
These are the times when you start doubting your decisions & sometimes, even skills, or might feel everything you have done is wrong! But, this is where you have to stop taking things so seriously.
You will meet many people, some of whom might reject you right away, but slowly you have to start mastering the art of taking it constructively or leaving it altogether. You can not build something that is acceptable to everyone or can make everyone happy.
Rejections are hard, but you must make a peace with them and keep working by maintaining your mental sanity!
Building something of your own demands a lot of responsibility and accountability. You must own your success, failures, and your team's failure too! We would have never believed it if we were told that we would be doing these many things a year back. Yet we did it by trusting the process.
Looking back, even the gloomy days sound fun now, and I feel proud of ourselves. I feel fortunate to meet the right people at the right time. I know many more learnings, wins, and failures will unfold next year!
If you are still reading this, I am grateful that you are now a part of this journey with us! Thank you for supporting us in everything.
To many more years to come 🥂