A guideline to better prepare the journey of a promising idea.
April 12, 2017
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” ~ Mark Twain
It is those who pause and reflect, who gain a unique vantage point to gauge the problems around them in day-to-day life. Most ideas emerge from petty conversations, and quickly die down the moment the last sip of tea is through. Very few go on to build on those ideas and look forward to implement them. Most solutions lie in the problems themselves, all we need is a perspective.
For eg. our local kirana stores are quite efficient at doing home-deliveries, but they only deliver out of the inventory in hand. What about ordering from an open inventory, and getting all of it delivered to your doorstep irrespective of the grocery store in vicinity? Voila! Grofers, they get it.
With internet penetration improving each day and access to collaboration tools like Skype on the rise, it is possible, today, to build lean businesses right from the comfort of college hostels. Oh, yes!
We all have original ideas, but to make ‘that’ one idea work on the ground, one must be mindful of the to-do’s; for its lack of proper guidance which leads to most failures. A few of them are:
A team that eats together does not necessarily work together
Not always those we ideate with on a business proposition are suitable to take it forward with in the long run. A team wherein each member brings forth a unique skill-set is paramount to the eventual success of most ventures. They must complement each other as much as be open to criticism when the opportunity arises. Also, having a mentor, a legal counsel and an accountant are a must to get in grips with reality.
Every documented word should be legally binding and every crunched number should make economic sense, with a mentor to oversee.
How is your idea different from mine, and everyone else’s?
It’s one thing to firmly believe that the search engine I’ll code will be the most intuitive one yet, but it is also important to understand if a new search engine is what the market really needs?
Google it! The same problem, unless looked in a different manner, will lead to a sure shot failure.
Understanding the market need first, keeping our egos aside second, and acclimatizing our idea to the prevalent gaps is the key to deliver a solution which no one has yet found, to make the right impact.
What’s in a name?
Nothing. And everything.
We tend to ignore naming the brand right, often sticking to <Insert Any Name> Pvt. Ltd.
Our name says a lot about both the product and our business ethos. Also, getting an impressive logo/design always helps get the first impression going. More so in case of tech-driven firms - right from the website to the app - don’t we all love how sleek the Amazon logo really is?
Build or Rent?
Another classic conundrum faced by most budding entrepreneurs is to keep the fixed costs down. Why build, when you can rent? Buying flats, cars or even servers is a now passe' for the emerging middle class.
The millennials are well adept at projecting the time value of money, and all their major buying decisions are driven by the same. For eg. it is not uncommon these days to see newly weds shun investing in a swanky car, but continue relying on taxi aggregators for all their travel needs.
Similarly, new businesses must leverage from the available inventory as much as possible.
‘Uber doesn’t own a car, AirBnb didn’t build a property’, being the oft used cliché here.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t control it
Wise men have taught for years together to dream big but start small; in other words, prototype.
Before planning an investment to scale-up, one must do a prototype for reasons galore. Right from early interaction with the market, to fine-tuning the product workflows, to validating the assumptions made at the conceptualization stage, to make the idea idiot-proof; a proof of concept is required no matter how many businesses are running around a similar concept.
Fail early and fail fast
Ask any successful entrepreneur, they swear by one quote, ‘nothing succeeds like good failure’.
We all love our ideas and believe it is this idea alone which can change the world. But to our utter dismay and surprise, more often than not, that’s not the case. It is vital to learn from failures at the prototyping stage when the investments are still being made from our long lost piggy-banks.
The sooner we fail, and the earlier we fine-tune our ideas/products based on the prototype feedback, more the chances of stumbling upon that missing gap we first started out looking for.
Don’t sell what you won’t buy
It is commonplace to see budding entrepreneurs run from pillar-to-post asking around VC's to invest in their idea; or to be more precise - their spreadsheet and their powerpoint deck.
For an outsider to invest in an idea, zeal and confidence of the founders should be supplemented along with the prototype results (justifying the business need and viability). There is no harm if personal equity alone can’t scale-up the business, there are far and many VC’s to assist with that. But, without any equity whatsoever, no investor resonates in a positive manner. Why invest in a venture we ourselves won't?
Co-create and Network
Gone are the days when businesses thrived in silo; today each business has a genuine opportunity to learn and leverage from the other. Hiring an auto evolved to hopping onto radio cabs thanks to the multitude of taxi aggregators around. If you thought that’s where the story ended, wait a minute. There are apps which now assist you decide which of the taxi aggregator will get you the cheapest and the earliest cab based on your query. The key here is to co-create and collaborate.
Forging honest relationships and networking with those active in the ecosystem around us is vital in the long run. One never knows who doubles up as an angel investor post the work hours!
Be on time, every time
Nothing wards off customers from collaborating with a start-up more than missed timelines. While it is important to bag projects to keep the revenue drivers churning, it is doubly important to accept only what we can assimilate. There’s is no harm in passing along extra work to those in our network - this helps build goodwill with both the customer as well as a budding competitors.
As long as the outcome is of desirable quality and delivered on time, work will flow. A quality product delivered behind schedule sends out wrong message in the early stages of any brand.
Exit, and come back stronger
If nothing works, don the humble hat and take an exit. Ensure all legal obligations and documentations are duly met before taking the final call. Every penny spent on building on an idea is worth its weight in gold, and one should ideally set an inflection point beyond which spending needs to stop.
It is far easier to make a smart exit and re-enter the when the opportune time arrives vis-a-vis continue pouring hard-earned personal/investor capital to satiate our egos.
Like Roosevelt once famously said:
‘Small minds discuss people, Average minds discuss events, Great minds discuss ideas’.
Let’s just say, it’s the brave one’ who work on those ideas & eventually decide to start a Start-up!