By Sama Jashnani, co-founder & CEO of DownToDash.
Within six months after graduating college, I left my job and embarked my journey with my current startup. I knew I had to follow my heart and the universe would give me the strength to deal with obstacles that came my way. These are some of the mistakes I made -- but overcame:
My co-founder and I were psyched about our business idea and knew the world needed an app like ours. We thought that it could have been copied very easily and did not discuss it with anyone for months to guarantee first mover advantage. But when I look back, I wish I had asked my friends and experienced founders for advice.
As a founder, your thoughts can be clouded by your passion and emotions, and sometimes an outside perspective is all you need. Remember that a majority of people do not have sufficient capital, time and passion to execute your business idea. To be safe, you can make people sign a non-disclosure agreement before talking about anything in-depth.
Not Checking Trademark and Copyright Availability
We had called our app "Buddy" initially, and had to redo our branding when we came to the stage of registering our trademark and copyright. Make sure you contact a trademark lawyer and check if your company name and logo are available before you start working on anything. Try to avoid using a common name to escape any conflict during this process.
Setting Unrealistic Expectations
Entrepreneurship can be very exciting, which often leads founders to set super ambitious goals. I set an unrealistic launch date for my app and announced it to everyone. We did not end up meeting the targets. When you are passionate about something, it tends to make you impatient and extremely enthusiastic. But too much of anything is bad: Instead, be patient and realistic when you set goals and work toward achieving them.
When things don't work out, your mind can go all over the place to come up with solutions to your problems. You tend to become so desperate to achieve short-term targets that you could end up compromising the long-term success and vision of your company. A lot of people told me to remove the .edu signup for DownToDash and make it available to everyone to increase my userbase -- and I considered it many times. If I had removed that security aspect, it would have tarnished our brand in the long term. Make sure you remind yourself not to lose focus and abide by the core mission and values of your original business idea.
Being Too Pushy With Investors
If you overdo the pushiness, then you are going to put investors off. Initially, I bombarded investors with emails and follow-up emails and that did not work. Instead, focus on public relations and networking, specifically getting press releases with popular publications to attract the right investors. Think of it as a dating game; playing a little hard-to-get and being subtle is always an excellent strategy. If they hear about you from someone they recognize or know, they'll often be more interested.
There is a thin line between confidence and overconfidence. When I met other founders and investors in the beginning, I always wanted to make a good impression. As a result, I wasn't transparent when I did not understand or was unaware of something. But the startup ecosystem is full of people who are in the same boat as you and know exactly how hard it is: They aren't going to judge you. Initially listening, asking questions and learning from others is the best strategy. Make sure you get a few investors and experienced founders on board as advisors or mentors.
Getting Discouraged by Failure
A perfect and mistake-free entrepreneurship journey does not exist. Failure is actually an opportunity to learn and only makes you stronger. Don't ever question your instinct or the inner voice within you. Just be positive and keep telling yourself that all good things take time. One day you will look back at your entrepreneurship journey and realize that every mistake was a stepping stone to finding that path of success.
Sama Jashnani is the co-founder & CEO of DownToDash, a platform that connects college students based on common activities; whether it's workouts, sports, movies or traveling.