Monday, 29 November 2010

Do we really need an Idea for StartUp?

Now a days I feel funny recollecting my earlier(earlier for me is 2-3 years ago) concepts about prerequisites for being an entrepreneur. You need to have some extraordinary idea, it should be so fabulous that anyone who listens to it should utter wow!  I also used to feel that the idea should be totally different than what is being currently available. 

I revisit those numerous thoughts to check out which one really stands true. Consider the example of social networking sites. There are many existing, some were launched in the market even when rest of them with similar features already existed in the market. It is not true that the ones launched first were only the successful ones. Even the later ones made a mark and have huge fan following. This makes me strike out the points that the idea should be totally different. Also you need not be the first one to launch the solution!

Suppose you decide to work an idea that is really brilliant. You've just started developing it. But in the mean time a similar product is launched in the market which has got tremendous positive response from public. You start feeling that your product, when developed, will stand nowhere in front of this one. Or may be the estimated cost of your product is much more than this released one and hence no one will opt for yours. With all this unexpected in between you may decide to quit working on your really brilliant idea, which might prove to be a good decision from practical perspective. You start thinking of an alternative task to work upon. Then where is your so-called extraordinary idea in the picture?

You may prefer talking to your connections and finding out what do they need in their current working scenario. That accelerates your thought process of what to develop. You may even want to build a solution that is totally as per your customer's requirement. So does your own idea come into play?

At least I've thrown away my concepts about need of an idea for being an entrepreneur. Do you think differently?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Should you go for Venture Capital?

Yesterday when I attended a conference organized by a renowned Venture Capital firm it appeared to me that the speakers are very good marketing folks! After all money with VCs is pooled from other big firms or sometimes individuals too, and they have the pressure of investing the amount. Quiet obvious VCs are answerable to those from where they gathered money, just as the company they invested in is answerable to the VCs. 

If VCs say no to you do not misunderstand that your product has no future. They look for investing in companies which give them high return on investment- at least twice of what they've invested. For an entrepreneur who wants a limited growth, do not look for opening IPOs few years down the line better approach angels. 'limited' in case of 'limited growth' may not necessarily mean you are incapable of managing bigger business. You might want growth of your company keeping your basics intact. 

Entrepreneurs who have already undergone these rounds of funding experience that VCs dictate the terms of company. This is done under their claims that they've global recognition, better contacts and greater experience in promoting the business. But there is no hard and fast rule about what all decisions vest on the VC. It is all a matter of negotiation!

Which of your Ideas be Picked

You've got multiple ideas for implementation. Your first step as an entrepreneur which one of those should you choose?

If you are extremely passionate about one of your ideas and are desperate to start with it then get cracking with it! But be sure that you'll not be perturbed whether that idea succeeds or fails. In case where you are bothered about cashflow pick the idea whose development time is minimum. It will be launched in market soon. Added advantage will be it will work like breaking the ice for you as an entrepreneur. It will create your presence in the market.

Ideas that involve considerable research, plus development time is also huge, may start bothering you about cash inflow. If revenue is a major consideration factor then choose the idea which will get you maximum inflow. This will help in continuing you with further ideas.

Working on idea that is in some niche area has its pros and cons. Advantage to you will be less number of competitors. Possible threat is huge difficulty in acquiring even a single customer!

Consider all the factors and choose the idea that fits optimum in your scenario.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Can be or Should be an Entrepreneur?

Who can be an entrepreneur? There is no written rule about it. But there are certain qualities commonly found among entrepreneurs. They have aspiration to convert their ideas into implementation, are hard-working, high self-confidence, self-motivated and innovative at thinking (and actually many more qualities to this list!). The mentioned traits are a must to have within a person who wants to be an entrepreneur. Most of the other qualities which are required for being an entrepreneur may not be necessarily intrinsic within a person, but can be definitely developed. 

What if you are innovative, hard-working, confident and motivated then should you be an entrepreneur? If you have a good job and happy doing what is assigned to you should you be an entrepreneur? Entrepreneur needs be have tremendous urge to work on his ideas and ability to take risks. (If you are not very comfortable doing just what is assigned to you and considering your boss's wish as command, then it is an add-on!). Are you open for change and can handle pressure and risks? If your answers are affirmative then you should be an entrepreneur!

Friday, 19 November 2010

Money as Goal of Business

I came across this statement written in bold letters at an entrepreneurship training institute- 'Join this course only if you have tremendous urge for money'! I was stunned by reading this. My perception about entrepreneur was totally different. Thankfully that perception of mine has not got modified till date!

Entrepreneur has urge for converting ideas into reality. That materialization is the real success. There might be other driving forces contributing to entrepreneurship like undertaking challenges or keen for change. You can consider money as one sweet fruit that you get along with your success. These days many people equate success to earning money. If that was the case then there are many more easier ways to earn money than stepping into entrepreneurship!! (No need to classify the ways as good or bad in that case ;)  )

When I asked a businessman whether money his main motto behind starting business, he poked fun at me saying no one is doing business for charity. Though I do agree that entrepreneurship is not for charity but setting ultimate goal as money will make your entrepreneurial roller coaster path even more difficult. Firstly because your concentration is diverted at two things at a time- work as well as money. Secondly any loss or unexpected failure of business is likely to upset you. Entrepreneur should be able ever motivated and not disturbed by ups and downs. And even if money is indeed your real goal just ensure that it does not distract you!

Even today I'm keen to hear from successful entrepreneurs what is(and was) their real objective on this path.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

When should you Decide to Quit your Job

It has been an evergreen topic of discussion- when should you quit your job and step into the entrepreneurial world. Those with contemporary thinking suggest that you should have earned enough money from your job so as to take care of your future. I gave thought on when should I call what I have as 'enough'. It dawned to me that in maximum cases answer will be 'never'! 

As our job experience and earning increases our hesitance to take such a big step of quitting job becomes tremendous. Also we get so used to doing what has been assigned to us rather than we doing with our own initiative that our inertia to step into a whole new world becomes greater. Industry experience that you gain from your job is of course useful to you as an entrepreneur.

In my opinion no time is a bad time to step into entrepreneurship. But just that you should have done some home work related to entrepreneurship while you are already doing job. Market research, preparing business plan, registering your company, disciplining yourself to achieve your targeted daily tasks are some of those things. Apart from these you should be familiar with things that you'll or most entrepreneurs need as they grow- rounds of funding, negotiating with clients or investors, maximum expenditure on acquiring a customer and so on. You should be well acquainted with terminologies used.

If you are done well with your entrepreneurial homework, have a realistic plan (industry experience will be an add-on) and are highly motivated who can motivate others too then thumbs up to you to quit your job and be an entrepreneur!

Drill Down the Web

Web is a huge storehouse of knowledge. Plenty of info is available as per your need. So why reinvent the wheel when others have already studied or experienced things. I do not totally agree with the proverb 'Experience is the best teacher'. Learning from other's experience is also a very teacher. Time is not unlimited with you to yourself experience everything! It is worth appreciating that people share their knowledge on web via various media like blogs or wiki.

Right from SWOT analysis and preparing a business plan to executing a plan, template and guidelines are available. You can even do market research with data on web. If you are planning to build a product you can study and understand what similar solutions are already existing in market. Many a times discussion forums can give you idea about what add-on feature should you provide in your product to make it stand out from the rest and appeal to users.

You'll get guidance about every action step on your entrepreneurial path from web content. Efficient use of it is equally crucial. During our job or college life we tend to spend countless time on networking sites. But as an entrepreneur you cannot afford that!Even though networking is important you should be firm not to waste your time on them. Networking sites are very addictive. For that reason I liked one of the chrome extensions which automatically stops traffic from networking sites after a fixed time interval.

Web is a 'khazana', utilise it to your best!

Negotiation Skills for Entrepreneurs

Will you, as an entrepreneur, accept whatever your client demands? Will you also agree with your investors' all terms and conditions? Just because you need investors or you need clients (and not vice versa generally) you should not be accepting everything. Does that mean you should argue or fight for your point? No you shouldn't do that. There comes your negotiation skills into play.

Negotiating is a skill because it should be a win-win situation for both the parties. You've to achieve that point of balance without hurting anyone and letting everyone feel like a winner. You should be able to start and be a part of healthy discussion. You should have multiple solutions for win-win situation. If you feel that the person in front is strictly NO about a certain approach propose the next one. Sometimes you might be in exactly opposite role, where the party you are dealing with is proposing various approaches to you. Before such discussions you should have spent enough time, thought, possible approaches as well as their pros and cons. That gives you capability to accept or reject something while the discussion is going on. So even though it appears that your decision is on-the-fly, it is instead very well thought of in advance. You can of course ask for time to think and decide upon a certain approach, when a path totally out of the way is suggested. But remember you cannot always do so! You might lose a deal just because you took time to take decision. In-between period might give your investor or client some party other than you. So even in case you are borrowing time to decide it should not be prolonged.

Having good communication skill does not necessarily imply you've good negotiating skills. For that you should be a good listener as well. Be open-minded and think logically. You might have to deal with many naysayers, be sure you don't get upset and apply your ability to convince at its best.

I always wonder whether ladies are good at negotiating since they are already so used to bargaining! I've still not come to any conclusion. What is your say?

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Get Curious about Web Content

Most of the businesses are driven or influenced by internet. Even the archaic categories of business have their presence on web these days. This is Gen Y!

Even if you are not an internet entrepreneur you can use it for varied purposes like marketing and social networking. You can see what others from your field are offering customers. You can also modify your offerings accordingly so as to attract customers. Keep yourself updated with web contents, else you are almost invisible in market! 

If you look at updating yourself with web content from curiosity and eagerness perspective this will be a real enjoyment! You need not look at it from benefits point of view. There are passive and indirect benefits too. I get a revived zeal when I look at some newly launched interesting product. It inspires me to think out of the box and develop something interesting! The web content gives you a deep knowledge about what already exists, what is in demand and what succeeds or fails. You ask for something and you get more than what you asked for, this is the behavior of web content. 

Though it is more important for entrepreneurs it is needed for almost everyone to get curious about what is happening on web. You'll become more competent to survive in this competent world!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Does the best/unique idea win?

Most of the people think that your business will turn out to be successful only if you've some unique idea. But in reality this is not true. Having a unique idea does not imply that your business is going to successful! If you look around you'll realize that business with similar ideas have flourished in market at a time. Just take the example of social networking sites- there are multiple, all doing good (some even failed though).

There have been entrepreneurs who worked on unique and good ideas, but still failed. The culprits for failure might be varied and numerous like poor marketing strategy or not being good at user experience. On the contrary even mediocre products or business ideas have succeeded like anything when well backed up by excellent marketing! Stepping into the entrepreneurial world is being considered as mysterious because most of the  folks equate it with best unique idea! Not every idea will be necessarily just the only one of its kind. There have even been situations where competitor products have been launched later but have flourished more. It is more about how you grab attention and market than being different!

In brief there are many other factors which contribute to success of your business. Just don't wait for any strikingly different idea to get cracking.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Prioritize your Tasks

This can be considered as sequel of 'Time Management for Entrepreneurs' but explicitly focusing on prioritization of tasks. Success depends more on how smart you work than how hard you work. Setting up priority for your action items and undertaking them in accordance will help you work smarter.

The very first step is to jot down all your ToDos (It is usually good to consider week wise tasks). Against every ToDo write down the date of completion that has been committed or demanded by project plan. There might be certain action items which are interdependent or because of same resource involved need to be done one after the other. For this purpose it is helpful to categorize tasks as urgent or not urgent and important or unimportant. Whole of the set of tasks falls into either of the subsets created by convergence of importance and urgency.

The firefighting tasks fall into urgent and important block. If delivering something within committed time(deadline which is close by!) is going to give you cashflow then it belongs to this category. Urgent but not important are a collection of tasks like promptly replying to emails, attending calls for queries. It sounds odd to hear tasks also belong to not urgent but important category, but they do really speaking. Planning for a project, may it be setting phase by phase delivery plan or resource allocation, is extremely important but not urgent since the deadline is far off. Tasks which neither have urgency nor have much importance should not be removed from list. They have their own value which may not be seen immediately. It can include activities like updating yourself about new product releases or social networking.

Now once you've the list of tasks with their expected/crossed due dates and their urgency levels you can order your ToDos with their priorities. If there is some not so urgent task but which has dependents which have high importance or urgency then you should prioritize it up in the list. Finishing this activity will many important doors. Let's start working in organized and first things must come first fashion for better efficiency!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Conveying your Idea

As an entrepreneur you need to acquire the skill of conveying your idea, may it be for any reason- getting a business partner or building a team or convincing investors! I realized its importance from an experience at home. I'd made up my mind to quit my good job and work totally on my idea. When I discussed this with parents they came up with various questions, countering my points and I felt that my decision was indigestible to them. Then I gave some time to organize my thoughts. The next time when I started with the same discussion thread everyone at home was so convinced that they appreciated my decision. Such a drastic change!

I came across Einstein's statement while I was looking for adopting the skill of convincing- 'If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it'. To a large extent this is true. Where it is not true it might be because you've not fully thought of about your business and not organized your scattered thoughts about it.

While conveying your idea you should clearly specify how your product will fit in the current usage scenario and why your idea has ability to succeed. If you are presenting your idea to investor go fully prepared. Make your presentation short and sweet. But it should contain all the important points. It is of course good to be optimistic, but be realistic too. Investors are likely to have done more market survey than you, so they are likely to have better forecast! You should clearly highlight them three benefits of investing in your business and return of investment.

Get ready to be a good presenter and be a calm and composed person to participate in healthy business discussion!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Time Management for Entrepreneurs

A major change from being an employee to being an entrepreneur is you are yourself responsible for optimum utilization of time. In being an employee your day's scheduled is monitored by project plan, client's priority issues or your boss! As an entrepreneur we cannot afford to spend day just surfing net aimlessly.

Your tomorrow's task and schedule should be planned today. Don't tightly pack your day while chalking out the schedule. Keep some buffer as there will be interruptions and urgent issues to be taken care of which need your involvement. Prioritize your tasks, like you've to meet a prospective client at a particular time which is your top priority, then rearrange your work to achieve this. At the end of day mark out what all from you target list has been achieved. Brief analysis of total targeted tasks vs. actual achieved will help you plan in better and realistic way in near future.

If you are self employed and the sole person working then time management is a bigger challenge. You've your personal or household work on one hand while professional work on the other! You've to be stringent about what to do when. 

I've found Google Calendar and Gmail's Task very helpful- mark your time, strike it off once done and much more. Day ends with enormous satisfaction if all the properly lined up tasks get accomplished! 

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Tweets You Like - Chrome Extension

Click to go to Tweets You Like

It is a very good quick link for Twitter addicts like me. There are 5 default topics set for seraching tweets- Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Chrome, Java. Clicking on Options link at the right top corner of the popup will take you to the settings page. Here you can change the 5 default search topics to your custom ones. Once you save them your topics will appear on the tabs. clicking on tab will show the respective related tweets. Latest 15 tweets appear in the list.

The best part I like about this extension is that I don't have to navigate to twitter page repeatedly, not even have to login! Just as and when I want to see tweets I click at this extension.
Here is the default view:

Tweets containing 'Viracct' now appear under Viracct tab:

Give it a try, I'm sure you'll love this!