The path less travelled…or the pathless travel?

  • February 17, 2022
  • K V Daniel
  • 5 min read

From mama’s boy to hardened entrepreneur

Over the years people have asked me how I started an IT company without the IT startup path i.e business-plan, angel investors, multi-round funding, etc. My answer is: I didn’t know the path existed. It was many years before I associated the word ‘entrepreneur’ with myself. I did not set out to build an IT company. I set out to follow my gut and it turned into an IT company. 

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This is what happened: after earning my engineering degree (this was in the early 90s) I looked at my options. Should I join a BPO or ITES? Should I enter development or R&D? That’s what everyone else was doing. But for some reason that career path never appealed to me. After many arguments with myself (and my parents!), I realized that I did not want to work for somebody else. I wanted to be a technology creator, as pompous as that sounds (youthful arrogance!) and not a reseller or reshaper of someone else’s ideas. Ego? Of course. But this ‘ego’ can keep you going when other motivations burn out, as I found out soon enough. So for all those who have asked me the ‘what have you learnt’ questions, here is my attempt at a coherent answer:

#Lesson 1: What you want is not what you need. Don’t look for people who share your passion and vision – they’ll come along on their own. Use such relationships for motivation and a renewing of spirit because they are the ones who keep the fire lit. But to make something useful – and profitable – from that fire you need the opposite kind of people. You need people who have the skills you don’t have (and don’t want to have), and who see things you don’t see. So look for people who don’t share your dream, who disagree with you, who question what you say and do. Because they will help you execute your plans far more effectively than people who agree with you ever could. Learning to work with such people is extremely challenging, especially in the low times when you doubt yourself and question your experience and integrity, but they are the ones who will force you to dig deep …and succeed anyway.

#Lesson 2: Get used to change – and use it as an accelerator. The speed at which things change in the market can be very frustrating for a product company. But you can use it to your advantage if you keep overall goals and value steady but ‘loosen up’ about the details. I learned that I must constantly recalibrate my pitch, my positioning, my entire business plan, and yes, it’s hard. (Technology people get so caught up in their vision of the world that they forget 80% of their users will use only 20% of their software..and vice versa). But when I say that my product was built in collaboration with my clients it is not a metaphor – it is literally how my product was built. I let my customers tell me what features to add, or remove, or modify. The foundation and core and values, that hasn’t changed since I started out, but everything else has. And it is still changing. So today I tell my clients what to do and why they need to do it but I let them tell me how to do it for them. That is how we both get to our goals faster.

#Lesson 3: Everything you do is a product (even if you are not a ‘product company’). I did not set out to build a product. I started with a CAD-integration tool that evolved into an EPC enterprise solution. Technologically, my product is a platform. To my customers it is a business solution. From a delivery perspective it is a service. But I try to think like a product manufacturer no matter what I’m actually selling because this forces me to focus on value rather than just numbers. And the same applies to me as a CEO. At heart I’ll always be a dreamer. Some days I feel like an entrepreneur. Sometimes I need to figure out a technical issue and then comes the fun of brainstorms and late nights in our R&D centre (link to WRIDE page) where a bunch of nerds hash it out. But in my day-to-day life I’m a product salesman who is always conscious of what people think of his product.

#Lesson 4: You’ll learn more about yourself than you wanted to, I’ve had great fun learning and building up the knowledge I have today. But I cannot say there have been too many surprises on the field. The surprising lessons, the ones that ‘rocked my world’, so to speak, are the ones I learnt about myself. I learnt, for example, that the milestones and victories are satisfying but I am far more excited by the next challenge. I learnt that I enjoy the journey far more than the destination. Working, creating, negotiating, battling – this I live for. But I don’t enjoy the fruits of my labours as much as I thought I would. And that is why I do not consider myself a businessman even after all these years of running a successful business. An explorer, a dreamer, a would-be-pioneer…that seems to be my individual path. Have I succeeded in that? Too soon to tell.

And that’s my 2 cents. I hope some of this was interesting! I’d like to hear from you so do leave a comment or question. See you soon.