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"Life at a Startup"

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

I’ll try to be as subtle about it as I can be - a typical day at a startup begins like a fire drill and ends like a jungle fire gone awry. The madness that ensues between the two, is something one needs to witness first hand to believe.

So I joined the startup world about 6 years ago (after having worked for eight in traditional businesses - you know the kinds where nothing ever goes catastrophically wrong, just slows down or speeds up. How boring!). Right from day 1, I felt this strange undercurrent, one that makes you want to have 3 Idiots’ Boman Irani’s superpower to write with both hands (and think with your brain, kidneys and intestines).

Even with that I now believe, I would have fallen short of everything that I would have liked to cover in a work day (work day not to be confused with working hours - there is no correlation between the two in our world).

Added to this warfront like situation, was the fact that you’re suddenly always short staffed, bandwidth crunched and decision fatigued. By now the readers of this article would have convinced themselves that the author is a disgruntled ex-startup employee who has recently quit and swears to never go back. Well, on the contrary, she got addicted to the madness so much that she founded a startup for herself. And not a regular product venture, but one that services multiple other startups together and promises to deliver their needs faster than anyone else.

We recently completed two years of Anagram, and I am often asked how the journey has been. I am sure a lot of other founders would agree, there is no single word or phrase that can sum it all up. See if this sentence does justice to the emotion - it’s the most exhilarating-ly frustrating job satisfaction that one can get! An Instagram video I recently came across, summed it up pretty darn well for me.

When you start a new venture, a couple of things change in your life and I am sure a lot of entrepreneurs reading this article would relate:

  1. It never gets easier. In fact, the pressure builds, workload goes up and things only spiral into a crazier web with every passing day. If all of this is happening, guess you’re on the right track (either that or I’ve got it terribly wrong). My two cents - get the basics sorted on day 1. Have an accounting software, trademark that brand name, have recruitment procedures in place, hire in advance, don’t take contracts lightly, have legal checks in place and most importantly - do reference checks before you hire. You won’t find time for process setting later. Don’t ask me how many I have in place. ‘Zero’ is something I only like suffixed behind invoice figures.

  2. They all think you’re the boss. A lot of friends around you start saying “hey, you can leave the office anytime you like - it’s your own business”, or “why do you have to worry about a salary now - it’s your own bank account”. Yeah right! I don’t have to worry about ‘a salary’ but ‘salaries’ now. It’s suddenly not a ‘career’ but ‘careers’ at stake. And leaving at my own sweet time either means I’ve over hired people, or under estimated the value of my own presence. So if you’re doing any of that - Stop. Reset. You’re only the boss in the literal sense of the word… but if you’re not behaving (and feeling) like a waitress ready to serve the next order at a two minute notice, you might have trouble waiting at the next table.

  3. You’ve a new found respect for your ex bosses. This one happened to me and how. I used to see my bosses lost or zoned out often and I would judge them for being that way. I am now surprised that they all managed to zone out so little and keep a grip of it all so beautifully (I wish I’d learnt more from them). Working with some seniors before you start out on your own is never a bad idea. So much to learn!

Well it does get heavy. It does go out of hand. It does give you sleepless nights. Then what keeps you going, one would ask? Well to me, it’s the sheer joy of seeing this infant baby shape into an adult - a little more every day. Ummmm… do you believe me? Lol me neither. Scratch that. Actually It’s the adrenaline. You suddenly grow into this person who is now weighing every word, taking calculated risks, balancing hunch and data, and most importantly, evolving into a little bit of all the good bosses and coworkers you’ve admired growing up. You have a new found confidence in yourself (on most days i.e.), one that tells you that no matter how this goes, you’ll be able to strive forth… that if you could deal with this, you can take on any battle in the future. Bring it on!

Oh, and happy 2 years Anagram!

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