Back in 2015, we were working ourselves to the brim. It was hard and demanding and the entire team paused everything else in life to work on this one problem. Our dedication was rewarded and the company initially grew rapidly.

However, we let it get to ourselves. We became arrogant.

In the early days of the company, we wanted to delight our customers. That was the only thing that mattered to us back then and this was one of the biggest reasons behind our massive growth. However, we soon started feeling that our customers needed us more than we needed them.

We weren’t just arrogant with our customers, but it instead became the company culture. The senior management got a superiority complex and that would trickle down within the whole organization. This attitude eventually became the root cause behind our quick downfall.

Ultimately, if you wish to grow over the long term then you cannot let go of your values once you have seen the first sign of success. Instead, you need to double down on these values. Getting arrogant is the first step of losing your values.

Back in 2015, when we were beginning to see early signs of success, we desperately wanted to raise outside capital to accelerate the company’s growth. We were already growing however, we all agreed that outside investment could propel the company much faster.

Unfortunately, raising this investment became the end in itself and not the means to an end that it ought to have been.

Our growth ensured that there were plentiful offers for us to choose from and as a result, in early 2016, we managed to raise this investment from a set of angel investors. We used this money to double down and accelerate our growth.

However, we hadn’t really thought it all through. We made a lot of mistakes, often expensive ones. We hired people based only on their skills and previous work outputs, often without finding the right cultural fits. We started focusing on quantity rather than quality. We started major marketing campaigns that had little cohesion or results. All of this was possible because of the money that we had raised.

The result was that the very money that we had been chasing to grow became an inhibitor to our long-term sustainable growth. In retrospection, if we didn’t have that money, then we would have continued to optimize every penny that we did have. We would not have hired people so quickly. We wouldn’t have run all those wasteful marketing campaigns. We would have been much smarter with how we spent our money.

I am not against the idea of raising outside investment. In fact, most companies would benefit from this infusion of capital in multiple ways. It can prove instrumental for a company’s growth.

However, before raising these funds, all companies should have a crystal clear plan of how they would use that money. Funding should ultimately be a means to an end and not the final goal in itself. Remember, it is not an achievement, it is an opportunity and unless you use the opportunity wisely, the money will do you more harm than good in the long run. So, do not raise investments until you know exactly how you will use this opportunity.

When things start going bad in a business the ones running the business, usually find out early. For me, it first began as an instinct but I didn’t listen. Then there were very clear indicators but I ignored them too.

I wasn’t alone. Most of our core team was guilty of the same crime. We wanted our assessment to be wrong.

However, the bigger mistake that we made was that once we knew about the troubles approaching our way, we made our best efforts to hide these from our broader team. Our hopes were that we would be able to solve these problems ourselves and begin chasing our dreams once again. We tried to solve it all by ourselves.

Complete honesty and transparency are the foundation of building trust within a team. If only we had realized this earlier, we would have done things differently.

Every startup will face ups and downs and uncertainties. Most people who choose a startup role know and accept this. They deserve to know the truth and if there is a problem, they deserve to be a part of the solution. Even today, 3 years later, this lack of transparency continues to be the only complaint that my ex-colleagues have with the company.

If we had indeed been more transparent, we would have had the whole team focused on solving the crisis for the company. Maybe we would have solved it, maybe we wouldn’t have but in the end, it would have definitely kept the team more united in those last few months.

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