10 Things I Learned Going From Consulting To Startup Life

Startups come with the good and the bad. The good is that you work on something that has purpose, and you get to build the future. Despite the lower probability of success, the learnings and experience beat any other in-demand career, whether that be consulting, investment banking, or anything else - hands down

The bad is obvious: financial stress, no sleep, no perks, and always being against the odds.  

Here are 10 things I learned from transitioning to entrepreneurship and startup life.

Below is a list of things I learned within the first two years of starting our company, after a ten year career in management and technology consulting. 

1. Focus on Something Small:

Finding the simplest solution to a problem is the first step to world domination. Sometimes 1 or 2 people that are focused and capable are all that's needed. More people means more meetings, which are generally useless.

2. Start a Company for the Right Reasons:

First things first: Always start or join a company for the right reasons. If building the future isn't one of them, the struggles are going to be challenging. Money's important, but shouldn't be the only driving force.

3. Build the Right Culture:

We’ve all had the crazy bosses. This is really an opportunity to build the right culture, which is more important than ever. Culture is built with a multiplicative effect as each new person is brought into the company. Start right and hire people who embody your vision. It's like Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos said, culture is Zappos' No. 1 priority.

4. Do It Yourself:

Get used to doing a lot of the work yourself if you want things to be done right and within budget. Delegation comes later when your product/service actually works and has some solid demand. It's nearly impossible to 'build' a startup by just paying others to work. So be ready for the grind; nothing comes easy without your own blood, sweat, and tears.

5. Recruiting is Hard:

Talented and hardworking people that actually add value are harder to find than you think. Nearly everyone in my MBA class wanted to work at the top consulting firms, and I’m sure very few of them wanted to work at a pre-revenue startup. That being said, recruiting is incredibly important, and you will find the right people. View recruitment with an open mind, and hire for fit, need, and intangibles.

6. Have a Support System:

Make sure that those you love are onboard. The startup will drain you of your time and resources, and they will need to provide mental stability and moral support (a lot of it!). Without my own family mentally supporting me, it would have been ten times more difficult.

7. Joining a Startup Isn't Bad:

I picked starting a company over a few solid roles at early stage companies, even though I think that those positions would have worked out very well. Despite that fact, I wouldn't have it any other way.

8. Fail Quickly and Don't Give Up:

It takes 4 times as long as you think it will for anything to happen, so budget accordingly. Fail fast and bring the learnings to your products. Never get let down by one failure, as you should use it as a building block for your future success.

9. Build a Real Product:

In consulting, we could make the data say anything that we, the partner, or the client wanted. Unlike with consulting, to succeed in a startup you must build something that substaniates an entire business' existance. Take a long hard look at your product, and make sure it solves a real, complex and expensive problem. If it doesn't, try again.

10. Get Ready for Stress:

Consulting hours and stress have got nothing on startups, so find ways (running, yoga, start a fight club*) to cope with the inevitable stress.
* I nor Kiwi condones starting a fight club

About two years ago, we started a company with an intent to build the future. We started a company in the wearable technology space in Toronto, Kiwi, and we are happy to say that things have progressed better than expected. Our product enables companies to build motion recognition and motion wearables into their products.

The transition from consulting to startup life continues to be full of challenges, and I look forward to writing about them as our journey continues!

Ali Nawab

Toronto |

Ali is an entrepreneur in the AI and IoT space. Comp Sci, MBA, early engineer, technology leader at small & large companies, with some management consulting experience.