One of the hardest parts about being an entrepreneur is the decision to end a venture – the act of giving up. This is different from just failing. My view is that every entrepreneur is actually starting off with a high probability of failing and then goes to work to reduce the risks. Giving up is different – it is about the decision to end the venture. It is never an easy decision because it means firing the people who have been part of the journey and also separating oneself from the idea that one has lived through for the past few years.
The first time I “gave up” was in November 1994. I had come back from a 2-month trip to the US. I had gone with the recognition that I was failing in what I was doing and I needed to re-start, but did not know what exactly to do. It was during that visit that the IndiaWorld idea was born. When I came back, I knew I had to “give up” on my old idea of building an image processing software product. I had to reduce staff and start a new journey into a new and unknown future.
Asking people to leave was the hardest thing I had done in life till then. I still remember that afternoon as I sat on my desk, met with the few employees that I was letting go, and telling them that they will have no job in a few weeks. The shared dream was over. They were on their own. And in some ways, so was I.
I had to do this again in February 2019 when I shut down Nayi Disha. We had almost 40 people working on the idea of creating a movement for prosperity in India. But as the elections got closer, I realised that we would have no impact on the outcome. I could keep doing my videos but I was broadcasting them into the ether. No one was listening. I called my entire team and told them we were shutting down completely. There would be no Nayi Disha. I had failed.
It was one of the hardest things I did. For the preceding few years, I had dreamt of how we could create a pathway to prosperity in India by persuading people to create an independent voters movement. But I had made far too many mistakes. I did not listen to many who told me that I would fail. I thought I was invincible. Until, I was not. I realised that no course correction was possible. I was too far away from the destination. On a long flight back from San Francisco to Mumbai, I “gave up” – Nayi Disha was dead. And the sooner I recognised it, the better it would be for everyone.
It is only when one door is closed that new ones can be opened. If there is one learning I have, it is that in all my failures, I have clung on to the past much longer than I should have. Giving up is not a bad thing – creation happens after destruction. That is the way the world of entrepreneurship and innovation works. Give up to start-up. Let not the past hold back the dawn of a new future. But first, let the past go.
Will be continued soon.