Posts Tagged 'entrepreneur'

The Startup Vision

It is a typical startup scenario. Start with big dreams of that product/service/solution that will make everything else everyone has done so far in the space seem irrelevant (ok I’m kind of exaggerating…but lets face it that’s who entrepreneurs are, that’s how we are wired). But of course, this cannot happen without “customers” who pay. So, willingly/unwillingly the founders begin their journey of customer discovery.

What happens next is chaos. Whether enough thought was put into the process of customer discovery, segmentation and business model or not – accounting for everything you hear, assimilating the information so that it makes sense (without biasing it with your own wishes and wants) and then coming up with a close to accurate sense of what the customer wants (whether they know it already or not, whether they acknowledge it already or not) is not an easy task. Here is where the vision actually plays a crucial role. It cannot (and mostly should not) keep changing with a few naysayers day in and day out and it helps define the very crucial strategy of what to do by clearly stating who you are/want to be and who you are not/don’t want to be. (If you think by saying who you are, who you are not is obvious to your stakeholders, think again. It really helps to articulate it clearly so that everybody in the team and outside is on the same page.)

Every piece of evidence you look at, prospective customer input you look at should be through the eyes of this “Hypothesis”, this Vision, and see if it stands the test. If and only if, it does not stand the test and there is overwhelming evidence from your “desired” customer segment that this is not something that will work, then one needs to go back to the drawing board before taking any steps further or start pushing your own vision down the customer’s throats. Mind you, you can always find a few “polite ones” or “overawed ones” to bowl over – but it is in the lack of scale that you will eventually get stumped!
What is important is this:
1. Each and every member of the team should be on the same page as to the “vision” of the company (and no – this is not some PR/marketing ho-ha, it has to be what you want to be known for when you grow up, so it requires an effort to put together)
2. When you meet the customer, set the right expectations as to why you are there (not to SELL) and get prepared to LISTEN (really and literally with your ears open and not through the filter of your hopes, dreams and biases) – trust me, the more you have been in the system and the more of a slick sales person you are, the more difficult this is for you to do! So, check your biases and tendencies at the customer’s door and tread carefully in.
3. Document the inputs received. Collaborate and discuss with each other on what happened while taking a realistic view against the initial “hypothesis” and vision that was set for the company to check how things are holding up – this can be done for a set of every 5-10 solid customer meetings.
4. Be willing to pivot, if required.
A lot of thought and interesting discussions about this topic are present – my favorites are the book  “The four steps to the epiphany” and the ever insightful Steve Blank‘s blog – you should check them out!
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The “artificial” entrepreneur

The question is can entrepreneurship be taught or is one born with the skill? There have been endless debates on this topic and one of my favorite discussions is here (you can follow the leads of different people mentioned in the discussion for more dope!)

My husband and I were having a discussion on this the other day. For me the answer is pretty obvious. One can have a lot of talent but skills are a combination of practice and opportunity. Ok, so I’m going on and on about my side and he sticks vehemently to his point that you are either born one or not!

So, I gave him a simple example to kind of drive the point home.  So here goes, I said imagine if in 6th grade instead of your arts/crafts class or any other class that you would have preferred to drop the school had given you an assignment to set up a lemonade booth and sell lemonade (you can substitute that for paav bhaji or pani puri, if you like) – what would you have learnt from the experience?
Imagine that in the next grade, you were asked to design and maintain a “cake stall” (slightly more complicated in operation and need for preparatory skill) and then in the next grade a restaurant and next, a chain of restaurants and for the final board examination, you had to submit a proposal and working plan for a “dream” company that you wanted to form and how you would get there?
Of course, you would have done most of it in a group, it would have been for a short while and the money could have been donated towards some benefit work. But still, imagine all that you would have learnt along the way in those years and how much insight it would have given you about yourself and about people around you. Imagine what it would have taught you about looking at opportunities in life, learning from mistakes, yet going on! Imagine how much it would have helped you understand how to dream and design to make them come true. It does not matter that in a few years/months your dream has changed or that you wanted to be something/someone different, what really matters is that you had a chance to understand it way earlier in life and that when you had the courage to execute it – you had the right mindset, attitude, tools and experience to go make it happen!
What say people, we need to encourage entrepreneurship being taught in schools – not as a subject as a practice itself?
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Why Indian VCs should blog actively?

As I was planning to attend the Tie-ISB Connect this year, I decided to look up the various panelists online to understand who I would be meeting. I found most of them on LinkedIn, great! But, I found that most of them did not blog. I think it is a loss to the Indian startup community and probably, to the VC community too! Here’s why I think so…

1. VC-thinking process – way before an entrepreneur starts to create pitch-decks, they are looking at who to pitch, how to pitch, what is the right etiquette and more often than not, who is interested in the same domain as where they are starting up. Basically, they are looking for the “inside scoop” on what VCs think is a good pitch and what kind of team composition is apporpriate and so on…The VC websites only show up the “finished goods” – someone here got $$$ and someone there got more $$$ as funding. How, what, where and more importantly, why not – are good insights can more easily be shared on personal blogs (to whatever extent possible!)

2. Know-thy-VC – This is an oft-repeated theme at most startup meets and what better medium than the blog to get to know someone before you commit to take the funding? I’m assuming not everyone has a direct face to face access to the VCs while mulling their startup venture. (Also, reading a blog is not a substitute to reaching out, networking and knowing someone in person, it is just a first step) Over time, you can get to know what they are thinking, why and how they make their decisions. This will be a wealth of information for the startups at one end, and on the other might act as a self-filtration mechanism based on who has or not done their homework during the process of reaching up to the VC!

3. Moving beyond the one-session intervention – A blog will extend the touch points of the VC for the wannabe entrepreneur community from the  “one-session” panel discussion or the hosted networking event to a stream of thoughts, active conversations via comments and rating systems. This will encourage more people to startup as it will begin a process of demystifying startup and investment process.

So, this post is a special shout out to the Indian VCs who already blog – Thank You, and to those who don’t, to start a “blog habit” and enrich us with their thoughts and insights.

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