The POPxo journey has been the craziest rollercoaster of a ride. It also feels like a true privilege. Here are a few things that I learned along the way, if I knew them in the beginning then I could have saved myself a great deal of agonizing.

  1. It is going to be hard. Accept it. Welcome it. It never gets easier – the challenges simply change.
  2. It is the best ride of your life. You will learn so much about yourself. No matter what it all results in, you will discover strengths and skills that will always be there for you to take to the next chapters that follow.
  3. People leave. That’s ok. No matter who it is or how important/crucial/irreplaceable you might feel they are. The company survives. You survive. Life goes on. Take a moment to acknowledge that sinking feeling after someone says “Can we talk?” and know that you and the company will be ok.
  4. If you are thinking of letting someone go – don’t agonise over it. Ask yourself if you would hire that person today. If the answer is a clear no then have the difficult conversation. If it is yes – then have a frank discussion and put a plan in place to sort out your doubts.
  5. Exercise. Everyday. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are too busy. You have signed up for a marathon – not a sprint. You need to be strong, to feel strong physically and mentally.
  6. Don’t isolate yourself. Keep up with family and friends. It will be so easy to fall into the ‘I am so busy’ rut that basic human interactions will take a back seat.
  7. It is a lonely life. You will be afraid of seeming vulnerable. Of voicing your fears. There is not much you can do about it except have non-work networks that are strong.
  8. If you have a co-founder it gets easier. Invest time and energy in building a strong relationship both at a work and personal level. The relationship is a work-marriage. You are financially and legally intertwined. Respect and communication at all times is key. Have the difficult discussions early. Checking in regularly to see if alignment is still there is crucial.
  9. Find a few people who you can truly trust. Ideally, they should be successful entrepreneurs who have been through the journey. Invest time and energy in building a strong connect. Depend on them for advice.
  10. The money will come. Investment will happen. Keep your focus on metrics that matter. Vanity metrics can be used for flash. But you and the core team should know the difference.
  11. Due diligence and docs take forever. Plan for it. Set up your data-room and keep it constantly updated. This includes your disclosure letter. Disclose everything. Find a lawyer who is a stickler about the straight and narrow.
  12. Hire the best folks you can. Even if you are stretching. The good ones pay for their salaries many times over.
  13. A good-looking CV is like a good-looking person. But don’t be enamored by the logos on the CV. Look for the substance beyond the flash.
  14. Do the key reference checks yourself.
  15. If the notice period of your new hire is 3 months – s/he will probably not turn up. Keep interviewing till the person joins.
  16. You will constantly need to upgrade your skills, your management style, and your knowledge base. Fake it till you make it. Read. Incessantly.
  17. The highs and the lows are both fleeting. Acknowledge both. Celebrate the successes or lick your wounds and then move on.
  18. You will feel like giving up many, many times. It’s par for the course. Stick it out.
  19. Cut your losses fast – it could be ideas, people, or vendors. If it is not working, deep down you know. Move on.
  20. Trust your gut. Hone your intuition. If something feels like a mistake it most likely is. 90% of the time, your first reaction is the right one.
  21. Don’t believe your own hype. Don’t over-dramatise how tough everything is.
  22. What seems like scaling a mountain today will be child’s play very soon.
  23. Keep a journal – I did not and I regret it.
  24. Be kind and compassionate. To others and to yourself. It is easy to run roughshod over everyone especially if you feel that you have the burden of mission looming constantly over you. Check yourself.
  25. Managing investors is a key task. You have to get good at it. The sooner you treat it like a partnership the better. Overshare and communicate. They are in the boat with you. They are partners, not bosses.
  26. You will always be fundraising. Learn to enjoy it.
  27. The pitch deck is never done. Take notes in every meeting and update it regularly.
  28. Your runway will rarely last beyond 18 months.
  29. Micro-management can only take you so far. Invest time in building up people and then empowering them.
  30. Nothing is the end of the world.
  31. When it gets really tough – you will find the strength. And you will at some point in the future look back and marvel at how you got through the tough times.
  32. Oftentimes when you want to hit the breaks because of fear or worry is when you need to double down.
  33. Meditate. It’s old advice but it holds true. The better you get at it – the easier your journey will feel. You will enjoy it more.

You are on a long mission. Find pleasure in the journey. Don’t take yourself too seriously!