I get to meet and hangout with many product entrepreneurs in India across a wide variety of spectrum (wannabe, early stage all the way up to category leader). I have been one and have crossed a few early stages myself, based on my experience I see 3 type of founders
The Surfer, Voyager & Fisherman
Surfer is someone who is riding a tide, has unique skills, most often flamboyant but certainly a great story teller. Some may call him lucky for the tide is responsible for his greatness and he may have been only there at the right place and time.
He however believes that he can read the wind & the wave and that he has his board in so much control that can swerve smoothly against the biggest tide.
Investors could be referred to as bystanders on the beach making bets on surf board, tide or surfer himself to win.
Press makes a celebrity of him for it becomes a sport worth paying attention to for the adrenaline kick that it can produce.
They however have the same fate that movie industry mete to its heros & heroines, i.e post their short lived hotness they are relegated to the archives of history.
Many yesteryear consumer internet and e-commerce stalwarts are good examples of this. We are yet to find our Rockstar/Shehenshah/Thalaiva heroes that are timeless in this category.
Voyager is like the columbus, an italian in spain, a master storyteller as well. He is going for the glory and riches but also believes and leverages his experience of past expedition by a previous voyager.
He sets sail to find India but discovers America. He also finds other backers to to chase the dream.
After the Surfers, Voyager becomes a great story to write about so they get their share of press as well.
Good examples are engineers, product managers from other successful big product companies like Yahoo, Veritas, Symantec, Google, Microsoft (MNCs) & Zoho, Tally (Indian Companies) etc.
He is someone who also faces the vagaries of the sea but goes to catch fish. His work is not sexy and it may stink but feeds him and so many others. He may choose to fish where nobody is fishing or have to compete and jostle with other fishermen going after the same fish. His journey is a long one.
Story of a fisherman comes only when stories of other two types have been repeated to boredom. Many call this as the bootstrapped entrepreneur.
They are different but have few things in common. Each involves skills but given the odds has self doubt. Some play the game for 3-4 years, other spend decades.
- Surfer does not create the tide
- Voyager can only envision his prized destination in a rear view mirror.
- Fisher man does not create the fish.
Many first time entrepreneurs are confused on what persona they would like to choose or what choices are even available to them. As the startup ecosystem ebbs through greed and fear the god that founder look up to changes, in times of boom the surfer is the god, in times of gloom fisherman is the god. Also when one type is treated god the other type is berated.
Wish there was more understanding amongst them and about them to reduce the pain they go through. For contribution they do to society through society they all deserve salute.