My introduction to the startup mindset

This blog post is for those of you who have ideas. And want to do something about them, but are not sure what. Or for those who have small businesses and need a mindset shift in order to scale. 

Sometime last year, inspired by the good folks at Decoding Draupadi, I decided to ask Dr. Aditya Save to help me as a business advisor and conduct weekly/monthly reviews to help me achieve my goals (specifically at Purple Pencil Project). It’s a need I had been feeling for months. A sense that I had done some things right to get here, but after this point, my immediate pool of knowledge ended and I needed to take a fresh look at my approach; re-remember where the roots of P3 lay, and seek help on how to do that correctly so I don’t feel like a headless chicken. And I needed help from someone who thought in structures like I did, someone who could help me detangle my thoughts, and teach me, one step at a time. 

Aditya is a friend of SGs, a senior marketer and investor, with both a passion and understanding of storytelling, a connectedness with cultural businesses and a head for both business and product, plus a deep almost unsettling understanding of human psychology. Plus he is blunt. 

In our first review session, I dropped all my ideas for Purple Pencil Project on a sheet of paper, and talked him through it. His first lesson was:

Ask yourself, how many of these are business(revenue) ideas and how many of them are marketing ideas? 

An embarrassingly high number of things I wanted to do were more marketing than revenue. Within 30 minutes, we identified the three revenue streams to focus on. “Which one will give you the highest returns?” he asked. 


“The fact that you are unsure tells me you have not worked on anything enough. You should have pursued your idea so much that you have a complete knowledge of it – market rates, demand for the product/service, how easy or difficult the conversion is, the audience that will and will not pay for it – everything. It means you have not done enough of the boring stuff.” 

That was my second lesson. 

A glimpse of our Asana sections, a clear indicator of the scatter Adi Sir pointed out

Till a shiny new idea has been followed up with a million boring tasks, you have not worked on it enough. 

In our field, the illusion of work is easy. Because we are a content-first company, simply creating content, writing articles, increasing Instagram followers can often pass off as work. But we are not that. I had just been waiting that when I was big enough, people would come running to us and business would happen. 

So what was it that I had to do? Take a goal, break it down into the n number of steps it would take to go from start to finish. And then repeat that loop. For instance, we wanted to host a paid workshop on storytelling and communication in the corporate world. 

To just secure one client, I had to prepare a deck, find the company I wanted to work with, write the HR head, secure a call and present to them the deck, negotiate the fees, schedule and conduct the session, and get paid. 

To land that one client, I had to get to the ‘secure a call’ stage many many times. That was grunt work. That was boring work. But even to test whether an idea works, this task loop had to be repeated. 

Task loops are important – Identify the many task loops you need to achieve your goals. 

If you do a task loop enough times, you start to recognise where you are spending more time, if that time spent is worth it, whether you can outsource it, what someone in your community is willing to pay for, and every other detail that helps you get shit done. 

The nature of businesses and endeavors may differ, but in each work, there will be important tasks and to-dos that amount to no action. For me, its reading and research. I am constantly reading up on things, scrolling through social media to track trends and changes in the algorithm, to know what’s happening in the world in general. But the big downside of this is ofcourse, hours can go by without any real action taking place. One of the things I have to continuously learn is how to

Differentiate between active and passive tasks, and not mistake action for accomplishment. 

And lastly, this is for the overthinkers and the under-doers like me. My natural tendency is to think and think and think and do much less in comparison. But, the more you delay your action, the more you choose anything else other than an idea or project you care to claim about, you tell the world how to treat it – as a secondary thing in your life. 

Your actions will be more telling than your words in proving whether you really care about your idea or are using it as an excuse to do nothing. 

This is just a different way to identify if you are mistaking action for accomplishment; and its easier to do that in the digital age. Answering emails is action, but accomplishes nothing. Scrolling social media under the guise of researching competitors and keeping up with trends is action, but it accomplishes nothing. Writing emails, collecting data – the amount of possible passive work is endless and it is easy to create the illusion of work when there is none.


All we read about business is the tactical action points. But for first-time entrepreneurs, and people like me who don’t come from the background of selling (which is the only fundamental of any business activity), CAPEX and Market Research, or PMF can wait. We have to first fix how we think about building something. First fix how we set strategic direction. How we mark our progress, and what we define as success. 

I am still applying these in my work and life; after these discussions, scaling back some things, building stronger foundations, taking ideas out of the bank only if they can be executed with lesser and lesser time. The mindset shift brought back projects from the archives – like the unBlock book. It pushed some ideas to ‘Paused’ status for the time being. 

This is not to say you have to aim small. But you have to start small. And because the nature of entrepreneurship starts with big dreams; it’s important to marry that with reality to really make any difference. 

Want to talk more about it? Tweet to me @pramankapranam or email me at prakrut[at]purplepencilproject[dot]com