Sunscreen, Startups & Success

If you have met me in real life, I must have told you the sunscreen story, if I have not here it is. In 1999 Baz Luhrmann converted a hypothetical commencement speech written by columnnist Mary Schmich titled Wear Sunscreen, to a song. This song has made a great impact on me both personally and professionally. In a meeting last evening with a startup that was on a tour of SproutBox, we were discussing this song again and how Startups, Success and Sunscreen get co-related.

There are times in our life, when we loose hope, we don’t know if we will succeed, we doubt ourselves – the song is a great upliftment at that time, trust yourself, compliment yourself or as the words say “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much. Or berate yourself either, Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s”

Listen to the advice of people who offer it, you may not like what they are saying, but respect the advice. Make sure when you are down and low, high and above – you don’t forget your siblings, you don’t forget your friends, you don’t forget to know your parents better – before you know it, time will be done – you will be old and you would only want to look back at your youth to realise what you missed.

The journey of a startup is harsh and yet fun, each day is a challenge “Do one thing every day that scares you” whether that is picking up the phone and making that sales call, or saying no to a client that may not help you build value in a company, to going against your gut feeling.

Be ready for trouble, real trouble “Remember there could be real trouble that will blind side you on an idle Tuesday evening”

In the song there is a line “Don’t read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel fat” – I believe a lot of us get in a rush of why we are not getting private equity, why are the angels missing from my business – my idea and my implantation is great – stop reading the news – it will only make you feel bad. Build your product, resolve a problem, build your team, grow – the money will follow.

To me and Rajeev ji, Wear Sunscreen words are our mantra at SproutBox.

At SproutBox we believe that a community of like minded people, a network of startups, coworking with them, spending time with them allows you to get advice, run your ideas with others – collaborate, create and grow. It also gets you friends you will look back in 20 years and say you had fun with, some will stay with you, some will be memory, but an experience of working with diverse set of individuals can never be replaced by working from your own office.

To me as I said, I can go on and on about the song, and if there is a mantra for growth that I can give any startup, this song it is. So read the lyrics, see the video, build a product, a service, a company just like the sunscreen – that is relevant to all dark or light, black or white – and yes do trust me on it.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99
Wear sunscreen

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future
Or know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours

Floss

Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements

Stretch

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t

Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft

Travel

Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you, too, will get old

And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders

Respect your elders

Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out

Don’t mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen

Me And CoWorking – What about my Privacy

I have an office right besides where I live, it has given em the liberty of not spending time stuck in traffic between work and home, but it also brings in a bit of headache, overtime there is someone who wants to visit the family, I end up going to receive them – the frills of being a daughter in law come with it. For the last 14+ years that I have worked from this office, I end up meeting the same people, have similar conversations – I run the company, so at times I change directions of conversations, but it also brings me to worry about the office rent, the running costs, stocking of the office pantry, making sure our cleaners turn up every day to keep the office clean, at times – I felt, I just wanted to run away, be alone and work on my personal ideas, creating something new.

When Gagan and Rajeev ji were working on bringing SproutBox to life, I thought of who and why would one want to come to a coworking space, what about privacy – there are no rooms or cabins here, it is all open space, a few months later – I am wiser, here is my story.

I love going to work, I chose not to be an average housewife, but wanted to work all through my life, I believe

Going to work also gives us a reason to get up every morning, get ready and follow a schedule, which is very important to fight the ever increasing number of people suffering from depression.

Human interaction to me is the most important thing, and at times I miss this being on my desk, yes I get to meet my clients, my vendors, my team members and get to travel a lot, but then the chance of meeting someone new, hearing a new idea – is missed out. A few weeks back I started using SproutBox Coworking Space as my place to work from when in Gurgaon, spending about a day or 2 every week here, the worry of an open office with others sharing the space still remained in my mind, but all this changed – I found a perfect vendor who is helping us with a project, I am hoping to find a great customer in this space in the next few days, and who knows where this collaboration will go.

No, No one peeps over your shoulder to see what you do – after all they are here for work too. Yes there are interactions, and happy hours where you get to meet everyone, but my worry of lack of privacy was nothing but simply a worry.

What I loved about SproutBox is that it is a no-headache environment for me, the basics work all the time, whether this is the printer – that always has ink, the scanner or the Internet. Tea & Coffee is available when you want, and so is cold and hot water, the cleaning crew ensures that the place is spic and span, and I don’t need to worry about kitchen stockings, missing manpower or any of the mundane stuff – leaving me enough time to create something more. I also love the  freedom to come and go as I wanted, work on my projects without any added headache, sit on any desk – depending on my mood (though I have a favourite desk by the window on the second floor), and not be burdened with the cost of running a full office for just my Gurgaon visits twice a week.

Yes you would say, that I work from SproutBox because my husband is a CoFounder here, well that was one of the reasons to start spending time here, but now my coworkers find me here more often, alone than with Gagan. What Gagan & Rajeev have managed is amazing, the place has a great vibe to it, a great set of coworkers, startups, businesses and the whole idea of creating value together brings them along.

There are many CoWorking spaces, and you may be spoilt for choice, but before you go commit to a 6 month advance rental,  do weigh the pros and cons of the place y ou are looking at. The coworking spaces come in all sizes and with varying amenities, making it a difficult choice. The smaller ones do not offer enough exposure people wise and on the other hand one tends to feel a little lost in the places that resemble factory production lines. Some give you unlimited use of the basic things like printers, tea / coffee and recreation areas, whereas some limit it to a fixed number per month – making it very expensive if you land up paying for all the extra usage. Some look too homely – something you ran away from in the first place, and some look so formal that you feel that you are back in that 9-5 corporate culture.

My take is, go find a place that is comfortable, preferably gives unlimited usage of the basic amenities and is medium in size. Plus remember, that if you have to work in cubbyholes, you might as well work from home. The reason you are stepping out of the house is so that you can work with more people around you.

As Albert Einstein said “ We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

So, go out, work in a place with people from various backgrounds, varied thinking, different ideas and who knows what beautiful results will come out of it. I have enjoyed CoWorking from SproutBox and am loving it, I hope you will too.

The India CoWorking Week

When Rajeev ji and I started to think about SproutBox, we knew we were focussed at making a difference, we were just not creating a shared office space and calling at CoWorking Space, we wanted to make sure our sproutsters had access to one of the best mentors, partners, and a lovely space to work from.

Who was to know, that in a few weeks from starting, we would put together India’s first CoWorking Conference – The India CoWorking Week. This involved a lot of late night work, burning the mid-night oil, calling mentors, fixing time in their busy calendars, creating the environment, get collateral material up and running and even creating a micro-site, and now we are at the end of the CoWorking Week that finished on 25th July 2015.

The last week saw more than 35 startups participate in the India CoWorking Week, not only did we get a chance to work with them, gave them access to a beautiful list of mentors, speakers, advisors – but we ended up making some beautiful connections, collaborations that have put these startups on a path to success.

In the next few days, we  will be putting up videos from our sessions on our Youtube channel, but also lessons we learnt, in the meantime I thought it would be fun to share some images from the India CoWorking Week – that we got from participants and some that we took. Enjoy the India CoWorking Week in Pictures.

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The First Month

Running a Startup is a very interesting proposition, you could be a well established entrepreneur, with people to do every possible task, but when you start something new, and ensure that you are going to do it as a startup, you learn some new lessons, the journey for starting SproutBox though is about 5 years old, but we started construction in April 2015, and we opened our doors on the 1st of June 2015 to our coworkers, and in the last one month of operations, there are several things we learnt, several things we are yet to learn, and surprises that we did not think of, so if you are a startup, an entrepreneur, a freelancer, a coder, an artist, or a blogger or just someone who is looking at starting out to do something on your own, read on – I promise you that you will go back home and say to your self  “Why Did I not think about this earlier?”

Lesson 1: Use Technology

Well there is no debate, technology is a tool if you can use it, and have it work for you, from our messaging tools (slack), to our ticket management system (groove), and even our mailing list manager (mail chimp), technology has helped us come this far. Ensuring that everyone in the team from shared resources from our existing business’s to dedicated resources we have for SproutBox, needs to be updated with all the operational information.

Lesson 2: Have a Strategic Plan, Not just a Business Plan

Over the last few years there has been so much focus on the business plan, that we all end up forgetting what our strategic plan would be, and having this ready helps. Though there is not much to talk about it here, ensure that your Business Plan covers the “Who” and “What” of your new business wile the strategic plan covers the “How” and “When”.

Lesson 3: Define Your Vision Statement

Remember the elevator pitch, well we did enough exercises, and said we are a coworking space, but that was just not enough, over the first few days we realised, we were more than a coworking space, we are designed to be an accelerator, a conducive space for growth, a place where you come to collaborate, network, exchange ideas and grow.

Lesson 4: Delegate Authority

I am not good with finances – there I said it, though if you know me personally you would have already known this. Yes I am good with numbers but when it comes to checking the cheque books, updating balances, and planning cash flows – I am not the best person there, luckily Rajeev ji is, and this is what brings me to delegating authority. Trust is the first factor of a partnership, make sure you trust your partner, and delegate authority. While I manage the technology section, our website, and work with our Digital media team, we meet up once a week and discuss where we are, where we want to go, our revenues, our cash flows, and how things are.

Lesson 5: Build a Community

When we started out, Happy Hours Wednesday was more of an Idea, now it is a reality, the first Wednesday we were just 3 coworkers, and Rajeev ji and I, now a month later we are roughly 15 coworkers and us, but Happy Hours Wednesday is one of our bonding events, where we get together over lunch time or the evening, enjoy a snack together, have a conversation and build connections.

Lesson 6: Something will go wrong

Yes we planned for everything, backup Internet connections, Backup power from a Diesel Generator, backup manpower, backup everything – but something will go wrong! A fan will stop working, an electric appliance will mis-behave, or even a monkey will come and take away the cover of your water storage tanks (yes this happened to us) and then break the plumbing pipes (this happened to us also). You may have planned everything, but something or the other will go wrong – so be prepared, and take the challenges head on, make sure you communicate to everyone that you are handling it, and wherever possible delegate and get it done.

Lesson 7: Never be afraid to ask

Though I have always believed in this, but during times of trouble one tends to forget, yes there is always a web search on how to do something, but what I have learnt time and again is – it’s great to ask, pick up the phone and reach out to someone who is in a similar business, they will answer – always.