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Four interesting lessons on building start-ups

While some people in the Thai tech start-up scene probably know me as Moo Ookbee, an e-book guy, I've been around running tech start-ups for more than 12 years.

Not all these years have been good, some were pretty bad, actually, and I learned a lot more from those bad years compared to the better ones.

Here are few lessons I think are worth mentioning.

An entrepreneur makes hard decisions. When it comes, acknowledge it, analyse it, make your best call and pull the trigger.

When I launched my first start-up, IT WORKS, I was so young and inexperienced. I believed success meant making big profits for shareholders, with few questions asked, so long as it wasn't illegal.

Considering several far-from-ideal projects we accepted during those early years, that's exactly what we believed. Many years passed, then the truth strike.

If we continued using the same business model, without reinventing ourselves, we would never grow to the size we'd been dreaming of. We'd realised, for the first time, that we were in a crisis.

That's when I put all the team together and told them what the crisis was, why it had happened and why it really did matter.

"Sure, we will hit a few bumps. But I'm sure we will come out of this stronger than we ever had been," I said.

That same month, I lost one of my first co-founders and a few engineers in his team for different reasons, but everybody else was with me. That made me realise it's not all about making big profits for shareholders any more. It should never be.

I remember writing a blog that night telling myself I want to make a real difference for everyone: for shareholders, of course, but also for my co-workers, my staff, the wider community and, if possible, in some small way, the whole of humanity … Yeah, I didn't have any idea, but you know what, I really wish I could (I'm still working on that now.)

For the next two years, we changed our business model little by little, brought in good new people and explored new opportunities in mobile app space. After many failed attempts, one particular project called "Ookbee" took off. That was three years ago.

Money is the by-product of a business driven by passion. Look at all companies that have attained the status of massive riches in terms of money - they are very good at what they do, and that's only possible because the founders are so passionate about it.

In our case, we're still working on it and are still far from it. But so far, we've developed a respect for the difficulty involved. We've learned that it would probably take us at least twice as long as we planned for.

It's more work than we expected. We've ended up so emotionally invested in the process itself - and psychologically adapted to it - that we don't really want to ditch it, take the money and run.

Being uncomfortable is not so bad after all. It takes courage to change your life. If you remain comfortable, you remain more or less the same. I believe running a start-up is the easiest way to make yourself constantly uncomfortable.

There were hard times when I had to readjust my financial expectations and adjust to how fun, or unfun, one's work should be. But eventually, you will get used to this uncomfortable feeling. It's still there but, somehow, you become accustomed to it.

You learn to trust the laws of chance, and to open your mind to the sense of adventure. The uncomfortable feeling will no longer stop you.

Almost everything we think of as an overnight success took much longer to build than it appears. If your plan is to make a quick killing, this entrepreneurial journey is probably not for you.

But if you have a vision for something you are passionate about and you are up for the inevitable challenges and disappointments ahead - jump in.



Natavudh Pungcharoenpong is co-founder and chief executive officer of Ookbee (www.ookbee.com) www.ookbee.com).


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