Startups are not a "David vs Goliath" story. It is more like a Commando operation…

Written by on December 12, 2012

This post is based on my interactions with a lot of really smart people, who are either working on a startup or want to be an entrepreneur soon. After many of these conversations, I feel that for most, the odds of succeeding are really low. I am by no means a pessimist but I clearly see that many smart people underestimate the efforts of starting up.

The media always portrays successful  startups as a “David vs. Goliath” story but that story is always enjoyable only in hindsight after the underdog David wins. In reality successful startups have a lot of similarities to a Commando operation – Stealth, Speed of execution, intelligence and efficiency.

Here is the Commando’s Guide to succeeding in the Startup world

A Commando team – While you may be super smart, you also need world class designers, marketers, developers, Product Managers and Sales people. How are you going to attract and build the Commando team? Either you should have pretty good connections or a really awesome Product story that acts as a Talent magnet.

A Commando Culture – Treat everyone as equals. The team understands and respects each other. Ego is nonexistent or it is sealed and self-contained. You are in it together watching each other’s back. You live or die together.

Commando Compensation: A commando is not motivated by money but as they are extremely skilled and efficient they are very expensive. If you can’t pay them good salaries, compensate them with generous stock options.

Commando Ammunition – Commandos can survive in extreme conditions (startup work places) but they still need their guns and knives. Do not cut corners when it comes to buying the best hardware / software tools to make them effective.

If you have such a team, culture and tools then your chances of startup success go up significantly higher.  Now go, fight and win. Good luck!

Commando Training – If you are still reading this, then probably you are wondering that you are not ready for a startup yet. Don’t worry Commando skills can be learned if you are willing to go through the learning curve (There are no shortcuts to the learning curve). I worked for almost 10 years in a Product Company before starting Freshdesk.  The phrase “been there, done that” has a lot of value in a startup – In my case because I’ve “been there, done that” – really smart people wanted to work with me, investors were willing to write big checks and we were able to successfully navigate our way out of the most difficult phase of starting up.

Instead of rushing into starting a startup, it is not a bad idea to take a slightly longer term approach. Join a good Product company and work for 4-5 years, pick up valuable skills in understanding what it takes to build, market, sell and support a world class Product. In the process you also build good relationships with other commandos and who knows – you may even meet your future co-founders.  You can’t become a successful pilot or a doctor without years of practice. Why should entrepreneurship be any different? Go ahead and start your Commando training by joining a good Product Startup. Good luck for your future.

P.S. – My HR manager wants me to mention here that we are looking for Commandos to join us as Developers, Product Managers, UI Designers and Marketers. So if you are interested in joining the Freshdesk School of Commando training please email us at

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  • Sir, I agree what you have said at the bottom, but the ‘David vs Goliath’ title doesn’t match this post. In fact, David too had stealth, speed of execution, intelligence and efficiency. Anyways, wish you to have great commandos in your team.
    – From a big fan of ‘David vs Goliath’

  • Great post.This is Really a Eye opener to to join your commondo team!

  • inspired! i am also trying to develop a commando team. but still searching for talented team, as you said its better to start fighting with a great team rather than fail in the battle with a week team.. so waiting for that

    • Hello Vishnu, hope you have ‘started’ what you set off to. If you plan to bootstrap your startup don’t wait for a great team. It is very difficult to find an expensive* team (be it salary or stock options) if you are not VC funded already or if your Business is about Rupee Revenue and not Dollar Revenue. 

      Wishing you success – in your battle, or if you choose – just the joy of creation!

      *- assuming Expensive = Great.

  • It really takes a lot of time and effort to build a solid start up team, it really pays if you choose the right people to do the job.  At the end of the day it all begins by hiring the right people that will work with you progressively.

  • Madhav Kopalle

    Hi Girish, Great insights, i cannot afford a commando team but three of us are really inspired to start something which we have not seen anywhere…and I am a rupee you think i will last