Successful entrepreneurs often find a logical transition to becoming an investor or mentor to young startups. South African born and Singapore-based John Fearon, founder of Dropmysite.com, has managed to find a great balance between entrepreneurship, mentorship and investments.
John, who was at the panel discussion of the Mumbai TechSparks 2012, has spent his professional years in internet marketing and e-commerce, providing consulting and services in the travel and entertainment sectors, including for Hilton Hotels UK. He then worked with global bank HSBC Offshore as Head of Online Marketing before moving on to Asiarooms.com, an online booking portal, as Head of Marketing.
John's nest of startups include EatAds, Dropmysite, ApexPEAK and HelpLearn.Asia. Their common thread - a large workspace that they share and John himself, who takes turn playing investor, mentor and management at each of them.
Here is a quick snippet of the portfolio companies and how the respective teams came alive.
Some key learnings from this serial entrepreneur turned incubator turned investor who has managed to keep entrepreneurship close to his heart.
The startup instinct
The first instinct must be to see how to you can contribute to the business. Other important factors include, checking it’s potential, scalability and uniqueness of the idea. If you are a ‘me too’, bringing together a great team can be the game changer for the business. Lastly, John says, “the urge to create cool things is very important”.
Being an entrepreneur
John often starts up and hands over operations to a CEO. How do you identify an entrepreneur who can run your startup? “The way you look at money is important”, he says. Sure enough, business needs to generate income, and when it does not, it affects decisions you make and you land up making all the wrong choices. But being short sighted about money is not the solution. You need to make money, but for the business, which will yield itself as personal benefits, over time.
Read more about why do people become entrepreneurs here.
Working as a mentor and investor
Among the portfolio companies, the only company John represents is Dropmysite. “With others, I work more like an in investor and mentor”, he says, advising them on everything from how to raise money, to giving guidance on operations, helping develop the idea and gaining traction. The startups are all expected to deal with their own administration needs. “You have to do your own accounts”, he smiles.
Did you know YourStory.in has a partnership with IBM’s Global Entrepreneur which is designed to help startups build business and to provide support and resources in the areas which the startups need the most. To be part of IBM’s exclusive Mentor Day program, click here.
Don’t get carried away with Business plans
“A business plan is only that - a plan, it’s not the reality”, he says. Make every decision on it’s own merit, not based on yearly plan. It’s good to have a structure, but you can't get indulgent with it.
Read more about writing a business plans and top ten mistakes to avoid here.
Unlike most incubators, John does not follow the traditional incubation/acceleration format. “Starting from nothing is super hard - when you are building something out of thin air, you stumble at every step, merely 3 months of hand holding is not good enough”, he says. The common workspace helps the team share resources and know more about other kinds of businesses. “Of course it is important that the teams get along, and since they have different products, and they cater to different markets, there is no clash”, he says.
Singapore is a great place to do all of this
Singapore is a hub for digital marketing. It is a great place to raise money, hire a diverse team, and it is comparatively easier to get a work visa. Time zone is another important factor, if you are aiming for APAC markets, it makes sense to be here.
The whys and hows of starting up in Singapore can be found here.
After several failed attempts to startup, John founded Dropmysite in 2011 which has since gone on to acquire Orbitfiles and more recently, secured investment from 500 Startups (Read more about Dropmysite story here). John has also recently added to his portfolio ‘MyDoorHandle’, a marketplace to find people, businesses and places – all with just a 'handle' that points to an exact latitude and longitude.