Critical Survival Tactics for Entrepreneurs

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Read through what the founder of BizeeBee & Femgineer has to say about her experience as an entrepreneur.

By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder, BizeeBee & Femgineer)

For the past 4 ½ years I’ve been on my entrepreneurial journey. I decided to strike out on my own after my last startup Mint.com was acquired in 2009.

I chose to transition from being a founding engineer to a founder, because I wanted to know what it would be like to build a product and company on my own.

In 2010 I founded BizeeBee a CRM solution for fitness business, and in 2013 I transitioned my 7 year-old blog, Femgineer into an education company. I cannot say it’s been smooth sailing, in fact I’ve faced countless challenges over the years. Here are so-called “highlights”:

  • Losing a co-founder

  • Running out of capital

  • Experiencing money laundering

Yet despite all these challenges, I haven’t refused to back down or throw in the towel, and here’s why:

Believe In Your Own Ability to Be Resourceful

Maybe it’s my engineering or immigrant background, but I’ve learned to operate under tight constraints, and solve problems creatively.

And even when I haven’t been able to solve a problem on my own, I’ve sought out help from others to help pull myself through.

Back in 2012, BizeeBee’s second product experienced a serious case of money laundering, and it just happened to coincide with us running out of investment capital. In the midst of this double whammy, people were telling me to close shop or get acqui-hired. But I believed in the product and vision. So instead of throwing in the towel, I decided it was time to bootstrap! While I didn’t quite know to bootstrap, I knew I’d figure it out over time.

Right around this time, people were also asking me for advice on how to build a product, start a company, recruit technical talent, and raise capital. Despite writing a number of blog posts about these topics, they were still hungry for material, and that’s when a light bulb went off in my head. I launched my Lean Product Development Course. The proceeds from the first iteration of the course went to pay back all the money we owed.

Over the past 1 ½ years I’ve learned how to bootstrap, and build two startups BizeeBee and Femgineer.

Tune Out the Negative

I learned to tune out negative commentary, especially my own!

In the first few years, every investor rejection or customer cancellation would have gotten me down and caused me to question my abilities. But when survival became my focus, I learned to tell that critic in my head to shut up, and instead focused on learning how to bootstrap and do sales!

Setting Expectations

Too often we expect things to happen overnight, and set really lofty goals thinking that if we just stretch ourselves a little bit further we can make it happen. But we don’t necessarily know what activities to pursue in order to hit that goal. What worked for one startup doesn’t necessarily always work for another.

In 2013, I started with a very simple goal: make enough money to make rent. Once I hit that goal, I took stock of everything that went into it, noting what worked and what didn’t.

My next goal was to double rent. I’d keep doing what was working, and then run another series of experiments to see if I could double it.

Breaking a goal down, and setting myself up for small wins made the process a lot more manageable. It also made me take stock of things that were and weren’t working, so I wasn’t wasting time or resources.

I’m going to continue to grow my startups: BizeeBee and Femgineer. To most they might not appear to be unicorns or rocketships and the challenges might seem unwieldy, but for me it’s been an amazing opportunity to learn, grow, and do the work I love to do.

Hear more from Poornima at City Meetup Silicon Valley tonight!

Poornima Vijayashanker

About the guest blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is the founder of BizeeBee, a platform that helps membership based business drive growth. Before acquisition she was the founding engineer at Mint.com, has launched Femgineer, a company that helps tech professionals and entrepreneurs level up their careers and has been one of Inc Magazine's '10 Women to Watch' in tech.