Posts Tagged 'starting up'

When Entrepreneurs Came A-Pitching

I recently sat through a couple of business plan pitches at PES School of Engineering, Bangalore, thanks to Nandini 🙂 (catch her here – forstartups). Some of the ideas I heard were very innovative and can compare against the best of breed any place in the world(execution still remains to be seen – but comparing idea to idea), while others, lacked the determination to convert a “very” feasible idea into a business. As the process unfolded, some aspects were extremely intriguing while others were very disturbing and I can’t help but write about them…so here goes.

1. Students when asked to look for ideas somehow refuse to look within themselves, their own experiences, their own pain points and even their own strengths in technology/marketing/writing skills. Instead, resorting to secondary sources to fetch ideas. When your baseline (the idea) lacks passion coming from somewhere deep within, it will be hard to sustain on an entrepreneur’s journey. We found that those few who either built on their strengths or perceived/real personal pain points were much stronger with their business pursuing plans

2. Students not looking beyond themselves sufficiently – now this may sound highly contradictory to what I just said above, but hear me out. When I said the above point I meant about the idea for which one needs exposure, which in turn can either happen due to chance or can be created. So, if only students realized that the real world is beyond the four walls of their home and institute and the “coffee” shop they hang out at, they would know where to go look for the experiences that in turn can help them create valuable businesses. Does this point make sense now vs the previous one?

3. No “real” world experience shows up in their operational plans – students need to go out and get as many internships as possible. It is not easy, I know, but just go and get the job or do some freelance work, create opportunities where you are creating something real and tangible and you will know the issues you face when creating/scaling operations. I’m not saying one should talk like a business tycoon, but no matter what you are not ready until you are and that “readiness” comes with field experience of some kind. The next best substitute would be to talk to a lot of working people in your interested domain/industry, but, secondary experience can only teach you so much

4. Students not leveraging technology enough – most ideas that we heard, the students had not thought through on how to leverage all the hi-tech around them to get a quick and dirty prototype up and running in minimal time, while at the same time giving them enough time to do a u-turn on the idea while the investments are still really low

5. They are still thinking about “doable”, “non-utlandish” ideas – all I have to say is guys – it is ok to do a doable, non-outlandish idea, but execution will be key. If you innovate, you have a chance to survive. Also, almost everyone can do a “doable” idea, the top 1% in this country should be creating disruptive innovations (market, business or technology) for the “real” needs that the country is facing

6. This brings me to the “last” and the “saddest” point – all the technology entrepreneurs – awesome ideas in the domain of Augumented Reality, e-waste management, electronic bike etc. – walked in alone, while all the “doable” idea guys walked in, in large groups. If we are to create a large entrepreneurial culture, we need to create innovation through products and services and we can’t afford our engineers and MBA grads to be shy of technology and true innovation related risks. Pull up your belts people, the wave will wash you over anyway, you can either surf it or chose to let it wash over you

I’d love to hear comments and thoughts around this and looking forward to more bplan pitches and lots of bubbling entrepreneurial energy creating interesting solutions and businesses from India.

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Does an Entrepreneur need prior work experience?

I was asked this question by Suhani who is with YourStory.in. While, she will publish an excerpt of my interview with her I could not stop my thought process from rumbling on and most of that does end up in this space…so here goes (my take, the unabridged version…). Hope it triggers a good discussion and thought process on this.

The truth is, if you are asking yourself this question, you probably do need the experience. On the other hand, the young somethings that go startup on their own don’t ask themselves this question, they are the “doers” who go get things done. Occassionally, they might reflect on the sub-optimal use of their time/efforts due to lack of “proper” training/experience, but largely, that wouldn’t deter them from pursuing their entrepreneurial dream.

Now, defering your dreams to go get some corporate experience under your belt is not bad, if you are not using that as a bait to go down the least effort path. Instead keep your eye on the end goal and keep working towards it, relentlessly. What do I mean by relentlessly? Be on the lookout for potential partners and employees who can help you achieve those entrepreneurial (Gosh! I think they made this word hard on purpose) dream, try and get relevant experience in terms of implementation, marketing, sales, technical exposure, management – anything related to your idea(s) that will help you understand the market better (enough to uncover pain points, at least!) or understand the execution aspects better or make you better at hiring people, give you better networks to rely upon once you are on your own etc. etc…

Can you be really taught entrepreneurship? Short answer is – Yes, if you were to go out and build something on your own, you might end up hours trying to figure something out that with a good training might be a cakewalk. However, Do you need prior experience before taking the plunge? Hell, No! Look at what the young entrepreneurs of the world ranging from Gates, Jobs, Yang/Filo, Bezos, Dell, Brin/Page, Zuckerberg etc. etc. have achieved. While, it might teach you how worthwhile your cause is and how underutilized you are in your job at spur you towards taking the plunge, for others it might build a comfort zone or a cushion beyond which their dreams might cease to exist.  In fact, they might even get loaded with the “large corporate” baggage so much so that they when it comes to it, they can’t operate in a startup anymore!

So, the question remains – is MBA an answer, then? Can one learn to become an entrepreneur at an MBA school. My take on that is – No. As much as a manager needs to grasp a lot of theory to get on top of the world’s learnings on management, each company, each entrepreneur is different, how they learn and what they want to learn is different. No standard school curriculum can teach you that. At best, it can help you with resources, mentorship and networks (which is great, by the way and still rare to get all the three together in one place at the same time). So, what do you do? The only way you can learn entrepreneurship is by doing it and if you can attempt it on your own through your own networks and building your own safety net, great! Else, incubators are the place to be for you…

All the best and hope it helped answer the questions of at least some of you and do ping with your share of stories…looking forward to hearing from all of you!


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