January 01, 2021 | Soundhariya Viswanathan
Welcome to Founders Unbound, a podcast that discusses the intricacies of running a startup and the challenges that come along with it.
Today, we are in conversation with Shyam Sunder Nagarajan, Founder and CEO of GoFloaters, and we wanted to learn from his experience - the up's and downs of running a startup.
GoFloaters is a platform that helps you find remote working and meeting spaces, that can be booked online. They are a pioneer in the remote working landscape.
Shyam began GoFloaters in Dec 2017, with experience from his previous startup and learnings from entrepreneurs around him. He believes most of what we learn comes from failure, noting that…
"Only 10% of learnings are a product of others success and 90% are lessons from their failures."
The biggest hurdle Shyam faced during the initial stages of GoFloaters, was dealing with questions. Every day presented a new series of questions that needed answers, not only from family but more importantly, the questions he had for himself.
"It took me 2yrs to build that confidence, despite having work experience and being a valuable part of teams in the past" claims Shyam.
"In the end, the reality is that having a 'We'll figure it out' attitude is what helps you get through it all."
While he often didn't have answers to many of the questions, he did, however, have the confidence to tell his wife - 'I can handle it' and that was the only magic wand he claims to have.
The common question most people have before taking on the entrepreneurial path is whether there is an assurance of cash flow, financial stability and growth. When faced with this question, Shyam reminded us that all those things were what one had with a job. And if that's what they wanted or expected – entrepreneurship wasn't the path to take.
"We put entrepreneurs on a pedestal", he notes, "While they are most definitely deserving of these pedestals, they deserve it not merely for what they achieved or succeeded with, but for succeeding despite the challenges they had to overcome".
Assured cash flow, financial stability and growth are not things anyone can have on day one, but something you can grow to achieve if you stick to your journey long enough.
When asked how he persisted, he shared that..
"The dream is a north star. The clarity of what you want to achieve is what keeps you going. "
Shyam talks about the benefits of having a support system while on the entrepreneurial journey, be it at home or work. Being in it together with someone else really helps. 'Having a partner in crime – a co-founder, who is just as passionate, is great!', he says.
When asked what the most important things were to him, as an entrepreneur, he shared 4 aspects that had the most impact. The first – trusting in yourself, followed by your co-founders and team in quick succession. Finally, Shyam notes, the last thing you can trust is in your vision for your product or concept. Nothing else lies in our hands, not the market nor the economy.
"It's best to bet on people."
When asked to share 3 mistakes or greatest learnings on his entrepreneurial journey so far, Shaym was kind enough to share 4!
Being hung up on the solution or overly focused on the game plan can hinder success. This is where the ego comes into play, and was the first big learning. We get fixated on what we know and too attached to the idea that it can block progress.
"Taking too long to launch, was the second mistake" Shyam shared. Focusing on perfection before launching hinders the entire process. He advises that "It's ok if your product/concept is not great; put it in front of people to get feedback early on in the process."
The third learning is one that applies a little further along the entrepreneurial journey – Scaling too fast. "We launched slowly", Shyam remembers. "It began with WhatsApp, then the website, followed by an android and then iOS app. While we had success in Chennai, we didn't have enough information to scale to multiple cities."
"His advice: "First figure out the fundamentals."
His final learning, and one he mused over early on in the discussion, is what he considers his biggest mistake – Not starting sooner.
"My biggest mistake is that I didn't start 10 years earlier"
Not right out of college, but also before I had a family depending on me.
When asked about what he looks forward to in the future, Shyam says he doesn't foresee himself going back to being an employee. He looks forward to creating something else that could help society.
His dream for GoFloaters began with his experiences in the corporate sector, where he saw how proximity gave unfair advantages in career growth. Shyam believes that the only way everyone in the world can really prosper is if Work from Home is truly embraced.
"Talent is the currency', he says, '…everyone can succeed"