2022 Reflections: 22 Learnings as an Entrepreneur

Santosh Panda
7 min readJan 3, 2023

2022 has been the BUSIEST year in my 15 years as an Entrepreneur.

Foundership started shaping the right way and 2022 was a momentous year, and as a reflection, here are 22 learnings to share with Fellow Founders and Startup communities.

Experiment
Good word of mouth
Network
Trust
Play best shots
Being The Connector
A gentleman’s agreement works
Trust gut instincts
Live for another day
Benefits your customers
Build a self-thriving team
Focus on what customers need and not what competitors think
Co-opetition
Don’t assume a no
Choose your backers and nurture your believers
Frugality
Be on the stage
Sorry if you messed up
Best Customer experience
Inbound is Godsend
Focus your energy where it matters
True to your roots

  1. One experiment can change fortune.

In 2021, when Bimlesh and I were experimenting with various cohorts at Foundership, one experiment to host a Web3 Cohort during Jan 2022 unfolded everything we are heading towards!

2. One good word of mouth can change your destiny.

As we hosted Web3 Cohort, one word from Saurabh Shankar to Arjun Kalsy at Polygon opened many opportunities to serve Builders and Founders. We knew Saurabh previously and I was seeking his input to design a Web3 Cohort. That one outreach and his WOM had so much of an impact.

3. Your network adds to your net worth! Especially the underground one. :)

I have had an underground network of Web3 Founders since 2015. While running Explara, we powered ‘Blockchain India Summit — New Delhi in December 2016, where Vitalik was Conference’s Chief Guest & Keynote Speaker. However, I don’t know for sure if he had joined then, but this was my first opening to figure out this space.

Again 2017, a few Blockchain conferences too.

Having seen some early founders in the space and being with them, I had a network among Web3 Folks to bring them in when Foundership kickstarted Web3 Cohorts and then Incubation + Acceleration camps.

4. Trust matters a lot in Startup (Business). It compounds.

Bimlesh & I were founders for a long and actively collaborated among communities to help fellow and new Founders.

We experienced the compounding effect of these trusts when we outreached to seek support among Founders & Leaders in Web3 Startups during 2022.

5. Play your best shots. Refrain from treating yourself as a newcomer in business (or any field).

Let your customers/community/audience feel mesmerized.

When we launched 0xBreakfast and Web3 community hosts took it to 12+ Cities, and it was a surreal experience.

Founders & Builders loved it and we got an appreciation for the initiative like an OG!

To be honest, we were new to Web3 Communities.

6. You Being The Connector is 100x more impactful vs. You being the Centre of Attraction.

We hosted several meetups during 2022, like the Foundership meetup during ETH Dubai in 2022, several 0xBreakfasts, joined Token2049, Smartcon in NYC and Founders Day ETH India 2022 Edition.

We invited and connected fantastic folks (Founders & Leaders) among each other. Yet, nowhere have we treated team Foundership as the Centre of Attraction.

Result: Community Folks got the highest value in our meetups and loved our Karma.

7. Gentleman’s agreement works in the Startup world but is risky.

For many things in business, you need a contract/signed agreement before you process, but for some, you just need a verbal commitment/ gentleman’s agreement. Very risky, but it gives you SPEED.

We had several partnership initiatives with just a verbal commitment. And it gave us super speed.

8. Trust gut instincts: your team members’ and advisors’ guts!

When we were conceptualizing the incubation and acceleration camp model, we were almost going down a challenging route.

We trusted our advisors’ guts and modeled the Incubation camp to be of a 3-week duration. So far, we have got 410+ Web3 Startups applied to our Incubation camp.

And we trusted team members’ guts to move forward with the CoachDAO model to engage coaches and reward them.

9. Be in the game, and live for another day!

Keep calibrating your goals based on market conditions and don’t hesitate to take a few steps backward to live for another day. Market may go down, recessions are bound to repeat and investor sentiments may not align.

Startups are hard things! Being in the game matters vs. getting carried away in the hype /bear market.

As soon as Luna crashed, we saw several conversations/connections vanish. We re-calibrated to lower our expectations but be in the game.

By the end of 2022:
- We have 14 Web3 startups in the LaunchCamp — a 6-month acceleration program,
- 2 of them raised/closing funds
- 410+ Web3 Startups applied to our Incubation camp

All this with ZERO funding. We have yet to access our ongoing funds from our investors.

10. As long as your product /solution benefits your customers, you will discover many market segments.

When we started in 2021, we came up with the 3C model = Coaching + Capital + Community.

We ran 10+ Cohorts in the entire 2021.

Founders derived super-values and appreciated the model.

We took the same 3C model in 2022 and applied for Web3-only incubation and acceleration cohorts. Boom! It worked.

11. When a team member is not performing to the best level they should be, letting the team member move on is easy but transforming them into the role that gives them a foundation to thrive to become what they want to become is the way to build a self-thriving team.

12. Your customers are not bothered about your competition. Focus on what customers need and not what competitors think!

There are several Web2 accelerators and Web3 incubators & accelerators.

Many warned us about those competitions.

We focused on what our Founders needed. Then, we asked the question: If we were the Founders now, would we like this offering to be on the other side?

13. Co-opetition > Competition.

Especially when the market size is hardly a single digit in %, as in Web3, those who collaborate will win.

We had no qualms about collaborating with incubators, accelerators, protocols, platforms, funds or communities. Open to all.

14. If you want to serve:

  • Go all the way to win.
  • Don’t assume a no in case customers don’t reply.
  • Explicitly use different channels (email, phone, messaging) to reach and ask them if they mean No.

During our 1st Acceleration batch, a few Startups should have replied as per the scheduled time. So Bimlesh and I ensured to ping them via telegram DM/Twitter DM to ask if they meant No?

Good news: 2 Startups who had missed out on replying earlier, joined 1st batch and currently building a super product.

15. Choose your backers and nurture your believers, especially in bad market conditions.

Believers in bad market conditions > Believers in good market conditions. ALWAYS.

16. Frugality increases the longevity of a Startup.

We ran a significant part of 2022 with an absolute bare minimum spend.

17. Up your game to be on the stage!

In some cases, you might not be included to be on the stage. For example, you may be new in the game, community, league, and other reasons/perceptions!

No worries. Create a stage.

In Entire 2022, we created a stage for Web3 Founders who needed support, worked hard to get OG Founders to support, and platform/protocol support.

18. Say Sorry if you messed up; you would get another opportunity to rectify it.

During one of our meetups, we could have invited a few of our portfolio Founders to join. We should have done better. We expressed apologies and asked for another opportunity to rectify this.

This could happen with your customers, community, investors or in public. Our sincerity matters!

19. Whatever you do, offer the best customer experience.

Foundership Founders’ Day — ETH India Edition became a rage! When we announced, we expected 200 people to attend. After 700 Registrations, we had to stop accepting more.

400+ Web3 Founders & Community Folks joined Foundership Founders’ Day.

We were super happy with their feedback and appreciation.

20. In Startup: Inbound is Godsend.

Cultivate that culture to attract team members, community folks, customers, investors and anyone who loves what you do!

Pranav pinged to share his appreciation of Foundership, then joined as a Coach and then as Head of Capital. Love Inbound!

Similar experiences when we got Inbound interest for funding from Web3 Founders, grants from Platforms/Protocols, support from Advisors, connects from Web3 Folks and more.

21. You will be ignored; focus your energy where it matters.

We focussed on our ideal ICP: Founders, Coach, Capital, Community, Partners and Believers. We focussed where we needed feedback, criticism and appreciation. We accepted where we got ignored.

22. Stay true to your roots!

As soon as a Founder becomes an investor or a Coach, it may feel like we know everything, and we may feel tempted to get carried away with our success or understanding. Bimlesh & I ensured that we remain true to our roots: We are Founders First. We will be compassionate for Founders only — their win matters.

How was your 2022? You’re most welcome to share your learnings.

About:
Santosh is CoFounder at FoundershipIncubating & Accelerating Top Founders & Builders Launch Defining Web3 Startup of tomorrow! Want to learn Web3? or Build a Web3 Startup? You will find an awesome network on the Foundership Community channel: https://t.me/foundership

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Santosh Panda

CoFounder -Foundership : Web3 Accelerator VC. Prev: CEO @Explara 2008-20| Engg eBay UK / BBCiPlayer /Comicrelief