by Muhammad Nasrullah
Mark Zuckerberg just gave his commencement speech at Harvard and the following really stood out for me:
”We all know we don’t succeed just by having a good idea or working hard. We succeed by being lucky too. If I had to support my family growing up instead of having time to code, if I didn’t know I’d be fine if Facebook didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be standing here today. If we’re honest, we all know how much luck we’ve had.”
What Zuckerberg is saying that he was able to make Facebook because he wasn’t poor or worried about supporting his family.
Why is this Important?
Whenever students ask me: should I do a job or start a businesses? I tell them this: If you’re from a poor family, you don’t have the luxury to ask this question, you need to put food on the table for your family right away.
If you’re from a rich family, this question is moot; you might already be joining the family business.
If you’re a middle class kid, your family doesn’t depend upon you for food right now. You can spend a year or two experimenting. If you fail; you can get a job with experience 10x better than your peers. But if there was a 10% chance of your success, it can really make an impact and create more jobs.
But if you don’t start a business, literally no one else will and the fate of Pakistan won’t change. So, if you’re a middle class Pakistani with the financial means it is your duty to give this a try.
I’ve fielded lots of questions ever since I wrote the above, I’ve answered a few here:
That’s Great but I Don’t Have Any Money
If you family doesn’t have the fund to fuel a 1-2 year low cash burn, you shouldn’t think about either.
Work on your startup on the side of your job. Make sure your employer doesn’t have any clause that might get yo in trouble. Sramana has written a great book on this called ‘Bootstrapping on a Paycheck’. Read it for free here: https://www.amazon.com/Bootstrapping-Paycheck-Entrepreneur-Sramana-Mitra-ebook/dp/B00OIE5J78
Bootstrap using Services: practically every large Pakistani IT company you see today did this. They bootstrapped by selling software consultancy services. He’ll, that’s even how Microsoft started. Again, a great book on stories of entrepreneurs who did the same is written by Sramana, which you can read for free here:
Raise funding: Theres been some invigoration in startup investing the past few months with a few fund which have popped up. I recommend you approach these funds after you’ve made progress using financing of he above few methods. If you just apply for funding with an idea alone, you would have a rough time convincing anyone.
Thats Great But I Don’t Know How to Run a Company
That’s alright. The best and fastest way is to learn by jumping into it. Of course; you have to be self-critical and smart. The best thing to do is to surround yourself with good mentors, the kind who have built companies or have knowledge in an area you lack, or have a great network or experience.
Educate yourself: its 2017 as I write this, practically everything you need to know about running a startup you can find online from YC’s Startup School and there are entire courses on enterpreneurship, all for free.
I Want to Start a Company Company But I Don’t Have an Idea
Well, then, get a job. Starting a company is no picnic. It’s hard work, you need a lot of determination to standup to many many punches. If there isn’t something you really believe in doing,’it’s going to be really hard making it work. Work on a job or run a consultancy/freelance till the right idea hits you.
What if I Fail?
You most likely will. Lots of startups in Pakistan die, lots of them are dead and they just don’t know it yet. But in the process of building a company, you’ll have to learn as fast as you can about programming your product, learning about your customers, market research, hiring, contracts, finance, banking, legal so on. Your experience will be worth a lot more than the same time spent at a job.
What’s Wrong with Doing a Job?
There’s nothing wrong in doing a job. Just make sure you’re learning quickly and that your role has impact. Here’s a technique I use to figure out if I’m learning: at the end of week ask yourself “what have I learned?” whatever the answer, was it something that should’ve taken a week? Could your learning have been done in two days? One day? If yes then you’re probably not learning as much as you should be.
You should do this exercise at the end of every month and do a review after the year.
As with everything in life, there’s an exception to everything I said above. Entrepreneurs from very poor backgrounds have been successful. Maybe you find funding right away.
Whatever you choose, good luck!
Nasrullah is an entrepreneur, he founded Pring and is currently VP of Solutions at Convo.com. Have a question, reach out to @nash