A few weeks ago, my co-founder Vishnu and I were invited to be on a podcast called Startup Dorm Room, hosted by local Georgia Tech student, Braxton Madison (you can check it out here. In it, Braxton asked us about our origin story and how we got to where we are today, as well as any of the obstacles we’ve faced along the way. While we were chatting about our journey, there was something in particular that Vishnu said that really stuck with me.
We were describing how, as we came closer to graduating from undergrad together, we were surrounded by high-achieving individuals who were often pursuing jobs at huge tech companies, finance institutions, medical school, law school, Ph.D.’s, and the like. While it was obviously exciting to see our friends excelling, being in that kind of environment makes it super easy to revert to the norm and join the crowd of people securing safer opportunities and lifestyles for themselves.
And yet, we made a concerted and coordinated decision to not do that. Vishnu and I agreed that we wouldn’t apply for any other jobs, and we wouldn’t apply for graduate school. We decided to invest all of our time and effort into the company we wanted to build and tried to do everything we could to fund that possibility. We lived at home for several months after graduation and spent as frugally as we could, while constantly taking meetings with any investor we could to hear feedback on our idea.
One of the blessings that came our way was Play Labs @MIT, the startup accelerator we joined during the summer of 2018. They gave us a chance to stop worrying about cash flow for a brief moment and focus on actually building out our company.
The thing that Vishnu said that really stuck with me was that in this process of finding our path to being able to work on our company full-time, we had to completely and fully “murder the alternatives.” We couldn’t allow ourselves to have a cushy software job waiting for us, or to have our next 5 years allotted through some grad school commitment. We needed to create a journey for ourselves that involved the startup, and only the startup, and removing that flexibility was a huge contributing factor to getting us to where we are right now.
That being said, I should note that the ability to do this does come with a certain level of privilege: it obviously helped that we had CS degrees from a fairly well-known school (probably the most common degree for people starting tech startups), and it helped that we had supportive families who allowed us to stay with them while we figured things out.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been able to meet tons of small business owners and hear their incredible journeys, often having to fight through massive hurdles, professionally and personally, to get to where they are today. While each of their stories is unique, the one thing they share in common is that, in some way or another, they managed to murder their alternatives.
But often times, small business owners don’t get to share that story enough. There are thousands of people out there, working their 9-5 and daydreaming about how to start their own businesses, but all too often, they only get to hear from the billionaires who were in their shoes decades ago and may not even remember what it’s like to start from scratch.
Instead, Vishnu and I want to give a voice to people who are small business owners today, because we believe they are the folks who are best-equipped to help the small business owners of the future. They’ll be able to inspire others to take those risks, and to help them understand what they even need to get started.
That’s why we’re starting a podcast called My First Sale about this very topic, which will be posted on all major platforms (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, etc.) once a week, starting in January. Let us know what you think!