Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Is there really a way of failure-proofing something as a startup?

Corporates today are not worried about what the other corporates are doing. They are instead worried about what startups are building in garages and hence, after trying to do everything to keep up with their pace, are now funding them.

In the highly interactive session, Stressed on what startups should focus on and where they are going wrong.

Customer co-creation

“Instead of focusing solely on the product, startups should think about doing other fundamental things right from the idea stage. This can be summarised in six points, namely co-creation, pricing relevance, ease of use, market acceptance, identifying customer needs, and tech-friendliness.”

Startups know what they are building and desperately want to sell it but what they need to know before anything else is why they made it. Believing in why you did what you did is pivotal.

Products have rationales and customers have emotions; tap that! If you think rationally in business, you will have a hundred people doing the same thing, but if you capitalise on emotion, you will be different.

If you are building a startup, there are certain questions which you need to ask yourself. They include:

* What need are you addressing?
* Are you satisfying a REAL need?
* Is your product impacting the lives of your customers?
* What is your competition doing?

You cannot stop working, Every day is a new day.

Investor Co-creation

Most startups toil for years together, build a product, and then begin hunting for investors. This is a flawed method.

“You know how important an investor is to your startup. So, why wait for him? Involve investors from the idea stage so they know what you are doing from the start. People like to do business with who they are familiar with. Also, interacting with investors from the start gives you a lot of additional insight on what’s happening in the ecosystem and lets you understand what exactly they are looking for.

Traction: This is not about how much you have made but how much you are likely to make.

Mentor creation: People who can bridge the gap between customers and investors with their experience.

Their own passion is important, but obsession is not. Understand, if it has to be a commercial enterprise, it has to solve the problem of customers.

But what after a successful launch and a few great years of operations? How does a startup continually do well?

It’s not about getting it right at once. As long as people keep evolving, you cannot stop working. Every day is a new day.

While we are all aiming at achieving success and avoiding failure, They are both results that are not under our control. However, what we can control is our actions, and the more the precision with which we carry them out, the further we go in avoiding failure.

Disclaimer: - Following article come from YourStory

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Startups, guide your way to cloud.

Isn’t this such an exciting time, when so much is happening in the startup arena? Technology-based startups bet on their ideas and work towards giving life to their dreams over a period. Ideas which are given shape via technology and placed on the tarmac as a pilot roll-out are tested for their relevance and acceptance from the consumers and businesses. This is where the idea of a public cloud comes across as a boon for tech startups that are either testing the waters with their beta products or productionising their solutions. A public cloud offers unprecedented compute and is the perfect platform for startups to take off. It is just not about compute boxes but capitalising on unique offerings that matter the most to them from a solution standpoint.

At the time when these pilots are rolled out (with ‘beta’ or ‘trial run’ tags), there is no sense of scale or directional indicators on compute capacity. Some may invest in market studies leading up to forming an opinion on the way forward, but at best they are ballpark and based on one’s awareness of the domain. Often, the question is about the pilot creation, where the pilot travels a certain distance, but is now being challenged for it longevity while the business leaps to garner bigger deals. This is the time and phase where startups go back to the drawing board, to assess how they can stand up to the upside they are witnessing on their businesses.

Getting access to public cloud is comparable to getting access to a theme park with unlimited rides. But it all depends on how they are utilised and perceptions are formed on the basis of ones’ tryst with specific rides.  Startups look for quick ways to deploy and get their solutions/services up and running. This article presents some of the field learnings from a technology standpoint in the form of recommended practices startups should keep in mind when they begin their journey in the cloud.

* Adapt a universal component designThis is one area architects and designers need to think through. A typical approach taken by a startup is not get tied to a specific platform. Depending on factors indicated under #4 (‘Cloud credit management and cost optimisation’) below, you tend to move your workloads from one cloud platform to another. Migrations or move-overs are not easy and come with certain costs (time and effort). At times, having used native services on specific cloud platforms might make the movement harder. If you have taken a stance not to use platform native capabilities, it might work in your favour during migrations, but at the cost of not capitalising on the power of cloud beyond pure boxes (hosting workloads in VMs).

This is where the need to make your workloads universal comes in handy. What does ‘universal’ mean in this context? It is about realising the core capability (main business function) by way of using certain peripheral native services (storage, integration, and data services) to complement the core functionality. When you take this approach, the core remains independent of a cloud platform and it can only be called complete by leveraging peripheral services. So when you move from one cloud platform to another, you take the core, which is at the heart of your solution, and wire it up with required peripheral (managed) services. This is true heterogeneity in the context of public cloud. In hindsight, it is also important to establish basic know-how of at least two cloud platforms to realise this model.

DayDream Makes Your Mind's Workout, So Dream And Come To Success

Time to market — building vs buying (adopt managed services)

At times, it is fashionable to say that we have built it all in-house instead of using any readily available solutions. While it is important to demonstrate technical prowess leading to intellectual property creation, you have to balance it to address ‘time to market’ (TTM). TTM is very important for tech startups in view of competition and this is where ‘Managed Services’ or ‘PaaS’ comes in handy. Why waste time when someone has already done it the hard way? You are better off using it and moving on with stuff which is far more important to your business than going the route of reinventing the wheel.

Don’t get bogged down and stay on the trail of demonstrating technical prowess, but demonstrate agility by using proven frameworks and softwares that are out there. PaaS offering lays out services which can be readily consumed. Hence, if you are grappling with multiple ideas, you are better off realising them sooner in your efforts to test the waters.


This is the most talked about but less adopted stream in the startup world. A sense of urgency is at the centre of any startup and an essential ingredient for them to compete. Down the line, you may realise the aspect of disciplined approach to execution, and the lack of it in your effort to release something quickly. As your business grows, you will realise that TTM is increasing and you lack agility in the process followed. This is where the need for DevOps is felt and an essential ingredient in the overall SDLC. The sooner startups bring in this culture, the better would be their road ahead when it comes to scaling their systems and being responsive to business demands.

Cloud credit management and cost optimisation

Major public cloud vendors provide usage credits to help startups jumpstart. It may last for a while, and is considered a major cost saver in the startup world. However, one should be mindful of the fact that these credits have an expiry and at some point, they must shift this cost into their routine burn rate. One crucial recommendation for startups here is to leverage these credits and invest in experimentation. You have to invest time to explore ways and means to scale, secure, grow, and instil value into your overall offerings.

In addition, the experimentation should also lead you into discovering the most cost-effective way to run your solution. This is critical to address the reality when credits run out and you have to pay from your pocket, because you are assured that you have the most economical solution in place.

* Minimise tech breakdowns

 Cloud provides more than one solution to a problem. Hence choose the one that justifies the cost as well as meets your performance requirement. Be it B2B or B2C, your differentiator may eventually be ‘availability’ and ‘responsiveness’. Hence it is important to build your system considering they would fail. Transient failures are evident and ensure you know the failover or recovery path in times of crisis. Your systems should carry the tag of ‘fail safe’, since factors like ‘availability’ and ‘responsiveness’ have a direct impact on the perception your users will have of your product and the reputation.

Cloud is evolving and so should startups. Cloud platform vendors are offering innovative solutions and a great amount of effort is going into democratising the software for application developers. Startups face a plethora of challenges and have to ensure the boat sails with certain stability. Based on my observation of the field, startups need to give thought to the above described areas. It is always desirable to do it right the first time, though learning from failures gives great insights on the way to success.

Disclaimer: - Following article come from YOURSTORY

Monday, September 19, 2016

How Entrepreneurs Made A Comeback After Business Failure.

Sydney entrepreneur Laura Moore came back from disaster to launch a successful health coaching business.
Running a small business can be one of the biggest, and most rewarding, challenges you can take on.

Imagine then, pouring your heart, time and life savings into developing, launching and growing your business, only to watch it either come close to failure, or worse, go under.

How do you make it back from there?

That was the question facing Sydney entrepreneur Laura Moore, who lost her life's savings when the gym franchise she poured $400,000 into burned down last year.

She was only eight months into a five-year franchise commitment when she saw her dreams literally go up in smoke.

"The flames went up into the vents and ripped into the gym taking the entire building down," she told.

"I actually stood and watched as the roof collapsed and the building fell into the street."

She tried to salvage the business by operating out of a nearby gym, but soon realised that was not financially viable, and faced a seven-month battle to settle her franchise agreement.

But financial dramas were secondary to the toll the incident would take on her health.

A Failed Business Doesn't Mean Personal Failure

"I put on weight, was experiencing extreme fatigue, constant bloating and poor digestion, brain fog and erratic moods, which was seriously affecting my performance both personally and professionally," she said.

"To the world, it was business as usual, but behind closed doors I was battling with trying to exit the franchise, constantly worrying about my team and clients and how I could ensure they were impacted as minimally as possible, and struggling daily with my health. I now realise there was still a big part of me that felt like a failure."

Moore said she now uses what she learned during that dark time to help others through her new performance and health coaching business, Uppy.

"I learned how to manage and overcome the thoughts and behaviours that had led me to that point in the first place -- perfectionism, unrelenting standards, self-sabotage, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, procrastination, over-working," she said.

"I've always wanted to run my own business and this setback wasn't enough to kill that dream.

"The fire was kind of a blessing because it allowed me to get amazing insight very early on into my business career, so I now know the key areas I need to improve on (or delegate!) in order to make my new and future businesses run efficiently and successfully, and in a way that serves me personally too.

"I'm sick of seeing people struggle because they've been misinformed or they don't know there's another way, so I created Uppy as I believe everyone has a right to the knowledge and support that can help them live more."

Even experienced entrepreneurs can face failure. Entrepreneur Pawl Cubbin had to completely re-think his marketing plan when his Canberra nightclub started to flounder

Pawl Cubbin, serial entrepreneur and founder of advertising agency ZOO Group, also faced the burn of a failing business 12 years ago when the shine wore off his Canberra nightclub Academy 11 months after opening.

"It was a massive endeavour to get it going: Canberra's not a big place and we opened this nightclub in an underground cinema," he told HuffPost Australia.

"It had heaps of atmosphere and the novelty value was big, so it went well for the best part of 12 months -- everybody came and it was a big deal. We killed it.

"But after 12 months the novelty wore off; everybody had been multiple times and even though it was unique in Canberra, it was reduced to a certain demographic and that wasn't enough to sustain it."

Cubbin said the business floundered for three months before he could come up with a plan to save it.

"It was an expensive project ... we'd invested too much to close it," he said.

"It did too well too initially for us to close it. You've got to identify what you're doing wrong -- you've got to take some blame.

"One of the guys I worked with said 'I think this is the demographic we want, let's put that out there and promote that' and we did. And it was the right thing at the right time, so we were lucky."

Disclaimer: - Following article come from THP

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Richest Entrepreneur Under 40 in Hurun's India Rich List for 2016.

BENGALURU: Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma's wealth surged by 162% in the past one year, making him the richest entrepreneur under 40 in Hurun's India rich list for 2016.
Sharma is worth about Rs 7,300 crore, up from Rs 2,824 crore a year earlier. The rise in wealth can be attributed to Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba investment in the company and subsequent funding rounds that have raised Paytm valuation. Sharma holds about 21% stake in the company.

The Key To Success Is Not To Think, It's To Do

After Sharma, Indigo co-founder Rakesh Gangawal has seen the biggest increase in wealth of more than 150%. His wealth stood at Rs 15,900 crore, thanks to the share price performance of the airline post its IPO last year. 

Anas Rahman Junaid, MDIndia of Hurun Report, a monthly magazine that focuses on high net-worth individuals in China and India, said subdued investor interest in e-commerce and online businesses had reduced valuations of e commerce unicorns in 2016. Several mutual funds with holdings in Flipkart have lowered the valuations of those stakes in the past few months 

Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola, the youngest in the list at 30, is worth Rs 3,000 crore, up from Rs 2,385 crore in last year's list. His co-founder Ankit Bhati is no longer in the list, which looks at those with wealth of Rs 1,600 crore and more. Last year, Bhati's wealth was exactly the same as Aggarwal's. Hurun's Junaid said Bhati does not have as much stake as Aggarwal does at present.

Disclaimer: - Following article come from ET

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Business on a Budget: 5 Money Saving Tips for Every Startup Entrepreneur.

The failure rate of startup businesses is not news to anyone in the world of entrepreneurship. And it's equally sad to know that if you sift through the carcasses of these dead businesses, you will definitely find startups that were founded on great business ideas.

You may wonder why businesses built on brilliant ideas still fail. The answer is usually fairly simple. Having an idea for a business and having an idea about how to run a business are two entirely different things. The reason most startups fail centers around two things -- management skill and financial skill. A dearth of any of these two can kill your business.

I want to focus on the latter reason, financial skill. Let's say your capital base is robust enough to deal with all your business expenses. If you do not know how to be disciplined and frugal with spending, the amount of money you have in your business’s kitty will not do you any good.

If you are a startup entrepreneur, here are a few tips to help ensure that you maintain your capital base, and enhance your profit margins as soon as possible.

1. Postpone personnel rewards.
Starting and running a business is already a herculean task on its own. Think of how much worse things will be if you start dolling out exorbitant amounts of money on unnecessary employment benefits and expensive salaries. You can avoid depleting your capital by avoiding these practices. Set your employee salaries reasonably and augment it with performance bonuses.

Doing Common Thing Uncommonly Well Brings Success.

If you must have employee benefits, limit them to only those that are critical to motivating employees to achieving the set goals and objectives. Beyond helping you save money by breaking even and turning profit sooner, this practice will help you develop a culture of frugal and disciplined spending in your business.

2. Keep personal and business finances separate.
You are the founder of your business. This implies that you own the business. The problem comes up when you mistake this to mean that you are the business. No  successful business can be run with such a mindset.

Always keep your personal and your business finances separate. Money made from the business is for the purpose of maintaining and growing the business. If you do not separate these two, you will soon find yourself dipping your hands into the business’ coffers for reasons that are only of personal benefit.

It helps to have you on the payroll of the business like every other employee. This ensures that you are making money from your business while also preventing you from depleting business funds.

3. Spend cheap with coupons.
Don't ever buy stuff because you can afford to. Having enough money to make a purchase does not mean that you should make it. Develop the habit of looking around while shopping -- especially online -- to ensure that you get the best possible deal.

One way to spend cheaply is by using coupons. You will be amazed how much you can save. I have always used coupons whenever available for important business purchases. When I purchased the first set of PCs for my ecommerce startup, I was able to save a good amount of money by using the coupon codes I got through Promocode watch. The fact is, coupon codes have remained one of the main reasons some businesses have been able to start up and stay afloat.

4. Skip the real estate.
You do not need a corner office to run a successful business. Many businesses that are successful today started in awkward locations. Just ask the founders of Google.

Do not spend money on real estate that will not directly benefit the business. You can turn part of your house or any other free space you have into an office. From there, you can run your business with your small band of employees.

Let the business grow and expand organically so that when the time to spend on real estate comes, you will know about it and better still, you will be able to afford it without putting a financial strain on your business.

In essence, drop off whatever won’t be missed if they are taken out. You can start cheap, and scale up later. I started my first six figure ecommerce business on free WordPress themes. I scaled up from there.

5. Purchase key person insurance.
In every business, you will find that there are certain people who are invaluable to its success. One way to protect your business is to purchase key person insurance on such a person. As a business owner, you certainly belong in that category.

Key person insurance is a fancy way to describe life insurance on you, co-founder or key employee on whom the continued successful operation of your business depends. The business is the beneficiary under this policy. This insurance coverage is important because it ensures that if anything should happen to the key person, rendering him/her incapable of working, the business will have other options available to them besides filing for bankruptcy.

The business will be able to use the insurance payoff to cover operating costs and pay off debts until they can find a replacement for the key person.

The ability to adequately align your business with strict budget discipline is critical to its survival. Since finance is the life-wire of most businesses, every startup entrepreneur should focus on how to efficiently manage his/her business budget.

Disclaimer: - Following article come from Entrepreneur

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Investing in a Startup Isn’t as Dumb an Idea as People Say It Is.

Are you thinking about investing in startups, but are hesitant because of all the fear mongering around startup investing out there? I’m sure you know what I am talking about. There are plenty of people out there who will tell you things like:

“When you invest in startups, expect to lose all your money.”

“Your returns as an angel investor are typically negative, so don’t bother.”

“Angel investing is stupid… don’t do it (even though I made 5X returns angel investing).” And I quote this from an actual conversation.

If startup investing is so risky and so dangerous, why do you hear about so many Silicon Valley millionaire and billionaires getting rich doing it? And why are these typically the same people telling you not to bother getting involved?

The answer is simple: they have learned to do it the right way, and they don’t really want anyone else infringing on their turf. Why is that? Well, it’s because they want to keep the secret intact. The secret to investing in startups the smart way.

It’s always a risk, but there are ways to be smart about it.

If you want to get involved in startup investing and actually generate out sized returns, you need to work at it. That means taking the time to educate yourself completely about this highly complex and variable asset class. You need to get up to speed on how to perform due diligence, how to evaluate a term sheet, how to understand different deal structures, and just to have an overall awareness of current trends and developments in the startup market. It can really be a full time job. This is why venture capitalists exist and are often handsomely paid.

You need to develop relationships, help people who can do nothing for you, offer tons of free advice, make introductions, accept coffee meetings, read everything, and most importantly, get to know A LOT of people. During that time you will probably meet a few who are special. It’s almost like they vibrate at a higher frequency. Once you get used to knowing what to look for, you’ll get pretty good at spotting them right away. These are the folks you want to invest in.

So what things do we look for when selecting companies for investment on 1000 Angels, the company I co founded? Here’s a short overview:

— Stellar founder. If you don’t feel something that excites you when you get to know the founders, they are probably not the right person to invest in. The reason you have that special feeling is because this person has some really unique skill, vision, or vibe that is seriously impressive, and you are subconsciously aware of it. Listen to your heart.

— Attractive market. A market that has relatively few competitors, and in which the founder can establish some sort of competitive insulation or advantage is key. I shudder inside when I hear someone has invested in the 20th “me-too” company in a particular space. Recipe for disaster.

— Traction. What has the team actually accomplished? If they are just coming to you with an idea on paper or a binder-thick business plan, run for the hills. Invest-able companies are those who have proven they can acquire customers, provide value, and maybe even generate revenue. Your investment dollars are hopefully being used to fuel growth of a tested business model, not to make costly mistakes.

— Deal structure. Uncapped convertible note? Forget it. $15 million pre-money for a company that has no traction? Run the other way. There are a million reasons deal structure can torpedo a deal, and learning about all of them usually involves experience, and doing your homework. There have been plenty of cases where investors have bet on companies that resulted in multi-million dollar exits, but no return for early investors who took a ton of risk. You could write a whole book about these cases. Maybe I will…

These are just a few important tips on how to make smart startup investments that can be a great addition to your portfolio. And while I won’t tell you should should invest your child’s college funds in a startup portfolio — and you should realize you could lose all of your invested capital — if you are careful, diligent, and leverage the resources available it’s not outrageous to expect a decent return on your investment. The goal of startup investing is to build a portfolio and develop wealth over time through smart investing in people that you trust and believe in.

There are a lot of resources out there that can help you get started. Startup investment groups and platforms, blogs, webinars, and masterclasses can point you in the right direction. And don’t forget, diversification is key to this strategy. You can’t just invest in one or two companies and hope they work out. It’s really hard to pick the winners, but with some careful attention, you can try to avoid the losers. And avoiding the losers is a key part of making sure that your diversified portfolio performs well.

Disclaimer: - Following article come from FORTUNE

Monday, August 29, 2016

Indian startups lack the scale and depth to make another Silicon Valley

As I write this article, I had a chance to meet with and learn about some of the entrepreneurs shaping India’s startup ecosystem.

As I compare our entrepreneurial ecosystem with others, I am reminded of the three pillars that characterize thriving startup ecosystems: breadth, scale, and depth. By breadth, I mean how many sectors of the economy does the ecosystem span. By depth, I mean how many players in each sector. And by scale, I mean how large are the companies in each sub-sector. Thriving startup ecosystems like Silicon Valley are characterized by amazing breadth, depth, and scale.

How does India stack up?

 Small Ideas Big Opportunities

E-commerce, cab aggregators, and food delivery startups hog the limelight, perhaps leading casual observers to question the breadth of India’s startup ecosystem. But the most striking observation from my visit relates to the big breadth of sectors covered by India’s startups. Their range includes biotech companies like Mitra Biotech, software as a service (SaaS) startups like Freshdesk and Postman, medical devices companies like Forus Health, digital media companies like The Viral Fever, fintech companies like Zerodha, and many more. Whatever your sector of interest, you will likely find activity in that space.

But what the ecosystem offers in terms of breadth, it takes away in terms of scale.

Even some of the larger and more prominent companies in many sectors have barely reached around $10 million (Rs67 crore) in annual revenues after spending much more. Enterprise SaaS companies struggle to sell to Indian corporations making the domestic market virtually non-existent. Selling globally from India isn’t easy either. Similarly, in biotech, the domestic market has been a hard nut to crack. Most biotech startups are yet to achieve reasonable scale despite raising tens of millions of venture dollars. In consumer markets, there is scale in terms of number of potential users but the average revenue per user is low. Scalability remains the biggest missing piece of the Indian startup puzzle.

Moving on to depth, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of startups in each sector. The lack of depth is partly due to the lack of scale. It is hard for a market to support lots of players unless there is scale. In addition, one doesn’t see enough specialists across multiple sub-sectors in India. If you just looked at advertising technology (ad-tech) in the US, you could break that market down into multiple large sub-sectors including ad exchanges, ad servers, demand-side platforms, supply-side platforms, etc. Other sectors are no different. The market will have to mature considerably for such specialists to emerge in India.

So what can an entrepreneur do to address these scale and depth issues?

These problems are structural and innovations are needed to address the lack of widespread broadband availability and the inadequate access to digital payment platforms, for instance. The government and large corporations will have a major role to play in this. The success of services such as Reliance Jio, which seeks to roll out a pan-India 4G network, and the unified payments interface will be crucial. The tailwinds are certainly in India’s favor given the many initiatives launched in the past 12 months.

The next few years will tell us whether India can list itself alongside US and China as a startup nation.

Disclaimer: - Following article come from Quartz