IIM-Ahmedabad’s startup incubator CIIE (Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship) has partnered with Village Capital to invest in Bodhi Health Education and Parvata Foods, both selected in their Last mile Startup accelerator.
Last Mile, a four month accelerator program that increases access to underserved population, is a joint venture of Village Capital and CIIE, the culmination of which saw the two new ventures being selected by the peer-selection model. In the peer-selection model entrepreneurs themselves decide which two companies should receive $50k each in funding.
Bodhi Health Education aims to train over 60,000 frontline community health workers by leveraging low cost mobile technology coupled with eLearning in India and other developing countries in Asia and Africa over the next 5 years.
Parvata Foods intends at improving the living standards of farmers in hilly areas by integrating them in to the main value food chain by building a value chain in fruits, vegetables and spices from Sikkim and other backward states in North East (NE) and Eastern India. Presently Parvata Foods operates in Sikkim and their primary products are ginger, turmeric, buckwheat, chilli, pineapple and mandarin.
With most of India living in rural areas where lack of technological and logistical connectivity are serious issues, ventures like these could go a long way in helping to improve the living standards of the rural population.
National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN), the flagship initiative by Wadhwani Foundation, has released a whitepaper for the Department of Science & Technology (DST) to institute standards for the establishment and working of incubators in India, titled “Guidelines – Metrics & Milestones for Successful Incubator Development.”
The whitepaper aims at setting some of the much needed guidelines for incubation of startups in India and includes recommendations to set the motion for analysis, discussion & debate for policy review and modifications, for the benefit of both funding and host organizations that set up incubators.
On the basis of this whitepaper, the two key pointers that will help setting up national guidelines, metrics and milestones for incubators are Categorization of incubators to identify unique characteristics and success factors for each incubator model thereby enabling replication of successful models and Critical indicators of success for companies that different categories of incubators support.
As per the report, there is a need to devise a measurement strategy for incubators as they are considered to be drivers of economic development. These incubators need to be backed up by raising the necessary resources whenever required and also to showcase and reward the real winners. As far as the funding organizations are concerned, having a detailed measurement on incubators will provide them with visibility to the partnership and can also help them to take timely decisions regarding further funding.
Without the right framework for measurement on the performance of incubators, like in the present scenario, there is always an over-generalization of the complete sector which leads to comparisons between the wrong metrics. This clearly means that there is a need to develop success metrics for a broad set of acceptable incubators. Separate metrics need to be devised to understand the outcome and long term impact from incubators.
The solutions & recommendations in the white paper are based on a detailed understanding of key factors that govern incubator categorization like motive, size of opportunity, location, in-house expertise and sphere of influence.
Every incubator has a motive to back a startup. This could be commercial or not-for-profit. To understand the commercial aspects of backing up a startup, the incubator needs to know the size of opportunity that they have with the startup. This depends upon the core expertise of the host organization, the local eco system and the geographical influence of the incubator.
A not for profit incubator is usually the kinds found in educational institutions and their success factors are majorly measured through social impacts and financial returns.
Incubators also need to be categorized on the basis of the size of opportunity that they find in backing up a startup. It is essential to maintain uniformity in the type of start ups that the incubator can back up so as to maintain a continuous support mechanism.
The whitepaper also provides insight into the key challenges that incubators face in terms of the right amount of funding required for financial sustainability, training and mentoring services for community entrepreneurs and returnable seed money to incubated companies.
The whitepaper (download) gains significance, in light of the proposed nationwide “District Level Incubation and Accelerator Programme”, for incubation of new ideas and support for accelerating entrepreneurship as mentioned in Union Budget 2014.
No. I am not talking about connecting startups to angels/VCs/customers etc.
Or. Taking few folks head-on (that’s part of running NextBigWhat).
But a simple request that I receive from a lot of connections.
And that is?
Inquiries about entrepreneurs.
For due diligence.
Due diligence – not by investors, but by parents!!
Parents who are inquiring about a potential candidate for their daughter’s marriage. And most of these requests I receive are from the girl’s brother/cousin who is connected with me on social media channels.
The Big Trend
On the lines of ‘India is a country of snakes and elephants’, there is a favourite topic in the media that entrepreneurs often find it difficult to get married, as parents are most comfortable seeing their daughter marrying a guy who is ‘well settled’ in life.
Ofcourse, this was true for a very very long time. I know of few entrepreneurs who faced major challenges in getting married.
The Good News!
There is a sudden interest among the parents for marrying their daughter(s) to an entrepreneur. And to be fair, there isn’t a massive rise – but harbinger of a happy trend.
2011 – 2013 : I received only 3 such requests.
2014 - So far, I have received 11 such requests!
Another good news? Mostly, parents do not seem to be so hung up on whether the company has raised funding or not. But they are more worried if the entrepreneur is a ‘good guy’ (standarad questions); and whether the company can make it big or not (i.e. the belief is on future than the present status, just like VCs !!).
In fact, somebody asked me if this entrepreneur (whose name also ends with ‘Bansal’) can make it big like the other bansals! :)
And a bigger correlation? Parents who have had their sons/daughters/nephews/nieces starting up seem to be most comfortable with this entire plan of getting their daughter married to an entrepreneur.
In a way, it gives them confidence that entrepreneurship is for good fellas as well (once upon a time, perception of entrepreneur used to be somebody who couldn’t get a job!)
How Do I React To These Requests?
It’s tricky. Very tricky!
In most of the cases, I probably interacted with the entrepreneur only once or twice. And importantly, nobody in the world can predict a company’s future. That is, I have ‘NO CLUES’ about this entrepreneur and his venture.
So what do I do? Well, I mostly end up asking a lot of questions to parents (and their proxies) and tell them that they should be comfortable with the startup failure. If the guy is good and has a lot of fire, he will succeed – but don’t judge him just by his current venture.
Ofcourse, I keep it confidential, but maybe I will reach out to these families to figure out a conversion rate.
But for sure, entrepreneurship has gone mainstream and people are more comfortable with ‘startups’ and ‘entrepreneurs’ now than ever.
And for bachelor entrepreneurs out there, there is a hope ! :)
[Editorial Notes : Cofounders of a startup share their experience with some of the fellow entrepreneurs. We normally do not publish articles under anonymous names, but this time we decided to, owing to the fact that cofounders are focusing on a certain issue (which is for real, i.e. lack of ethics in certain people) and not names of individuals.]
Before we get into it, we want to make it clear that this isn’t a blanket statement for all entrepreneurs in India & abroad, and maybe we have been faced with a few bad apples. We are also totally OK with competition, we see it as healthy and productive to the community as a whole – but when you meet entrepreneurs under false pretenses it’s where we draw the line and consider you, well, a scumbag.
Now this has happened to us a couple of times, so maybe we are just an unlucky bunch. But, we’ll tell you the story of one of those times. Let it serve as a warning to all the entrepreneurs out there who are normally led to believe it’s better to share your ideas (especially with fellow entrepreneurs), get feedback, and learn from seasoned vets. What you don’t hear about is the few of these people who may be preying on early-stage entrepreneurs who are building something in a space that they want to enter.
One of these times includes a seasoned entrepreneur who runs a “successful” company that has been invested in by a well-known VC firm. We met this entrepreneur through the entrepreneur’s original Angel Investor. Now, this entrepreneur met us under the guise of potentially wanting to invest.
We met 3 times and shared a lot of information with this person. We even suspected that maybe this person wants to enter our space, so we called up the original investor who introduced us to express our concerns, and without hesitation the Angel stated, “Why would we enter your space, you guys are like our kids, (my co-founder and I are much younger than these guys) we only want to help you.”
Fast forward to the present. This entrepreneur launches a direct competitor of our product with learnings, insights and ideas we shared from our successes, failures and hard work.
What you may be thinking is “quit whining, it happens all the time” and you’re right – it does, and we have no issue with competition, like we said. If this person or any of the other people we have met had simply been honest and said “we are thinking of getting in the [blank] space, can you share some of your insights” there’s no doubt in my mind we would have met with them. Would we have shared all the info we did? Probably not.
Does that make the other entrepreneur smarter than us? Some may say so. In our mind though, this person is weak. We met through a warm introduction so we had a level of trust, and were intentionally misled. That shit is not cool. Shows true character – for real though, this person couldn’t even come up with an original name or domain name for the product.
What happened to morals and values in our community? We’re supposed to be lifting each other up as entrepreneurs, not trying to tear each other down. At least, that’s the way we see it. We meet with a lot of entrepreneurs and try to help them and some come to us with great ideas but the thought has never crossed our mind to try and build what they are building.
We think the major question to our fellow entrepreneurs is where do you draw the line from healthy competition to being a complete phony? Competitive research is necessary but we’re of the school that this should be done ethically, like the consummate professional you claim to be. Furthermore, we understand hyper-competitive environments are a perfect breeding ground for unethical tactics, but we’re of the belief that the business sector has karma intertwined as well. We’ll keep our heads up and move forward knowing that it will catch up to these people…eventually.
Our message to other young entrepreneurs is simple: be very careful whom you meet with. Whether it’s successful entrepreneurs, investors, or strategic partners. It’s exciting and fun taking meetings with some of the more successful people who have been through the ringer, but they may have a completely ulterior motive when meeting with you.
[Editorial Notes: Some do it. Some don’t. Growth hacking comes naturally to few founders. Here is presenting an analysis of few companies who growth hacked all the way to glory. Guest article contributed by Laxman Papineni, cofounder of AppVirality.com]
FreeCharge.in is an Indian company based in Mumbai, which lets you recharge your prepaid mobile balance, Internet data card and DTH (TV) packs through their website and mobile app … free of cost. Yes you read it right.
Here is how it all works.
You log onto the website, enter the relevant details of the pack you want to recharge, and make the payment. The payment can be made through Debit or ATM card, Internet banking, credit card or cash card.
Then you will receive coupons of the same amount you have paid. FreeCharge has partnered with some top notch companies like McDonald’s, KFC, Costa Coffee, Café Coffee Day, Myntra, Barista, Domino’s, PVR Cinemas, etc. and these coupons will allow you to make a purchase at these companies and your coupon amount will be redeemed.
Today FreeCharge is one of the most popular websites in India for recharging. But they did a lot of marketing to reach this level.
Below I will attempt to explain the growth hacking methods employed by FreeCharge to become so successful.
Identifying the target audience and reaching out to them
The target market of FreeCharge mainly consists of youngsters.
In case you don’t know, in India it is the youngsters who are the more tech savvy. People in old age don’t use smartphones, computers or Internet that much.
Additionally it is the youngsters who go out to places like McDonald’s, Barista and Café Coffee Day. At least much more than the old people.
Hence FreeCharge was pretty sure it wants to target the younger people. And they decided to do that manually.
They had some cousins and friends in top notch colleges of India like the IITs and IIMs and they reached out to them urging them to try out their free coupons and also telling them to distribute the coupons to their friends.
Naman Sarawagi, one of the members of the company, even visited the IIT Bombay campus to assist the students to recharge.
Some of the students there didn’t had debit cards, so Sarawagi sat down in the campus on weekends and transacted on the FreeCharge.in website through his own card and collected cash from the students and handed over the coupons immediately.
Soon the word spread and coupons were delivered to all IITs and IIMs.
In fact, the team also created a fake Facebook id (a beautiful girl) that immediately got to a few good thousands of friends. The idea was to reach out to several college kids using the fake id, which they did (with mixed response – watch the video towards the end for more on that).
One of the best ways to attract an audience to your company is to steal it from those who already have one. In other words, if you want a lot of visitors to your website then show yourself on other websites which are already getting a lot of traffic.
Now there are many ways to do that. Either write a high quality article and submit that on a top notch website with a backlink to your own site. Or, if your website is ground breaking, you have something awesome to offer, then reach out to some website owners and ask them to mention your site on theirs. If your website will be of interest to their readers then they may respond in the positive.
FreeCharge was covered in top notch websites like Pluggd.in, Trak.in, Alootechie, telecomtalk, Rediff, The Hindu and Outlook.
ET Now airs a show about startups named Starting Up and they requested them for a coverage. ET Now thought that they will be a good fit and hence they did a story on FreeCharge bringing them more publicity and more visitors.
Video spoof on Emotional Atyachaar
Emotional Atyachaar was one of the most popular programs amongst youngsters in those days. It was a reality show based upon the state of romantic relationships amongst the Indian youth.
Suspicious lover contacted the team of Emotional Atyachaar, requesting them to do a loyalty test on his/her partner. Their team carried on the investigations with hidden cameras which recorded the entire episode and then aired that on national television.
FreeCharge approached The Viral Fever to do a spoof on the show, advertising FreeCharge.in. The Viral Fever had already done quite a few spoofs on some other popular shows and movies and their videos had become very popular on YouTube hence they were the right candidate.
The video runs as follows.
A girl named Pooja comes and narrates the story of his boyfriend whom she decides to call by the pseudonym Subramaniyam Raju to the host Grih-Pravesh Rana. She suspects that her boyfriend is recharging the phones of many other girls besides her. So she asks her friend Neha to do a loyalty test on him.
She sends Neha to his flat telling her to ask him to get her phone recharged while she is hiding in the flat already. Raju opens the door, Neha tells him she wants him to recharge her phone and Raju welcomes Neha in cordially.
Then he uses his smartphone to recharge Neha’s phone through the FreeCharge app. Note this is the first time that FreeCharge is mentioned in the video. The video is 15 minutes long and this scene appears at 10:03.
Then Pooja suddenly jumps out from behind the curtain catching Raju red handed. She accuses him of recharging the phones of other girls and thus “cheating” on her.
Pooja, Neha, and the hidden cameramen then all start beating Raju. Raju keeps crying out – “Please listen to me” but no one does.
After the beatings are over Raju confesses to Pooja that yes he did recharged other girls’ phones but only because of Pooja. He says he used FreeCharge to do all the recharges and hence he got a lot of free coupons from the site. Then he used those coupons to take Pooja out for coffee, burger and movies.
This shot occurs at 11:38 and again FreeCharge is mentioned only in passing. They didn’t dwell too much on the company or their business model so as to not distract the attention of the audience away from the main storyline of the video.
Pooja, understanding the complete situation, forgives Raju and they patch up with each other.
Hearing this, Rana gets extremely annoyed because he says he only invites those lovers on his show who have been cheated by their partners. Since Pooja was not cheated on, Rana asks the security to throw her out of the studio.
In the ending credits the following text is displayed: “Issued in public interest by FreeCharge.in.”
This is a classic example of native advertising. The whole attention is on the story and the humor and FreeCharge appears only on the side, hence not boring or detracting the audience.
So did the video resonate with the audience? Oh boy! At the time of writing of this article the video had got more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.
I hope the three methods discussed above would have helped you understand how FreeCharge became so popular. Let me know in the comments below what you think of this piece.
BONUS : Watch Freecharge Founder, Kunal Shah talk about human behaviour and technology startups (and how Freecharge cracked the model).
Sponsored: With the rise in the number of employees working from home or away from the office, Mobility has become an increasingly vital factor to the growth of any business. A lot of workforce, especially the sales, are constantly on the move and there is a inherent need to access critical business data for faster decision making. Any time that your workforce spends in the field, without any connectivity, is extremely unproductive and wasteful.
Today, productivity both in and out of the office, is imperative for any small medium business, to not just run their day-to-day operations, but to maximise the potential in a fast paced business environment in order to have a competitive edge.
As a small business, you still need to look at all your mobility investments strategically but implement them with great amount of caution & tactic. You need to adopt solutions that can help you bring Seamless Mobility with scale across relevant teams within the organisation.
As a key decision maker, you must know the reasons for adopting any Mobility Solution beforehand, especially knowing how it would add value to your company?
As a small business owner, you can start with the very basic like building positive Employee Experiences through better Mobile Work Styles. As a growth oriented organisation, you must create a perfect blend of mobility in your work culture so that your business relates better with employees & customers.
Often it is seen, companies who have tried & failed at implementing Mobility for their workforce have blamed their failures on not having the right devices. If your business teams are operating in a collaborative environment, where sales & operations are remotely connected & sharing files & data on the move through cloud, this kind of mobile workforce needs a customised hardware & applications.
In this scenario, Tablet PCs could well be the solution for all your employee productivity related issues. Devices like HP Elitepad 1000 offers maximum mobility, durability, higher performance & seamless connectivity with all other devices in the organization. These devices offer a perfect mix of Mobility with Style which further maximises your employee experience & morale.
While tablet PCs like HP Elitepad 1000 could bring your data on the go, but it would be futile if your mobile workforce could not print the documents on the go as well. This is where you would need a complete Mobility solution partner who could add the mobility layer across all your IT processes without compromising on the data security.
Incidentally, HP’s Print Mobility solutions are tailor made for all small medium enterprise companies whose workforce are on the move & collaborating across multiple offices. HP’s Mopria Certified LaserJet Pro MFPs enables easy mobile printing of documents from any device without any need for separate application or software.
There is absolutely no doubt, investing in Mobility solutions can fetch large monetary & non monetary gains to the small business in the form of higher employee & customer satisfaction, better productivity, enhanced communication & better collaboration.
Kishore Kumar’s songs have been a part of our lives – the good times, funny times, emotional times and yes, the sad times as well. His passion for music, the fact that he was NOT at all a trained singer and still made it so big is an inspiration for all.
Today, we salute the legendary singer and walk you through a journey of entrepreneurship, as told by Kishore da.
What if he were to sing for fellow entrepreneurs and doers out there? The playlist could have been something like this.
Early days of a startup When you have just started up. When you believe that you have found a product-market fit. When you are in ‘I am going to change the world’ mode and oozing with energy! Here is to an awesome you.
Of course, what is this life without facing massive rejections? Earlier, the better.
If you are rejected by a potential marquee customer/ Investor, you either give-in or you emerge strong. With successful entrepreneurs, latter is the case. Post these rejections, the ‘real’ startup world sinks in and one starts to understand the fundamentals – i.e. all that matters is your hard work. Everything else is secondary.
Got a cofounder? Hurray! Sing this to your cofounder!
You are now in a shipping mode. And now is the time to start looking for a potential investor. Ofcourse, you should be ideally looking for a great match (and not just the ones who have money). But at the end of the day, paisa is what matters!
Now that you are growing, competition comes into the picture. Here goes an ideal ‘on-the-face’ song for your competition!
At a very fundamental level, Entrepreneurship is often about self-doubts. You don’t know whether you are on the right track. All data points/market numbers are stacked against you. But then, you continue walking. You keep trying.
No matter which stage is your business in, you always need a ray of hope. Here Is One for A Brighter Tomorrow.
Businesses go through tough times. Sometimes, these are defining moments. One blink and it’s over!
With success comes more negotiations and when the bad times strike, you will feel like this – often used by your customers (show me the price), investors (tranch money?). *bajna* is the exact description of that feeling !! :)
Tasting Success? And Hungry For More? At one point in time, it’s always good to start enjoying the journey.
Facing Failure? Don’t give-in. Remember, it’s a journey!
And the journey continues. It never ends. An entrepreneur keeps going. Experimenting. Failing. Trying.
Thank you Kishore Kumar for being a part of our lives.
Curated by Team NextBigWhat. Image credit : wikipedia and Google doodle.
“He’s my best sales guy. He makes his numbers quarter after quarter! But everyone dreads it when he comes into the office.” My friend was on the verge of tears – it was clear that he was going to have to do something about his sales guy, if he didn’t want others to quit. But he was worried about his star salesman would react and he was not looking forward to it.
We’ve all faced this issue of what to do with that employee – the trustworthy finance guy, who upsets your team members often over trivial amounts; the brilliant technologist who cheeses everybody off with his superior attitude, or the HR manager, who despite the many years she’s been with you, who’s not pulling her weight any more.
The timing is rarely right to confront them and the longer you put it off the worse it’s likely to get. We also worry about how we gothere and how best to handle it so we retain them without too high an emotional cost. If you are like me, then you put it off for a better time, which rarely comes.
Hiring people is always one of the top 3 problems I hear managers or founders talk about. Implicit in this of course is that matter of hiring the right people. Yet, even after we’ve hired the right people, as neither organizations nor the people stay constant, we run into all kinds of issues. Gil Amelio, who was an inspiring leader (and CEO) at my first employer National Semiconductor, taught me a very simple framework to both talk about this and to aid action.
Attitude and Effectiveness Successful organisations look at not just at proven capabilities and experience that would make a prospective employee effective, but also their attitude and fit with your organisational culture. He used the familiar four quadrant framework, with effectiveness along the y-axis and attitude (or cultural fit) along the x-axis as shown in the figure below.
Quadrant 1 – Neither the right attitude nor effective These are the easiest folks to deal with – they are basically hiring mistakes you’ve made. Ideally you’d not have anyone in this quadrant or if you do, you’d fix your hiring process to minimize recurrence. Lou Adler, author and CEO of the Adler group in his recent article titled “There Are Only Four Types of People — Are You Hiring The Right Ones?” terms these folks Type 1: Those you should never hire!
Quadrant 2 – Have the right attitude but are not effectiveUsually this is a sign that these folks are in the wrong job. They may have been effective, even in the same job, but no longer are, because the jobs requirements have evolved or they haven’t. Or you’ve placed them in the wrong role.
The ineffective sales guy may bloom in a business development role or inside sales job. The trick is to find them a role that they can be effective in. If your organisation is big enough, you may have one or more such roles – sometimes the right role may not be within your department or even company, in which case its best to help them find the right role, whether inside or outside your company.
Quadrant 3 – Have the right attitude and are effective These are your stars – the people who perform consistently and lead from the front. The trick with these folks is to ensure that they are constantly learning and growing. Folks in Quandrant 3 can fall into Quandrant 2, when your company and your needs grow fast and they don’t grow as fast. These are the folks you want to be hiring and your company and its processes should be geared to finding, attracting, retaining and growing Quadrant 3 folks.
Quadrant 4 – Don’t have the right attitude but are effectiveThis is the hardest group to deal with. The obnoxious sales person my friend had to deal with, the supercilious technologist or rude finance guy we met all fall into this quadrant. Two things make it difficult to effect change with these folks –
they are deemed successful and have been rewarded in the past, despite their interpersonal shortcomings.
They are often positions deemed critical, that make change not just unpalatable but downright scary. “What’ll happen to my sales, if this guy leaves?” or “Will I find another trusthworthy finance guy?”
Organizations suffer the most, because most of us don’t know how best to handle Quadrant 4 folks. The first step is to recognize not only the existence of these four quadrants but that people can move within the quadrants. This is most commonly seen from Quadrant 2 to Quadrant 3 (more effective) through skilling and occasionally to Quadrant 2 from Quadrant 3 (less effective) when the job needs grow and person doesn’t.
I’ve found talking about the four quadrants and even mutually agreeing with your team members where they see themselves and where their peers or you see them helps immensely. This way when it is time to have the hard conversation, you both have a framework and vocabulary that can help keep the conversation professional. In my experience, almost always folks in the Quadrant 2 will have to be let go. We’ve had the occasional technical person build out their interpersonal skills and make the move from Quadrant 4 to Quadrant 3.
Let me know how this works for you.
[About the author : K Srikrishna is Executive Director at National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) and blogs at DesignofBusiness.com. He earlier co-founded Impulsesoft (sold to SiRF Technologies) and Zebu Communications. He’s an angel investor and on the advisory board of three startups.]
There are a lot more critics than doers. People try to bring others down. Some given in. Some stand up.
Author, Chetan Bhagat who is often a target among social media netizens posted an inspiring note to all those who have been critiquing him.
“Sometimes, I look back and wonder, how on earth did all this happen? I remember my days at the bank in Hong Kong, and getting a performance review from my boss, telling me I don’t deserve to be promoted. That I lacked something, while everyone else was ok. I remember thinking I need a drink, and wanting to get pissed drunk at his treatment ofÂ me. But right then, another thought came to me. Let me express my hurt in another way. And so I started a book, about three friends in an Engineering college.
Six books, five films and a hundred columns later, today as I see Kick release in more screens than any other film ever, I wonder. What if I had chosen the path of getting drunk to cope? What if I had not written that first sentence? What if I had believed my boss, who said I lacked something vital? Thank you God for giving me the strength and wisdom at that moment.
All of us are told we aren’t good enough. Sometimes we believe it also. But don’t. Because nobody, not even you, knows what you are capable of. The criticism will never stop, ever. As I write this, many on twitter must be posting hate tweets about me, telling me how useless I am. But all I want to tell them is this. Buddy, I heard that one before. And it is because I heard that is why I am where I am today.
Congratulations to the entire hard working team of Kick for the big release today.
And thank you boss. Thank you so much for not promoting me.”
A lot many first time entrepreneurs go through serious heartaches when media/analysts write them off. When people tell you on your face that ‘you suck’. ‘you are dead’, you almost start believe them.
Media (including social media, i.e. YOU) is governed by present trends, numbers and news; and more often than not, media (including YOU) has no clue of an entrepreneur’s capability and what lies ahead. An Entrepreneur’s Mind is more complex than what media (including YOU) can ever imagine.
Why Am I Including YOU
If you are wondering why I am stressing on YOU, the truth is that media has turned more social and personal. While one can ignore mainstream media bringind down one’s vision/company/approach, social media is extremely difficult to ignore. It’s all over you. Screaming right on your face! All over your social feeds.
And that’s a testing time for real entrepreneurs.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Hoodie
Take a look at how media wrote off Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. And in some cases, made a mockery of the founder.
It’s your turn, now! If you are being written off, celebrate!
Do something so big that they find reasons to write you off. But till then, dont’ relax!
[Editorial Notes : At a recently organized NextBigWhat meetup with Scott Cook (Intuit founder), Scott talked about one important aspect that most startup founders ignore – i.e. of finding a right coach. Read on this great piece by Vasudevan T, founder and CEO at Coatom]
Among the 560,000+ startups listed on CrunchBase by Q2, 2014, only 58,000+ have received at least a seed / angel investment. This means merely 12% of startups are at least making a headway towards it’s vision. Among this, 32% are seed funded with an average investment of $300,000 – $350,000. Let’s leave these budding stars aside, I would like to talk about the 48% of the venture / PE funded startups today.
How many of them are going to get an exit for their investors? Experts say, 1-2% is the typical exit % from startup investments, but that itself will cover the overall investment made across all stages of investments. Hence we see startups are still getting funded.
How about a scenario where investors are able to improve this 1-2% success rate to a better one, say 3-4%? We are suddenly talking about an return of over 200% more from what’s expected today. Easier said than done, but I guess no harm in attempting it, right? Investment is already made and hence we are not talking about a higher risk. What probably need is a bit more care on their investee companies’ leadership team.
The funded companies who fail can’t be because of not finding a product-market fit. They raised capital after proving that. Mostly it’s because of two reasons:
Could not scale up business to find an exit route
Did not innovate to stay ahead of competition and also retain customers
Both look as different challenges, but in my opinion, the root cause is the same. Lack of proper leadership. The failure should be attributed to the inability of the leadership team in all these startups. But that looks slightly contradictory as most of these startup teams were able to raise multiple rounds of investments, so they must be good leaders. I would say yes, but every leader reaches a stage where his/her charge gets drained out completely and did not find a way to recharge. They perform a valiant fight in the end, but eventually die down in the drain.
Now this story has reached a stage where I now need to suggest a way out. Honestly, if I propose, you think I’m making this up. But if few among those who read this so far who would like to listen, the rest of the article is for them. So quit reading if you think I’m biased or going to get biased.
I have a proposal.
No guarantee that this will work for all of them. But we have evidence that the solution that I amm proposing has shown wonders to many successful, once startup, founders like Larry Page, Marc Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey – even Jeff Bezos. What’s common among them is that they all had a coach. World champions from various spheres around the world use a coach, somebody who can give them perspective, challenge and motivate them and help them unleash untapped potential in a creative and thought provoking manner. Undoubtedly, coaching has worked well for these world leaders.
A coach can be the one who recharges a startup founder by making him/her to ask the right questions at the right time – now what, why, and how?
Just think. Why did these most celebrated & successful founding CEOs hire a coach?
[About the author: In his 15 years of professional career, Vasudevan spent last 2 years in a leadership role driving product & marketing strategy for a fastest growing online education startup based in Bangalore. Prior to that, he was leading digital marketing for Myntra – India’s largest online fashion portal.]
[Editorial Notes: Entrepreneurship is tough, but very few share* the real side of the story. Read on, a guest piece by Aditya Gupta. Aditya, cofounder of SocialSamosa (and earlier started iGenero) shares a few lessons building a ‘small company’.]
Bootstrapping is fun but not always and is a challenge but not always! In 5 years, what we at iGenero realized is not something new, not something that other startup founders didn’t. The journey, from getting a new client to setting up your first office to getting the “big” client, is intense and filled with unmatchable highs. The lows, well, while not forgotten, are not usually dwelled upon. However, let’s talk about the lows for a change.
When we started the journey at iGenero, we always believed in being transparent, playing fair & being true to our clients and ourselves. We were very clear that we were here to do some good work and the money would follow. Today, we have worked with over 100 clients across the globe and produced quality stuff. Not a lot to complain about, right? However, I can’t help but comment about how unprofessional most companies in India are.
Yes, I’m talking about both the companies with as many employees as the capacity of Eden Gardens as well as companies which have less than ten employees and all those who fall somewhere in the middle.
Couple of years down our own startup journey, a few opportunities to get funded or acquired came our way. We didn’t jump at these, because we felt we had to first figure out the space and the opportunities that lay before us. An advertising company offered to acquire us during our very first meeting.
Their reasoning for the offer was “You guys are too small a brand for my company, but we like your work & hence the only way we can work together is when you work for our company directly.” Back then, we did not take such offers seriously. We missed that boat and even today, we don’t know if we did the right thing or not. Later, a couple of clients who also happen to angel investors brought up the funding topic which seemed insincere and a way for them to convince us to bring down our pricing.
The client side is always been painful. We were approached by one of the biggest ecomm companies in India and they made us chase them for over six months. After six months of mails, calls and meetings, the dude higher up decided that they would only work with a company based in same city they were in. The parochial attitude of an e comm company -the irony was priceless!
Another memorably ironic experience was when we were told by one of the top b-schools in India that we were too young to work on a top b-school project! The reality was the other company competing for the project told the client that they needed a 40 member team to work on the project and iGenero wouldn’t be able to do that since our team size was 12 back then.
The irony? That a top business school didn’t support entrepreneurship and lean business practices.
The industry folks have, every now and then, dismissed us as just another company. Maybe we are just another company when it comes to the scope of services that we offer but we definitely aren’t like the others when it come to quality of our work, our ethics, morality & purpose in life. There have been many occasions where people told us that we needed to do whatever it took to get the ball rolling – “wink, wink”.
Obviously, it majorly meant lying & cheating in all aspects of business. From the team size to revenue to the duration of project to cut-copy-paste to probably your gender too, they covered it all and how! Not just that, we were also told if we want to survive in the startup scenario in India, the earlier mentioned tactics were the only way to go!
I’m reading about India becoming a product nation. There’s a lot happening already. I hope it happens. More than anything else, I hope professionalism seeps into companies & individuals quickly. The startup community is booming in India right now and while we are all hopeful it will only get better, I’m also skeptical about how it’ll all pan out in the coming years. At the end of the day, only we will be responsible for making it or breaking it.
Professionalism, ethical practices, good faith, recognition of quality – these are the cornerstones of a good, robust business economy. Sadly, at the moment, our experience has shown us that these cornerstones are missing. A nurturing environment, where start ups and young entrepreneurs are nourished and cultivated, where ethical practices are not optional, but mandatory, where cheating someone is not considered an accomplishment but an offence – this is what India needs. Only then, we will see long term sustainable growth and progress.
And now, I need to go chase a Social Samosa client for payment that’s been over due for a over a year!
[*Note:If you want to share your experience/insights as a guest author, simply drop us an email : firstname.lastname@example.org]
[Editorial Notes: Entrepreneurship is a lot about learning from other’s mistakes and making some of your own. In this guest post, Vinamra Pandiya of Tastykhana talks about a few lessons he’s learned from his entrepreneurial journey; and shares his perspectives.]
In my last article (Starting Up? Avoid These Mistakes : Death by Stealth, GaaS), I had covered 8 things to avoid before you start walking the path of entrepreneurship. This article would focus on practical advise (and avoiding the usual gyaan) during the first year of being an entrepreneur.
1. Legal before Real: I have seen a lot of startup founders use their personal bank account to do business transactions. While it may be simpler and faster, it is better to form a legal entity right from day one.
2. Use Savings, not your Savings Account: When I started my first business along with my partner, we were guilty of booking business expenses through our own savings accounts. Do not commit this mistake. Simply plough all the money in your company’s current account which would be your initial paid up capital. Now, spend whatever and howsoever you want on your business.
3. Remember, this money is of the company, not yours: Another mistake early start-uppers make is borrow whatever sustenance money is required for their personal requirement from the company’s account. While your head above the water is certainly required, you either fix your personal expense and take it as a monthly salary or keep some parking money for yourself in your savings account.
In short, do not take money randomly from your company’s account even though you may credit it back after some time. It is plain bad economics, avoid it.
4. Do not Avoid Tax during Taxing Times: Demographics show that a large chunk of entrepreneurs are not number friendly and certainly not tax friendly which proves to be their Achilles heel later. Make sure all your personal tax returns are filed so that your credit worthiness is intact and if required, you can take fresh loan for your growing business.
If your business is into product manufacturing, make sure you apply for various Tax Nos (PAN,VAT, TIN, TAN etc). All your PO’s and Invoices should have those nos. If you are a services company, make sure you apply for a ST (Service Tax) No and ensure you file them as per the regulatory guidelines.
5. Be in Good Books & Maintain Good Books: If you are in a business which will require funding later, make sure all your accounting is in place. Even though you have all the right intentions, a prospective investor would also look at your accounting books and would believe it more than your mere words.
Prepare your annual P&L’s and audit your balance sheet from a competent CA. These best practices would make your company much more investor friendly apart from the usual ingredients of dedication & execution.
6. Cash is King but deal in Cheques: Another temptation we Indians tend to have is our relative propensity towards cash transactions. While this works in a kirana shop, it certainly should be a strict No-No for all your expenses and earnings. Your vendors may ask you to accept money in cash so that they avoid paying tax and you actually pay less.
While, this may seem tempting, don’t fall for this. Ask for proper bills and pay either in cheques or NEFT. Similarly, take all receivables also in the similar format. You are anyways occupied by your daily business challenges, so don’t complicate things here.
7. Have a Sheet Anchor, It helps: During your first year of starting up, world can be really cruel. Your family thinks you have gone nuts, your friends think you are a jackass. In these tough times, you have to be emotionally stable to work with full passion and purpose.
We all are humans and we need that little space on a small boat when we are fighting against rough tides. I had the fortune of having my then girlfriend (now my wife) and my parents as a support rock. If you don’t have, find one sheet anchor as you will need him/her during your start up days.
8. Use LinkedIn to get In: I had got my first set of customers through my connections on LinkedIn and I will forever be indebted to this network for helping me in my initial start up days. Now, when people connect me through LinkedIn asking for advise/mentorship, I don’t hesitate to help them.
9. Ego to Zero, Money is Honey: If you need some pertinent gyaan, it is this. Business is always done with folded hands howsoever big and famous you become. Since it is business, your love for money (in a positive way) should always be intact. This love will always help you to take good financial decisions and put profits at the centre.
You need oodles of passion, a gang of paagal people and a pure purpose to increase your probability of success in your venture. I can’t predict the result, but it would certainly make you a good human being above everything else. Amen!
[Note:If you want to share your insights as a guest author, simply drop us an email : email@example.com]
[Editorial Notes : NextBigWhat’s flagship event UnPluggd is sort of a magic. We bring some amazing speakers who inspire a whole lot of entrepreneurs to move beyond their comfort zone. One such entrepreneur, Laxman, cofouner of App Virality talks about his UnPluggd experience and importantly, wants to thank his guru, Aloke Bajpai of iXiGo. Beware : a bit of Bollywood drama ahead :)].
Exactly 2 yrs back (7th July, 2012) I attended my first Unpluggd, also my first ever startup conference. I was managing a blogging network in those days yet I had no idea about what are startups or entrepreneurship, though there was that bug in mind to do something on my own and couple of crappy ideas kept rekindling the fire within me again and again.
It all began when I came across this Unpluggd event somewhere on Facebook and thought of attending it. Initially, I was little hesitant to attend; with the inconvenience of travelling between Hyderabad and Bangalore and spending nearly Rs 2600 for the whole ordeal. With a heavy heart, I convinced myself to attend the event.
I remember seeing a very ordinary looking man with an extra-ordinary aura take the stage and then take us all by storm. Somehow, Aloke had influenced me like nobody else could ever have in this world. I could relate in entirety to his talk about how that fabled Entrepreneurial bug comes in mind, how it eats on the standing notions of security, frustrates us with our corporate jobs and makes us think about ideas while sitting in the loo (trust me, that place is a gold mine. I wonder what all inventions have borne out of that place).
After this great talk, I couldn’t sit in my seat. I was restless. The bug had eaten up my insides too fast. I was trembling, nervous, numb and tearing down walls of a fake stable life in my mind. With a herculean effort, I went all the way from the last of the back rows to the all-flashes front row, met Aloke, my prophet in guise of an entrepreneur, thanked him for the talk and asked him the one ghisa-pita silly question.
“Aloke, I am working in this so called great MNC and I do have an idea. I need a small advice. Should I resign my job or continue both simultaneously?”.
He gave a very diplomatic answer like any other well wisher, but left me with clues, pushing me to pursue my dreams if I really believe in them.
I denounced right away, “I am going to pursue my dream, and come back to launch my product at same Unpluggd stage” (sounds too Bollywoodish right, I guessed so).
This is what he posted on his Facebook after the event
We are those 2 guys ;) I added him on my Facebook and commented this.
LEARNING THINGS..THE HARD WAY:
We went back to Hyderabad, brimming with confidence and seeing opportunities everywhere. We did some philosophical brainstorming counter-weighing cozy comfort jobs with dreams and decided to take the plunge.
At this point, I must tell the reader something about my team. We are brothers. Yes, I mean literally – Ram & Laxman ;) Can you imagine a family where both sons resign their jobs at the same time to do some seriously random shit? (And no, we don’t have a brother called Bharat -_- )
A lot of emotional drama ensued. We somehow managed to get through all of that and started off executing our ideas one by one. Can you guess the result? We failed. Not once, not twice but continuously for 3 times (Meanwhile we built couple of small things and sold to balance our financials). Yes, we learned things hard way, but the bug bit us hard and we are still very proud of what we did.
THE EUREKA MOMENT:
No. I didn’t run naked in the streets of Hyderabad and no you don’t need to ruin your creative imagination with such imagery.
We finally figured our cup of tea i.e online advertising + mobile = App Virality; and lucky us, we got selected to Microsoft Accelerator and we felt safe for the first time after starting this journey.
We started building the MVP, created a crappy landing page on appvirality.com and started gathering leads(We got 250+ leads, some of them were very interesting). But, one fine morning, something epic happened. The following screenshot speaks for itself.
Yes, the person who has inspired us showed interest to know about our product launch. Don’t tell me that he still remembers me, followed me like a fan-boy and tracked us through all these 2 Years (I wish he did :P ).
In fact, 4 people from iXiGO registered on our landing page, ranging right from the CEO to the VP to Developers. On one hand, this clearly shows the startup culture they still follow at iXiGO and how open they are to try new things; on the other, I was already escalating higher with joy.
TODAY, AFTER 2 YEARS:
We were here…. launching App Virality on the same stage Aloke inspired two mad men…. Yes, we were at UnPluggd’14.
I am sorry for my unclear speech in the recording, maybe I choked on seeing the first bit of my dream come true or maybe scared after seeing a 500+ audience, ready to gnaw at my offering, in the auditorium.
PS – By the way Aloke doesn’t know all this, unless he comes and reads this article. This is a surprise for my Dronacharya. Happy Birthday, Boss!! (Yeah, I know I am being Bollywoodish ;)).
PPS – App Virality is a plug and play growth hacking toolkit for mobile apps, that helps you identify and implement the right growth hacks with no coding required.
[Adds NextBigWhat Team : Got such UnPluggd experience? Share with us! firstname.lastname@example.org).
Wondering, when is the next UnPluggd? We will soon announce the details!]
[Editorial Notes : Birds Fly, Fishes Swim and Cofounders Split. What really matters is how one handles the split. Here is a great piece of experience sharing* by Anubhav Jain, cofounder of StudyBud]
I’ll keep it straight. I started an Education venture with my batch mate from college 3 years back. We ran it with some success in the offline mode (50+ clients, 50,000+ students) but decided to switch online for scalability and growth. Honestly, he was not very confident about it, after spending 3 years and not being able to make it big (yeah, I mean money here). But he stuck around, mostly because I was (and am still) confident.
After spending 9 months in product development, and hiring a team of 3, he decided to call it quits in March this year. Since then, I have been trying to pull this off. Today, as I sail through, I thought penning down a few things I learnt one must not do during such phase to ensure smooth running.
Stick to ‘We’, no transition to ‘I’
Before the split, we were always ‘We’. Both of us discussed things during day and night. There were calls at 1 AM. We spoke to our team as ‘we’, met our clients as a team and addressed all our mails with a ‘We are XYZ’. Even after his exit, I continue to use ‘We’. Even when I am talking to my Business Development Team, there is no change.
The only thing that has changed is the way I communicate. Earlier, whenever we addressed our Sales Team, it used to be – “We (referring to my Co-Founder and myself) would love to see more aggression in our sales cycle from you”. Now it is slightly different – “We (referring to them and myself) have to make this work”. I realized I need them more than ever and without a team, well, you know what I am saying!
Don’t immediately start looking for a Co-Founder, Plug the Gaps
I was always the Product and Technology person and he was everything else. At the time of the split, I thought – “Whoa! He used to handle so many things – Sales, Meetings, Presentations, Financials and what not. How am I going to do all that? I need someone”.
But wait, spend some time with yourself. What I did is I took a break. In fact, I travelled to Sikkim for a week and said to myself – “I’ll figure out the most critical places where I feel the gaps”. I told my team before leaving – “Nothing changes for you, treat this as an opportunity to rise to another level. Handle things without us, as if this was your start-up. For a week, you are the Co-Founders”.
And when I came back, I carefully studied everything that happened when I was away. I put down to paper each number, under two columns, ‘Before’ and ‘After’. And then I listed the areas which had significant impact. I felt better. I knew exactly where I needed someone, the skill to look for.
Don’t hide the change from anyone, Clients or Customers
This is the toughest part. No doubt, he was more outgoing and known to my clients and customers. Everyone felt more comfortable interacting with him, including me. With him gone, I had to manage the change in all our interactions. But I knew that someday I had to make this public.
People always associate with people first, then with companies. Moreover, for an upcoming startup, Co-Founder exit could mean something terribly wrong with the company. But that was never the case with us. I decided to be open with everyone.
And it helped.
Of course, he is still with me, a very good friend, ready to help, ready to be a Mentor, a Guide. We have known each other for 8 years and share the same relationship till date, meet and talk regularly and celebrate the smallest success together.
Possibly, that’s why, I feel all the more confident.
[Note:If you want to share your insights as a guest author, simply drop us an email : email@example.com]