Sachin Gupta, co-founder of HackerEarth, is a hard core programmer with a deep passion for entrepreneurship and a dream to build a global product based company out of India. HackerEarth is a hiring platform to uncover great programmers, with an aim to bring real world programming at the center of the tech hiring process. Running into the 4th week of the accelerator program GSF, he takes us through change of thought process from a geeky programmer to a budding entrepreneur.
First of all let me set things straight. Having been a programmer for what seems to be forever, I have a deep passion for coding and building things. Also I am a firm believer of the philosophy "Show things happening even before you talk about them". So naturally, like you, I held contempt for the terms like Business Strategy, Customer Acquisition, Product Management and Roadmap, Marketing and Publicity and so on.
For me all these functions, in one form or the other could be broken down to coding. Build a great product, if people see value in your product then they will use it, else they will not. So where does the Business Strategy come in. Build everything you can, when users use it, keep what they like and throw the rest, so who needs Product Management and Roadmap (please don't even think of doing that) . Customer Acquisition, hmmm.. isn't that about building an awesome product that your user's like? If they like it, you have acquired them and these would then get more users for you.
And lastly Marketing and Publicity, we programmers tend to have a special disregard for this, being very passionate about what we do, we tend to feel, "I am doing great work, I don't need to go about sending this link to everyone out there. If people like it they will find it."
However in the last 15 days, ever since we got accepted in the GSF Accelerator program, I have come to realize, that building a business is actually much more than building a product. It’s safe to assume what I have written above to be true, when you are sitting somewhere snuggled in the comforts of your familiar college dorm rooms, but it’s a different ball game altogether when you are out there creating a business, establishing an organization.
Going through some grilling workshops from some of the best in the fields as part of the GSF accelerator, we have come to understand the product maybe the heart of your business, there is nothing if there's not a good product, but can you survive only with a heart? These other functions may not be as critical as your product, but believe me all of them need to be perfectly working in order for you to get past each day. By the virtue of the fact that you are building a startup, accept that odds are heavily stacked against you and you need to do everything right in order to succeed, you just can't afford to neglect even one of them.
When building a startup, you absolutely need to have a business strategy. From the very first day you need to know what, who and how - what is that I am building, who is it I am building for and how will I get them to pay for it. You don't just sit there, build a kick ass product and wait for people to come to you, NO even before you write a line of code you need to know who will be your first 100 users and exactly how you will get them to adopt your product. And you need to know this to the finest of execution detail.
Being in a startup you are perennially short of one thing, and that is TIME. You just don't set out to build everything, you need to start small and start smart. You need to identify what is that one thing that's absolutely must have, prototype it, test it, build it, acquire customers for it and then go about building the rest. There is no other bigger mistake that you can do than over doing in your first release.
And lastly Marketing and Publicity! Programmer or not, you ABSOLUTELY need to do that. You need to go out there and scream at the top of the lungs to tell people what you are doing. You need to share your vision, you need them to believe in you, you need them to speak about you, you need to network, you need to build relationship. You need to sell your product, your team and yourself, every single moment of the day. Because even before people buy your product they will buy your vision, they will buy you.
I am still a programmer to the core of my heart and will always be, but I am learning how to build a business and learning how it's not only about Code!
GSF is now selecting promising start-ups to present at the GSF 2012 Forum in Gurgaon on Nov 26-27. With over 300 investors slated to attend, this event is one of the largest of its kind in India. Find out more at gsfindia.com.