The YourStory Story
In 2008, startups in India were considered quaint, novelties that were pursued either by the well-heeled or by rebellious youngsters who didn’t care much for a steady income. YourStory founder Shradha Sharma thought their stories needed to be told and shared with the rest of the world so that they could inspire others. A media professional herself, Shradha set aside a lucrative career to do just that. The company hosted India’s first startup discovery platform, TechSparks, in 2010. YourStory remains focused on teling the stories of those who to dare to live their dreams, and by doing so, inspires others to do the same.
In Conversation with Shradha Sharma
Recipe for success
In my personal experience, and based on my interactions with thousands of startups, I’ve realized that execution is the king, queen and everything in between. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true. And for that you need a magical team, a bit of madness and an undying rigour.
Being nimble is critical. It’s a paradox, almost. Everywhere you go, you’re told that as an entrepreneur you have to be very “passionate’ about your idea and what you do. But at the same time, you need to be dispassionate about your idea, when you see the market expects something more or something else. Love your idea but love it enough to iterate.
You also have to have a big crazy dream. Nothing beats a grand dream because every day can be a nightmare for an entrepreneur. The only thing that keeps me going every day, in the middle of everything that can go wrong, is my belief in my dream. In my case, my dream was to build the best storytelling platform in the world. That’s my vision. People laughed at me and they still do. But what the heck, it is my wild, beautiful dream, and I won’t give up because of the naysayers.
And while you are dreaming, be real too. As an entrepreneur, you have to lead by example. Whether it’s the right execution or being nimble, as a leader you have to actualize it and show your team how it can be done. You can’t be hypothesizing and expect people to follow. That never works.
Love yourself and love others generously, it works like magic in your startup journey.
And don’t listen to anyone if you don’t want to. It is your personal journey lead it your way, all the way.
Your unique idea
I come from a media background, but from the beginning I was clear that YourStory wasn’t a news platform focusing on breaking news. It would tell the stories that needed to be told, because stories are so powerful, they have so much potential. Not everyone realizes it, but every story is special. The business idea was to build a new-age business on the central premise of telling stories of entrepreneurs, of people who do things, who are upstarts, who have faced challenges and aren’t superstars, who are trying hard. Today, YourStory is the biggest platform in the world of entrepreneurs. It is the collective voice of people who are trying to change the world we live in.
We are on our way to becoming the world’s biggest storytelling platform. Not just that, the data that we generate through these stories has led to the evolution of derivative business models, which we are also pursuing – be it listings, advertising platforms, campaigns, research, and a lot more.
Partnership with Kalaari
I love Kalaari and Vani Kola. At the beginning of this year, I told Vani that I wanted to build a business that had the scale and capacity to become the world’s biggest storytelling platform. Rather than saying yes or no, she asked me to introspect and understand how raising external money would change the way YourStory would be run – it would be different from running it as a bootstrapped venture, which is what I’d done so far. She sat with me and deliberated and discussed all the options. It was very reassuring and made me feel that I had a real partner who saw things from my perspective, who helped me think through the options I had without passing judgement on any one option. There was nothing prescriptive about what she offered. She was more like a friend – someone who genuinely wished well.
Vani has this knack of understanding an entrepreneur’s strengths and weaknesses and helping where needed without really talking about it. For YourStory, she connected me with someone who is helping me in an area, which I wouldn’t say is my strength.
First meeting with Kalaari
I first met Vani in 2012 and I instinctively connected to her. The startup ecosystem was just getting built and here was a strong woman leader who valued me for the stories I was doing when there were so many naysayers in the market. She encouraged me to continue writing and said that India needed these stories and to celebrate entrepreneurs. It was like getting a booster shot. She is someone who has encouraged us ever since, every step of the way, in the way she engaged with us and supported us. The funding happened only much later in 2015.