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“Learn how to negotiate with the big dogs.” – Founder, MBAKarma on Startup Lessons

MBAKarma, a CAT simulation product was launched a year back (read our coverage) and the founder, Sudhanshu Raheja has now decided to shut down the service and focus on his consulting service, vxtindia.

I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.-Micheal Jordan

Book cover of

Very few of us have the guts to accept our failure – and talk about it.

Glad to present an interview with Sudhanshu on his learnings and nuggets of wisdom he can share with other entrepreneurs.

Why did we decide to shut down the service?

If only we could learn from other’s mistakes, life would be so damn simple. But like everybody else, I repeated the same mistakes again and again.
I had started out as a one man army and being a techie I only concentrated on getting the code up and running. It started working well and within 2 months, over 9000 people had given tests on the website. However, we hadn’t made it a paid service till that time and three things really hit us:

  1. The money was running out.
  2. We had no long term partnerships to handle content.
  3. My experience with starting a business was sad to say the least.

One fine day I realized that I didn’t have enough time to sort out the loose ends and that this project would have to get the boot till we make more money. And we took up the one thing that would save us from dying – Consulting.
The business is running well now, and we have a lot of paying customers to show for it – http://vxtindia.com/testimonials
About Mbakarma, as I mentioned before, it will be back again, most probably with a much altered business model. Till then our neatly designed, custom MVC stack operated, scalable architecture for online examinations will have to sit quietly in the repository.

Learnings from the entire experience

Mbakarma was my first product, and it didn’t work out as I would have liked.
Jason Calcanis had compared losing a venture to losing a child. Over the last few years I have realized that its the wrong metaphor. Losing a venture is actually like getting shot at in a battle. You end with a scar for life, which you can carry with pride, if you like.
Ofcourse, it works in your interest if you concentrate on not getting too many of those.  Because no matter how much we romanticize it, it is still a very unpleasant feeling.
So here is what I think I did manage to learn:

  1. Either get funded, or start a consulting business first so that the money does not dry up.
  2. Get an experienced member in the team. If required, shell out some equity and get an experienced entrepreneur in the board.
  3. Learn how to negotiate with the big dogs.
  4. Don’t start out alone. You need somebody to answer to.
  5. Business Model is not MBA lingo, it is the soul searching exercise for your company.
  6. Startups are not to be run like marathons, rather as one short sprint after another.
  7. Big companies take way too long to decide on things and that can kill you. Concentrate on companies closer to your size.
  8. In the short term, sales and marketing are much more important that getting work done.
  9. Get others to do your work, and share some credit with them.
  10. Life has always been and will always be a bitch.

If I had to redo what would I do differently?

I am already doing it now :)

Advice to other entrepreneurs

Always keep looking out for ideas and inspiration. I usually end up on http://getinspired.vxtindia.com and nine times out of ten, I find something to cheer me up.
Finally, the one single thing that you need to remember no matter what you do:

Let that which does not matter, truly slide.

What’s your opinion?

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