The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Want to Start a Company? ­­­Maybe You Should Play a Sport First

Vasu Kulkarni
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Vasu Kulkarni
If you think startups are fun, consider this: I am writing most of this as I conduct my morning business in the bathroom because that’s pretty much all the time I am going to have today to get this done. Actually that’s not true, but I would have to give up my two hours of basketball at the gym and that’s really not something I would be happy about.

Point is – startups are a ridiculous amount of work and the payoff is going to take a very long time to come, if at all. What you read on TechCrunch is not the whole story. For every one of those posts, there are probably about fifty other untold horror stories of actual blood and sweat that ended up with tears. Which is why I always find that athletes are best fit to do a startup (note, I said “do”, not “successfully do” – the success part I know nothing of; if I could figure out the secret sauce to guaranteeing business success, I would not be writing this, I would probably be retired in the Bahamas with a strawberry daiquiri, taking part in a girl’s gone wild shoot).

Sports teacher of life. Nothing else in the world can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster that is a fledgling business. As a former college athlete, and someone who hangs out with other entrepreneurs and athletes on a daily basis, I find a high degree of overlap between the personalities and general demeanor of these people. Sports teach you to handle extreme highs and lows in the same stride. They teach you to dream, to believe the impossible is indeed possible. They teach you the importance of teamwork, how to be a leader, and how to get up every time you fall. They teach you about competition. They make you believe that comebacks are possible, and that Cinderella stories do in fact exist. As clichéd as all this may sound, startups really are all about being able to start, endure, and figure out a way to finish strong. Just like sports.

Most importantly though – sports are supposed to teach you that it is not necessarily about the outcome, but about the journey that leads you to the finish (ironically enough, my personal motto has always been “nobody cares about how you play the game, winning is all that matters”, but let us go with this for now). As the famous line from the movie Any Given Sunday goes, “On any given Sunday you’re going to win or you’re going to lose. Point is, can you win or lose like a man?” As you go through the process of starting a business, take some time to soak in every moment. The first paying customer you get. The first time you go to production. The first time you have a customer who is unhappy. Someone wants to buy you. And you turn them down! You run out of money and have to make payroll in 2 weeks (Okay, that part is not a lot of fun, but it is still one of those defining moments). You raise a pile of venture money. And hopefully, an eventual exit. Take pictures. Take lots of pictures. Those feelings will eventually go away – they are the same feelings you feel every time you suit up for a big game, kiss your first girl, get married, or have a child. So do what you can to make them last.

I think there is no bigger trend today than entrepreneurship. It is nice to be a startup CEO, in the same way that it was to be a professional athlete (it probably still is great to be a pro-athlete). My experiences on the basketball court have transcended into the tiny office in Manhattan that we work out of. The lessons I learned growing up as part of a team on a daily basis, have no doubt helped me in my irrational quest to sell my tech startup for a bazillion dollars (I leave you with quite likely the most ridiculous statement I have ever made – Play a sport. Even if you’re really good, you’re probably not going to go pro. So start business you love instead. Hopefully you’ll be pretty good at it.)

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Reader's comments(1)
1:Great thoutht
Posted by: DrJitendra Kumar Nigam - 27th Feb 2012
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