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With the recent hype around entrepreneurship in emerging markets, for the first time many people are actually thinking of taking the leap and founding their own business. But what are some of the problems they will run into on the way?
Here are a few pointers gained from my own experience and from the entrepreneurs that I have had the privilege of interacting with.
You want me to discuss my business idea? Ok. First sign this NDA.
No successful entrepreneur ever said this to anyone ever. This is probably the stupidest idea the entrepreneurs-to-be have, and one which I have seen way too many instances of. Let me break it to you: an idea is worth nothing. Nada, zilch, zero. You would be silly to assume that on a planet with 6-billion plus people, you are the only one who could have come up with that particular idea.
Guess what? While you’re busy shoving non-disclosure agreements and clauses into the faces of all the people who want to help you, someone somewhere is building and executing that plan. So, please, talk to someone. Attend a meet up. Discuss it with friends. Take some feedback. Stop being obnoxious. Remember, 99% of people out there want to help you.
The co-founder conundrum
Ok. This one is tough. Finding the perfect co-founder is almost like finding the perfect life partner. Going at it alone can be a serious detriment to your business and personal life, because you will end up juggling so many things that the most important things – product, sales, marketing, etc, might take a back seat if they’re not your strong point. And a co-founder who leaves you midway can cause a serious setback to your business prospects.
Co-founder mistakes include the following: not having one, having the wrong one, delegating responsibilities unequally, or when there are too many people in your company with the title “co-founder”.
Working on too many features or ideas at a time
Many of us have heard the buzzword ‘MVP’ (minimal viable product). Propagated by Eric Ries in his book The Lean Startup, this idea suggests that instead of worrying about the bells and whistles, entrepreneurs should build a ‘barely-functional product’, something that is the core idea and fits the exact use-case in the creator’s mind.
What you do next is keep iterating based on the feedback you receive about your Beta version from actual users or your customer base. This ensures that the assumptions you started with while building the product are either proven, in which case you take it further and now work on the peripherals, or disproven, in which case you work on the feedback to pivot to something more useful.
So, at the end of the day it can’t be the case that you’ve worked on building a complete product for 9 months and end up finding out, once you release, that there is no actual need for it.
If I build it, they’ll come to buy my stuff
Otherwise known as ignoring sales and marketing. In the first 3-4 months, building the product should definitely be the priority. But, beyond that, selling should be left, right and centre in your business strategy. No one cares about your idea or product, however, ‘revolutionary’ or ‘disruptive’ you might think it is, unless you go tell them about it and make them care. And remember, sales and marketing is just good storytelling.
If I build it, they’ll come to fund my business
Not unless you show significant traction. And, never ever underestimate the power of cash flow. When starting out, many people think cash will be the least of their problems. But, and especially for product companies, cash flow is the king.
There is nothing better than bootstrapping and making your business work. But, if you can start making money fast, it’ll take care of many other problems.
Hiring too quickly, firing too slowly
Building the right team is a very vital part of the puzzle that is a startup. One must hire for skills, tenacity, personality and a thirst for accelerated learning rather than for any specific degree or experience. Hiring should be slow and deliberate rather than forced. And, the minute someone starts being detrimental to the company culture or goes against what you’re striving to achieve, it may be time to sit them down for a serious chat or, in some cases, for them to go.
This article by entrepreneur and Gyan Lab co-founder Abhash Kumar originally appeared on Trak.in, a Burn Media publishing partner.