A Steady Approach To Building A Tech Startup In Silicon Valley

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By Poornima Vijayashanker (Founder & CEO, BizeeBee) A slow and steady approach to startup building… in Silicon Valley? Bah hum bug! We have to go fast! We need to raise capital, build product, acquire thousands of users daily, analyze metrics, recruit… go go go! What if we paused, just for a second, to take a breathe. Would our startup still be around?

Do you remember why you moved here? I do. 300+ days of sunshine and tech! I grew up in Texas and I do Bikram “hot” yoga, so I love the warmth and sunshine. Once I graduated from engineering school I wanted to be in the tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley.

When I first moved here, I never thought I’d actually work for a startup let alone be running one, but here I am almost 8 years later. This will continue to be my home base because of the first two reasons, but its possible that I may move away for awhile or run my startup from somewhere else in the world.

I know there are a lot of founders who aspire to move here, but can’t for a number of reasons. That’s OK.

The good news is you can build your startup wherever you are, and surprisingly people all over the world are! And last time I checked, Silicon Valley wasn’t going anywhere - companies keep getting acquired, and IPOs keep happening. We’re founders not microprocessors, Moore’s law doesn’t apply to us

Company age is just a number:

Raise your hand if your startup has been around for more than 2 years and hasn’t exited. (I’m reaching for the stars!)

I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad and I apologize if that’s how you feel after reading this post. I think its great that there are founders out there who can come up with an idea, raise capital from VCs, assemble a team, and find rock star developers. I’ve even enjoyed working for one of these individuals, and I highly recommend it for those who aren’t ready to start their own startup but want to learn lot quickly.

What I’m trying to do is offer some perspective for the founders out there who may be quietly flogging themselves daily because they haven’t raised a VC round of funding, acquired a million+ users, or exited.

Do you remember why you started your company?

I do. I didn’t want to be a founding engineer again, I didn’t want to work for a large company, and I didn’t want to spend another $150k on an education (b-school).

I wanted freedom. The freedom to jump out of bed everyday excited to be doing what I love: pursuing an idea, leading a team who believes in my vision, and building a solution that doesn’t exist but people needed.

Do we need to go fast?

Taking other’s money requires trading values. You owe someone a return or a quality product, and you owe it to them within a certain time frame.

The reason many of us go fast is because we’ve taken money or we’re running out of it. Yes I realize having a small exit has given me the luxury of having some money in the bank and time to grow slowly, but its finite and will run out.

So yes it's possible to go slowly, but continue looking for alternatives to funding: keep your day job to pay the bills, monetize your users, etc. Isn’t the point of being a founder to be resourceful and bring your vision to reality>?

Why do we go fast? We’re afraid of competition or having the wherewithal to go at a speed that lets us build and deliver value slowly. Hunger is a good motivator, fear isn’t. Fear stops us from thinking creatively, and after awhile causes us to burn out. Fear burnout don’t fear competition.

Competition breeds the hunger that keeps us pushing ourselves daily. Competition is good, I compete in yoga.

You can go slowly and still push yourself. It just requires thinking differently and taking a different approach, which may mean bootstrapping, building out more more product, or testing it against a different user group.

Avoid burnout by measuring success through happiness:

I know many founders out there who go fast and burnout, which many times is the reason for an exit. The key to being able to innovate and solve problems creatively is having time to oneself to think.

I’ve been measuring success by the following metrics:

  • How happy my team is to build and work with me.
  • How happy our users are to adopt and pay for our products and services.
  • How happy I am knowing that while there maybe problems and challenges I have the ability to find the resources I need to overcome them.

I’m still a capitalist (a conscious one), I still want to make money, and I still want to build a BIG business. The only difference is that myself and my team are doing it slowly and steadily…

This post was originally posted at Femgineer.

About the guest blogger: Poornima Vijayashanker is Founder and CEO of BizeeBee. Prior to that, she was at Mint where she began as employee #3 in 2006, and stayed through the startup's acquisition by Intuit for $170M in 2010. Prior to Mint, she was in the Master's degree program for computer science at Stanford University but dropped out to join Mint. Poornima holds a double degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science from Duke University. Poornima blogs on Femgineer.com and is a competitive yoga. Follow her on Twitter at @poornima.