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Musings of a Former Start-Up Founder

Mission / Vision / Charter
Leadership

17 June, 2021

Tushar Dadlani

Tushar Dadlani

Principal Product Manager at Walmart

Tushar Dadlani, Director of Engineering at Standard Cognition, thinks back to one of the most pivotal junctures of his entire career — starting his own company.

Problem

A couple of things led me to start my own company. One was a desire to have a greater impact in the world. People, I think, use experience as a proxy, especially when it comes to the ability to manage. I don’t think that this is necessarily true.

When my co-founder and I first began to plan, we started to think about larger-scope types of problems to solve. The bulk of my own time was spent mentally preparing myself. Could I really start a company? Would I be able to afford it?

Actions taken

Once we started the company, we had to hire a couple of people. I had never hired anybody in my life before that. I realized that I would actively be able to set the culture of the company through hiring.

I wished to imbue my new company with integrity, being as fair and inclusive as possible. Once hired, I asked anybody with feedback to write it down so that it could be discussed without bias. I think that one of the challenges in working for a small start-up is that opportunities for mentorship are not as frequent. You’re going on this journey of defining how everything will work in the company — sales, marketing, fundraising, and everything else. You interact with all of these stakeholders and vendors, not really knowing if you’re doing things correctly at first.

On the other side, you also have to start being the people manager. You hire your first engineer and start delegating them their work. You have to be okay with letting them fail sometimes. They will learn the lessons to be learned. You cannot spend all of your energy micromanaging. There was a process of aggressively letting go of a lot of things.

You will eventually gain a sense of what is working and what is not working within your company as a founder. You have to be very true to yourself and your co-founders in order to navigate any problems that you encounter. Celebrating the triumphs is fine, but being too overly-optimistic may lead you to trouble. You have to always be thinking about your next source of revenue or fundraising. If you lose your focus on this, you will have no way of providing value to your customer.

A lot of people may choose to never start a company because they fear failure. When success impacts not only your paycheck, but the paychecks of everybody who you have hired, a newfound sense of responsibility sets in. It is painful at first. Once you can cut through the noise as an entrepreneur, you will not be taken off-guard by the set-backs along the way.

Lessons learned

  • You have to be working with people who you trust. Disagreements will happen, but, as people, we were all very realistic. That level of trust allowed us to have very open conversations and feedback sessions.
  • Never lose sight of your family and other important support systems. It will have an adverse impact on your mental state.
  • Always be thinking harder about how you want to be spending your time.

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