Sailing West: Why I Quit at My Peak, Thrice...

Written by
Pareen Lathia

This is in the scenario of me quitting the startup (BuidlersTribe) that I built from zero to $40 million in valuation for the last two years. Before that, I was part of the WazirX marketing team where we grew our community from 50,000 users to 1 million users. Before that I had a hostel for artists in a quiet little Goan town. And a backpackers' hostel prior. About nine years ago, I was building a profitable SaaS product and a software services company that was making good money with labour arbitrage.

When I reflect on it, there is a lot of effort that seems wasted and a pile of money left on the table.

Yet, I have been on the move, 

Most of my choices have been subconscious and I've only been evaluating them in hindsight. It has been hard to articulate what has led to these moves, but this piece is my attempt to tell you why. 


While I was talking to my mentor who had just retired from IIM Ahmedabad, he said, "When you have discontinuity with the past and when you are visualising the future as an independent entity, it is a chance to recalibrate".

This sentence captures what I felt with every turn. Probably the same reason why the ambitious of a village leave for the city.

There are generally two factors whenever I’ve felt this transition. 

  • First, it is something that tells you that this is not the biggest challenge taken (yet). 
  • Or there is something that aligns more with me as a person. 

It might be different for different people. The essential feeling that prompts this is that of being a big fish in a small pond.

For the people that I’ve seen doing this, it is generally some kind of a local peak. Today, this seems like a great place to be. But I can feel that my learning and capability will not grow exponentially from here onwards.


"What I have learnt is that the overall graph of anyone's life, measured in very personal parameters, keeps going up if their ability is growing with opportunities around them. It is not true for growth junkies like me", said a founder who quit his $100 million company last year to start something he believes in.

This is about the disconnect between the internal and the external. My focus is on learning, experiences and bets. This means internally, I'm growing much faster than I can prove to the outside world. The world will take some time to catch up.

Those times will be valleys in this journey. And it is not as beautiful as it sounds. But not taking the leap leaves a scar of regret for life.

For example, while running the artist’s hostel in Goa, I ended up reading everything there is about writing. I had a lot of time and was filling in my journals. Sending stuff to my friends, talking to random strangers about philosophy in forums. I did this for two years. Then I realised we should start a writer’s retreat. Everyone around me was surprised that I wanted to run a residency for writers. I did not have a single published article to show for. But today, not conducting that retreat is one of my biggest regrets. With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been the best writers’ retreat in this country in a few years. Instead, we kept running the hostel.

Deciding ‘what’s next?’

The decision for ‘what's next’ may or may not be certain. What is certain is: it has to be more challenging, and it has to be closer to the person you want to become.

I am reaching for something outside of my capabilities to the outside world. But if I believe I have it in me, the most logical thing to do would be to take a bet and risk losing all the benefits of being on the current peak.

As I enter the valley, there are times of doubt, uncertainty, and being surrounded by people who do not understand me.

And the only thing to do is wait for clarity, for the cloud to clear, and for people who understand to be attracted.

An actuary friend who has had exponential growth in the kind of projects he does, phrased it very well. ​​"Initially, my projects had an abrupt ending and I would feel like I had no use for my time. Starting from scratch is always daunting. My understanding now is to manage the transition smoothly. I still get the feeling of being useless and the daunting task of starting again. I just know how to manage this transition better”.

These valleys also become a great filter for projects and people to be filtered from my life. There is a time when everything is a variable. And the process of re-aligning my value system, beliefs, worldview, causes that I’m passionate about, and taking out the rusty old binoculars to hunt for the next peak.

What I left looks like those villages from today's vantage point. My first hostel was #1 in the city. The second hostel was rated 9.8/10 for two years, beating our own record. And I am glad I did move on every time. However, I got to experience the opposite ends of many spectrums, and they helped me find a custom environmental configuration that works well for me.

“One day I just knew it was my time to be a founder. So I quit the VC firm and started from scratch. But it is never from scratch. You always take the learnings and the friends you made”, said a VC turned founder who gave up good compensation to risk so many years of his life.

Is this for everyone?

This is certainly not for everyone and it is much less fun and glamorous than it looks on social media.

I have come to believe that there are people who just cannot help themselves but do this. 

In a place like Nassau, where everything shifts in the sand, we want to build London, where the concrete holds things together predictably longer. Then we complain it doesn't shift. The wheels of progress stopped turning. This is a tricky balance for society as well as for those who want to keep moving forward.

On a personal level, as long as the graph of learning is going up exponentially, the world will follow.

Keep moving forward.


Work-life conversations that question the status quo.
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Work-life conversations that question the status quo.
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