Starting your first business is absolutely terrifying. There are myriad unknowns, inevitable financial pressures, and the looming possibility of failure and ridicule. Often times you will be entering into your endeavor with little to no experience in the field you are pursuing. However, throughout the journey you will learn from mistakes and failures and grow exponentially as an entrepreneur and an individual. Intuitively (given your new found wisdom) this would mean that starting your next venture will be much easier. Right? Wrong.
I would like to argue that inexperience can be an extremely powerful weapon when “starting-up” for the first time. When I started my first company I was 23, had no idea what I was doing, and it was beautiful.
I was exploring the field of digital pathology (the digitization of glass slides for remote diagnosis). I saw an emerging technology, inefficiencies in the market, and thought I struck gold. I had no educational background in healthcare, very limited work experience in healthcare technology, and no experience starting a company. Regulation, legal expenses, selling to physicians, operational concerns, HR? None of this crossed my mind. I was living in the clouds with a clear mind. I was fuelled by a never-ending stream of naiveté and high hopes.
A perfect example of this is when I was first conducting some initial diligence to see if my business model could be financially viable. There was this new technology and I needed to know how much it would cost to implement. So I started calling vendors. Most wouldn’t talk to me because I wasn’t an actual company yet. It didn’t occur to me that these large companies might not want to give their pricing information to a 23 year old without a legal entity. One did talk to me and luckily for me their CEO was going to be in Boston that coming week…
We met at the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel and it was initially an awkward encounter. This was an individual with a masters and a PhD leading a company with significant VC backing doing pioneering work in the field of diagnostics (also probably one of the smartest engaging people I have ever encountered). Before saying hello he said,
“Your Rishi? You know I was expecting an overweight Indian man in his 50’s. How old are you?”
We sat down and had a game changing conversation where I explained my vision (enveloped in ignorance and inexperience), the future of pathology, and the potential of digital. He invited me to their office in Palo Alto and we parted ways. 6 weeks later I quit my job. 4 weeks after that I was at their Palo Alto armed with no practical experience to speak of negotiating a partnership agreement.
Ultimately, my lack of experience is what enabled me to take the leap. Starting a company is emotionally tolling, harder than you could ever expect, and scary as hell. However, the beauty of your first venture is all of this is foreign. You don’t know the pressures of dealing with client complaints, managing organizational conflict, and the sheer ruthlessness and evil that exists in the world of business. I am currently working on a couple of new venture concepts that I am extremely excited about. However, knowing what I know now, taking this leap again is tougher than expected. However, it’s all worth it. Because while the bad days are bad the good days are so f@#king great…
Warmly and Humbly,