Startup Saturday Navi Mumbai: Building the ‘A’ team

(a.k.a. the one where this blogger got away with a few hundred Ocean’s 11 jokes)

Blog by Aishwarya Meenakshi

So, you have validated your idea, and are finally ready to build your dream team. Now what?

To answer this question, and more, we were joined on 11th February by:

Headstart Network Foundation has partnered with the Government of Andhra Pradesh for their Fintech Startup Challenge 2017. The challenge is open to start-up, entrepreneurs, innovators and developers and provides them an opportunity to win up to INR 15,00,000 divided between Insurance, Capital Markets and Banking.

fintFintech Valley Vizag startup challenge with corporate partners :

There are five corporate partners of these challenges and all five have identified problem areas where they need startup entrepreneurs and firms to find solutions:

  1.        Angel Broking Challenge: Real-time social profiling
  2.        Bharti Axa: Fraudulent behaviour detection
  3.        ICICI Lombard: IoT around Property and Logistics
  4.        ICICI Bank: Payments and remittances
  5.        HDFC Life: Create signature and photo verification tool

Ashreet began the day with one of the most vibrant presentations I’ve ever seen.  He started off by introducing AIESEC and their initiatives. AIESEC, as an organization, showcases the essence of a team that is held together not just by accountability, but also by their sheer enthusiasm in driving the vision and mission. A few salient points:

  • First who, then what. – A startup undergoes many pivots until it finally reaches its desired model. When it does, you need to have the right people at your back.
  • Selecting the right people is a job half done. Who are they? They are the ones who can commit to the vision.
  • Get the right people on the bus, and the wrong ones off it. (Hire slow, fire fast : Amit later echoed.)
  • Routine rewarding & relentless recognition is important. He illustrated these with personal examples: small gestures like review meetings at favored eateries went a long way to motivate his team.
  • He also enunciated the difference between rigour and ruthlessness, while maintaining that it is important not to drag a difficult decision (FIRE! *explosions*)


Ashreet hosting his session

Nikhil then took the stage. After a session that highlighted the ties that bind a team with value and enthusiasm, Nikhil’s session was in sharp contrast & highlighted the necessity of accountability. As a serial entrepreneur, he exhibited a keen understanding of the process and encouraged the founders to give the team some ‘skin in the game’. (Hellllooo ESOPs 😉 ) A few salient points:

  • Founders’ roles (hopefully working well together) : One to understand, one to build, one to sell. (Tolkien voice: And One Ring to rule them all & in darkness bind them!!! #LoTR)
  • Core team members need to be hired for their potential via a cross team interview, since they will be reporting to different members.  Ideal characteristics of first members:
    • Argumentative: You may make the walls vibrate with your arguments; but passionate viewpoints are better than numb followers.
    • Flexible and passionate: A startup idea may pivot multiple times before settling & a core team member must be prepared for the transitions.
    • Smarter than you. (Obviously.)
  • Building the team post first members must be initiated by hiring someone you need as soon as it can be afforded. In case of existing business model/product, get the industry experts.
  • Business development : A sales team isn’t needed until the product is ready to be sold. Said team also are not magicians (I am not even trying to sneak in LoTR anymore. It just is.) They must be given a few sales cycles.
  • Operations : Ops head must be in the field regularly. Whereas VPs need to hire and fire, not to be forced to sell. He also slightly disagreed with Ashreet on the hire/fire issue while advising caution against reckless firing.


Nikhil interacting with the audience during the session

Finally, Amit took the dais. After giving the audience a moment to absorb Nikhil’s session and Q&A, he launched into essentially what can be termed as the Dark Side of hiring and firing. (*Imperial March plays*) A few salient points:

  • A recap into what to look for in a cofounder, wherein he mostly agreed with Nikhil. He quoted personal experience when he said that cofounders must be argumentative and in charge of different domains. However, they do get into each other’s space while hiring, and then stay the hell out of the others’ jobs.
  • He then jumped into the legal side of things, where he implored startups to Get Registered! The Powers That Be can wave a giant fist, and quash our dreams like bugs with just a single legal notice! (Okay, that was not verbatim, but that is some Ant Man-esque imagery right there. Am i right?)
  • Seriously. We’ve talked about this before. Get registered!
  • It comes with shiny legal agreements: One for shareholders!, One for Founders!!, One for everybody!!!
    • It also allows you to issue Non-Disclosure Agreements! And Patents!
    • Employee Contracts & Offer Letters! Have them in writing folks! Bring in those ESOPs!
    • It is also important to have everything in writing. Lest you are cheated like a character in a Charles Dickens novel.
  • He also listed a mile-long set of common mistakes made by startups. Here are a few:
    • Not listing your startup as a corporation/LLP.
    • Non-compliance with security laws while issuing stocks
    • Lack of employment documentation
    • Not carefully considering IP Protection
    • Not taking into account important tax issue.
    • Coming up with a name that has trademark issues or domain name issues

Those are some heavy-duty repercussions folks. Pay your taxes. Do not let taxes trump you, if you know what I mean.

Photo from aishwarya m

Amit hosting his session

IMG_20170211_181302823Our new lucky mascot was actually there to celebrate National Pet Lovers’ Day in advance. (It is an actual Thing. We Checked.)

Yaara’s presence was a welcome breath of fresh air, in an otherwise bubbling cauldron of hiring/firing broth.

That set us thinking on the nature of love and compassion, and the fact that not all team members need be the same. In the mental grind of an entrepreneur’s journey, having a carefree, selfless & loyal companion like Yaara is all that one might need to start a new day.

Not all heroes wear capes.

(Isn’t that the most beautiful name?)

Here’s our liveblog of the entire event captured in a ‘Moment’. Bless you, you little blue bird.

WhatsApp Image 2017-02-12 at 10.49.21 AMashreetWhatsApp Image 2017-02-12 at 10.49.35 AM (1)

Team members felicitating our speakers

This blog is the second in the ‘How to start-up‘ series. Refer here for the previous edition.

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