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All aboard the roller coaster !

In experience, general, startups by satya

Mark Suster, an entrepreneur turned VC, writes fantastically down to earth and unassuming articles. One of his recent posts on Techcrunch talks about the life of an entrepreneur and again, like all his articles, immediately hit the mark given the crazy schedule I have had for the last 10 days or so in India.

As an example, this is what I  experienced in a 24 hour period last week :

(a) Last call with internal team ends at 11.30pm – clear up pending emails and go to bed at 1AM feeling good that things are chugging along well

(b) Wake up at 5AM feeling like something the cat dragged in – need a couple of really strong cups of coffee to feel half human and read/respond to emails before chucking my clothes into a suitcase and heading out to the airport – not feeling too good

(c) Have a couple of internal calls during the extremely long drive (even at 6AM) to Bangalore airport. The first call wakes me up and makes me feel supercharged again – there’s positive movement on a sticky topic that we have been struggling with for a couple of days. The next call takes me back to wishing I were in bed – why is common sense such a scarce commodity ?

(d) Get on to the flight and make final edits to the deck on my new toy, the Apple tablet. The fonts from my PPT are all over the place but this is a minor issue. Thankfully, the crew is pleasant and the flight comfortable even in cattle class. Catch 5 winks before we land in Bombay.

(e) Head straight to a prospect’s office through the complete chaos that is north-west Bombay. Construction sites, dust, humidity, traffic as though all the drivers have smoked something very strong, horns blaring… the entry road to the office is closed so I drag my suitcase and laptop bag (that weights half a ton because I have not cleared out the papers and other junk for the last 6 months) into the office through gravel, potholes, pavements that end suddenly, motorcyclists whose fun game of the day is to take a few of my toes off and land up in the office looking like a particularly rough character out of a Charles Dickens novel. Hmm, now I need to make a pitch with all the enthusiasm and energy I can muster.

(f) Great hour long meeting with the prospect in quiet, air-conditioned bliss – they somehow make sense of my incoherence and we agree to work with each other to see how we can collaborate. Get out of the office with a spring in my step ? the spring ends abruptly with the first pothole I hit immediately outside the office.

(g) Have a quick lunch at a junk food joint of American origin. Just as I finish up, I get a call – commercial negotiations with a prospect where the engagement needed to have started a couple of days ago. I have to make a sudden mental shift and recollect the details of where we had left off. Trying to finalize a deal with the traffic of Bombay as background noise is not an exciting experience but need to go through with it because it has already carried on for too long. End the call 30 minutes later with no final agreement – the lunch has disappeared from my system and I am definitely not feeling good.

(h) Cannot get a cab so head to my next meeting in an ‘auto’ – the three wheelers that infest the suburbs of Bombay. They remind me of contortionists –  they can pretty much drive at any angle to get to their destination. A 30 minute bone rattling ride later, I am at my next prospect meeting.

(i) Enjoy the bliss of the cavernous but nicely designed office while I wait an hour for the meeting. Spend the time on a couple more calls – one with a biz dev partner, one with a development company that wants to provide its services to us – again, up and down emotions. Some things are progressing really well, others are not. At the same time, need to focus on the upcoming meeting because it is a critical one and I have spent hours over the past few weeks trying to get it organized.

(j) Go through my carefully tailor made pitch – notice a couple of folks dozing during the meeting. Maybe it’s the afternoon heat, more likely it’s me.. Either way, come out an hour later with my gut telling me that it did not go as well as I expected. Need to think through how to get them re-engaged.

(k) Meet an old friend who works in the same office – great to reminisce about the good ol’ times. Talking with him helps me understand more about their business and I start seeing some light at the end of the tunnel (and I won’t go into the old chestnut of express trains).

(l) Get a long but very comfortable ride with him to where I am enjoying the hospitality of my friends – great to see them and their kids again.  Barely have time to exchange hellos before I have to pull out my laptop and connect into a call with a prospect in the US. Struggle with cell phone reception being spotty in the high rise and get into the call 10 minutes late.

(k) Discussions on a proof of concept go on with the prospect till 10.30PM – very exciting – I am really pumped yet scared because the expectations are high and timelines are short. I am confident we can deliver but need to ensure that we don’t get complacent.

(l) Internal call with my co-conspirators in the US to debrief them on the day’s events. Lengthy discussions about each of the meetings, what the follow up actions are, what to prepare for tomorrow’s meetings etc – by now, its close to midnight and I am exhausted but the day is not done

(m) Do some more research about the folks I am meeting tomorrow and fine tune my decks accordingly. Respond to a few of the emails that have already started flowing in from the US and gladly delete all the spam.

(n) Hit the sack – wake up an hour later with some random thoughts about the commercial discussions going through my head – cannot get back to sleep so decide to bore you with this blog post – take 30 minutes to write it with only a quarter of my brain functioning :) Finally go to sleep.

Thus ended the day. Apart from the flight, this is pretty much how every day goes (including the waking up early feeling like an old shoe) but am I complaining ? Absolutely, definitely not ! I love what I am doing, I love the highs, I don’t particularly enjoy the lows but need to take them in my stride and move on, I love the thought that I am (somewhat) in control of my destiny.

The multi-tasking and the need to be able to think on my feet, not worrying about ‘organizational dynamics’ … what’s not to like ? Sorry, got to stop writing post – need to rush into my next call….more next time