Like most subjects, the start up journey has also been described and written to death.
Let me draw all the clichés for you so we can all save time:
Piecing together a story with the above usual suspects is rather easy. So instead of a top down approach to start up life I want to take a bottom up approach i.e. take small stories, instances, anecdotes and events to work my way up to what I hope is a compelling start up story. Since I am typing free style I am not 100% sure if the story will end up that way but we will all find out in another 10 minutes won’t we?
Lets start with people – for every great story has its characters.
Prem went from being a Canadian Customs officer (pretty exciting) to the world of advertising where he worked with big firms and perhaps saw a hundred brands translate themselves into respective campaigns. All good, but where was the ownership? Prem called me a dozen times saying, “lets do something” – “lets start a restaurant”. Then Cloudcherry happened.
Vijay is the hopeless romantic. I don’t think he (or I) could ever work in any place other than a start up.
Sudha worked at what I can perhaps say is half her market salary because she believed in the product and believed in the person (Vijay). This loyalty to the cause did not come with ESOPs. Rather the ESOPs followed the commitment.
Nagendra’s truest passion is to create wonderful things, architected to perfection. In another world he would have been the architect from the Matrix or the movie Inception.
What is the point I am getting at? A company is the sum of parts of its people, and then some. It takes all the effort to bring together a team that has passion, commitment and incredible talent to execute an idea. And you might still fail but without the people, any idea is worth about as much as the paper it is written on. Each member of the team has a start up story but I do not have enough space in one blog post on this. Perhaps we shall add a section on the website to talk about these incredible people who define Cloudcherry.
It was a few months after we started that I realized we had no money. It was October of 2014 and well, the money was going to take a little more time than expected. This was our first oops moment. I had to walk in to office, tell my people there is no money in the bank and that salaries will get delayed. Nobody in office is from a financial background where a month’s salary doesn’t make a difference. Everyone has bills to pay and EMIs to honour. We ultimately paid salaries mid-month but walking in everyday and seeing an office full of energy and people going about their work like nothing had changed told me what a start up culture is all about. It was also the most difficult 15 days for me, for I had never before realized what it meant to impact people’s lives so adversely. I hope that episode is forgotten and never revisited again. I also take this opportunity to salute Venkat, my boss and start up mentor at MarketSimplified. Venky – I now know how you got ‘em ulcers !
The first month of Cloudcherry was spend doing woodwork as my first blog mentioned. My partner in crime was Selva, an office admin strongly recommended by a friend as someone who was “honest to a fault”. That was not his only fault. His other faults included willingness to work 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, balance severe economic hardship at home and yet manage our money without my ever having to cross check and a general willingness to help team Cloudcherry with even personal errands and quite simply always be there for us. Initiative is perhaps half the word needed to define his efforts.
Unlike Bob Dylan, our bell ringing signified something positively special. In this case, finally signing our big client the day we moved into our new office. It was the moment we finally looked around and believe the philosophical version of ‘Product Market Fit’. Cloudcherry was here to stay.
The hardest to define but the most critical attribute in the startup mix. Ours is a free flowing one where we ‘fight like you’re right and listen like you are wrong’. I think I read it in First Round Review, a highly recommended read for any entrepreneur. So we fought, we screamed and we made our peace. We took no hostages and we are still very good friends. Culture isn’t a message for the pin up board. Culture is the energy that envelops you and I know we are blessed with a good one.
The only exception is perhaps rooftop cricket where the animal instinct trumps culture but hey we can’t win ‘em all!
On 2nd May 2014 we clicked the first feedback on Cloudcherry’s new platform. Our older blog captures it. The product was still a fair way from complete market readiness but we were already working on early beta clients. Like my own experience with having children, the baby was beautiful in alpha like a new born baby is despite the wrinkles and general disorder, when it is in beta like a toddler is when walking about with all the grace of a chicken and when it is in the hands of customers like when your child wears that school uniform, kisses you goodbye and runs away – telling you that her days of dependence on you are long gone. She still loves you but something just changed. We are now in this phase where outside influences shape the product as much as our own efforts do. It is a matter of great pride to see your baby take its rightful place under the sun but the romantic in you reminisces about the time she was all yours….
I found the strangest comfort in switching off. Bootstrapped is a sexy word for ‘I have no money’ but I do not remember when a disproportionate amount of my mind space was consumed by the need for cash. We always knew we were building something that would make an impact on the world and somehow to give undue attention to something like cash seemed rather incongruent with that philosophy. So the funds came from the founders, friends came up and asked if they could invest and the right investors and mentors came along. Without belittling the whole effort of getting in capital, I look back with conviction that focusing on product and market is 90% of the job done. In today’s business environment capital follows the above.
So what does this all lead to? We are barely 16 months old and hardly in legion of a Salesforce but we have on board phenomenal investors, very accommodating and supportive large early clients and a pipeline of large and prestigious brands who are seeing Cloudcherry make a needle moving impact in their customer delight initiatives. The team is growing and so is the baby, making the transition from a little child to a gangly teenager.
I am sure the coming year will see us close massive deals, deal with the heart break of the one that got away, onboard people who will bring renewed energy to the team and go through all the growth pains every other start up has. I do hope we fulfill our destiny and promise and become what great companies are made of. We learn every day and this past week I learnt from someone what we should not become when success comes to us.
So stay tuned to this channel – Cloudcherry will share its joys, its pain and its aspirations with you all and hope you can contribute to the growth of Cloudcherry in whatever way you can.
Sharing our blog posts is a good start. 🙂