Lessons from sustaining a startup for 3 years: It is all about people, Information, Team, Customers and Money
It has been three years building Hammer and Mop, and it seems like one long arduous trek- eventful and full of valuable lessons. There have been times when my limbs threatened to give up, but a look at the distant peak usually set things right again. Last year, it felt good completing two years out in the cold. We have now reached the base camp. There are some things I’ve learnt and thought it worthwhile to share:
It’s all about people
I cannot stress this enough. Right from the day I decided to start off on this trek, till the day I pitched my tent at the base of this peak I have been helped, advised, counselled by people with whom I share a genuine relationship that is mutually beneficial. Customers are people who you need to communicate with. Allies are people who need to get value out of an association. Team members are people who need to feel respected and a part of the game. Your family — with their unconditional love — only fear for your sanity. You are a human and you need to love yourself.
It’s all about information
Today, we are a team of individuals following certain processes and believing in certain ideas day after day. At all levels, our focus is hiring leaders who can grow with the company by lending their shoulders to the task. Distilling the broad vision to profile specific short term goals has helped us perk up performance and boost accountability. A team supervisor focuses only on cleanup quality, communications focuses only on information flow, and so on. Our mentors and well wishers help us keep a holistic perspective. While the team is a submarine working hard at being submerged, our mentors provide the periscope.
It’s all about your team
We are crazy about the peak and take lead to manage aspects while figuring out the way through the jungle. I didn’t know what to expect out of ‘employees’ three years back and my errors cost me my entire team once. Proper policies, complementary skills, mutual respect, clear communication and a healthy work environment play a big role. Most of my team consists of blue collar workers. The vicious circle of managing them is a misconception, because respect has to be earned. I have learned that everyone likes the peak, and is keen to play a well defined role in a performing team. Things fall apart if clarity is lost. In a jungle, we have realized that we need to have each other’s back and that has helped us keep going.
It’s all about your customers
And they are loveable humans too. Their expectations are pretty simple, and they pay, so keeping them happy is key to a successful business. They understand goof ups, empathise and offer support. Customers seek an honest relationship and are generous with compliments if things go well. They are generous with critical feedback if things don’t. I have been fortunate to have numerous patrons who have held our hands throughout, helping us get better at what we do. Negotiations have seldom been about money, they almost always transcend to intangibles if the game is played right. Customers seek trust, which is built by consistent service. Being open and apologetic about our weaknesses has helped us live.
It’s all about money
Not at the cost of ethics and quality. You might be in the business to contribute to the society, but you dig your own grave by not being focused on cash flow and profits. Money is the essential grease, profits can be reinvested for growth, healthy cash flow provides you with bandwidth to make your customers happier. An organisation needs to sustain itself and its people, and that’s why it needs to earn money. To ensure the same, for a young company like ours, that’s the CEO’s job.
It’s not about the comfort zone
At the start, I remember my co-founder urging me to be on the field and find recruits. “Go out and smell the fresh grass, ongoing analysis sitting in the comfort zone isn’t going to make things happen,” he had said. Finding our own spot is a trap, because the proactive explorers win. While it is essential for startup CEOs to know every aspect of the business they run by rolling up the sleeves, it is crucial they ask their senior team members to do the same too. A company won’t grow with leaders sticking to their offices. A company won’t grow without pushing all boundaries.
This is an edited version of a post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Sushrut Munje (Co-Founder of Hammer and MopYou are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
The number of startup communities is growing day by day. Therefore, the demand for an all-in-one tool, which allows to manage effectively and easily those communities, constantly increases. Startup Commons’ Certified Developer Program evolved from an ongoing software development needs and our expanding global customer base. The aim of this program is to develop skilled technicians who understand our platform and startup ecosystems’ challenges.
At Startup Commons we aim to build common infrastructure for startups around the world to make the startup journey easier and facilitate active dialog among all stakeholders at the startup scene (such as incubators, accelerators, investor, universities, startups, mentors, business advisors, inventors, VC companies, etc.)
The Certified Developer Program aim to attract skilled and innovative developers to the startup ecosystems’ field, to ensure that more and more startups ecosystems emerge at every corner of the world. We are building a pool of talented developers to provide effective and innovative solutions for our clients. The goal of the program is to ensure that our Certified Developer Partners have the skills required to provide excellent service to our customers worldwide, in both quality of work and communication skills. We believe that the program gives a chance to our in-house developers to fully focus on building the best product, while our certified developers help to build customized solutions. This approach gives our customers access to developers who understand our platform and can perform specific requests for them, without having to go through us each time.
During the certification process developers get hands-on training on the functionality of the platform, learn about the roles of different users, different feature, basic software architecture and go through specific development projects. Moreover, developers are working closely with our existing in-house team what learn more about our customer and their needs, and the solutions and services we provide to overcome challenges and support startups in the most cost effective and transparent way.
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Make no mistake about it. Silicon Valley is expensive. Actually, it’s very expensive. But if you’ve ever spent any time in the Valley then you already knew that. For those on the outside, then you can believe that rumors surrounding Silicon Valley’s pricey cost of living are true.
Should you move your business to Silicon Valley? Before you make that decision, here are a few things you should keep in mind? But, just how expensive is Silicon Valley really? Compared to the rest of the country, the cost of living is 87% higher in the Valley than any other American city.
When it comes to housing, Silicon Valley is also the most expensive in the U.S. In fact, based on a survey conducted by Coldwell Bankers in its “Luxury Market Report 2014,” Woodside, CA is the nation’s top luxury market. Woodside wasn’t the only town located in Silicon Valley to crack the top five. Portola Valley was third, with Hillsborough coming in at number four. So, if you wanted to relocate to Woodside, expect to spend $949,000 on a two bedroom house with one bathroom and a fireplace – this for the record was the cheapest listed house in Woodside.
Trulia, however, found that the average listing price for homes in Atherton at $9,347,107, which could make it the most expensive city in the country. But what’s a couple million dollars when you’re living in the same area as the guys who founded Google, Larry Ellison, Mark Zuckerberg, George Lucas and Paul Allen? In case you were wondering, there are 71 billionaires who call the Bay Area home, so of course it’s going to be expensive.
So what if you’re not a billionaire? Let’s say you’re just you’re a teacher or even an engineer, what’s the price range? The median price for a home is $550,000 in the whole bay area. If you’re looking at San Francisco, it’s around $1.1 Million. And rent? You’re looking at around $3,000 a month for a two-bedroom apartment, which is 76% more than the national average. I personally pay $2,700 a month for my one bedroom in Palo Alto. I had to consider this before I moved my startup to Silicon Valley.
To put it another way, if you have a family of four, you would need $90,000 a year to cover rent, food, transportation and childcare. To be more upfront, Silicon Valley is the 7th least affordable housing market for middle class families, San Francisco captured the top spot.
Of course, the housing situation isn’t the only major cost in the Silicon Valley. Living in California also means that if you make over $46,776 a year, the state is going to hit you with a 9.3% income tax. Speaking of taxes, whenever you go out and do some shopping, just remember that California has the second highest state and local sales tax rates at 9.08%. Even Hawaii has more favorable sales tax rate at 4.35%. If you look at the ten most expensive cities in regard to sales tax, Fremont and San Francisco are included.
As for basic necessities. Silicon Valley is 62% higher than the national average. And gas prices? Both San Jose and San Francisco are included in the ten most expensive cities for gas at over $4 per gallon. Is any of this that big of a concern when you reside in one of the highest paying areas in the country? (Web developers earn $25,000 more than the national average and customer service representatives and lawyers also do well here). Well, it should.
Despite Silicon Valley having a reputation for having a higher median income (it was $60,000 in 1993 compared to the $30,000 elsewhere in the country) it’s still a concern if weighing your options on whether or not to live in Silicon Valley. For example, if you made $92,300 a year in the Valley, you would need $74,800 to live that same exact lifestyle in New York City. That’s not saying that you should relocate or never move to the Valley. It’s just bringing up a comparison to give you a better understanding of how pricey, it is to live in Silicon Valley.
If you already reside in the Valley, then you already know how expensive it is for housing, gas, food, etc. And hopefully you’ve been fortunate enough to make enough in your salary that you can enjoy the weather and everything else that Silicon Valley has to offer. However, if you’re looking to move to this area because you think it’s magical and can help make your startup a success, you may want to consider other options if money is tight. While it’s an incredible place to work and play, the Valley is really, really expensive.
This is an edited version of a post originally posted at yourstory.com, by John Rampton (President at Adogy), an entrepreneur, full-time computer nerd and startup expert. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
It is very typical to measure mature of startups ecosystems in terms of new startups, growing startups, investors, investments, exits, etc. and it makes sense as cities use these statistics in the best possible way to communicate their economic growth at high level and to attract other relevant people, investors, big companies, more entrepreneurs and other stakeholders.
These indicators are however the result of many smaller activities present in a startup ecosystem that contribute to these higher level results - as any startup ecosystem is the sum of multiple variables of an unbalanced equation inherent to the interactions of the startup ecosystem itself.
So, as you can figure out, you need much information to talk about matureness of startups ecosystems. But most of all, you need a good understanding and analysis of your startup ecosystem at different levels and mapping it usually is a good starting point to set up new strategies and achieve a better economic development.
But the thing is that properly mapping a startup ecosystem is more than just to create a good map to show who is who in your city or region. It is crucial to work at different levels and in more detail:
We truly believe everyone should work on this model, as it makes the investments to growth and innovation truly visible and measurable - as only the things that can be measured can be improved. And the faster the feedback loop, the faster things can be improved.
Actually we are working with this model with few key cities like Helsinki at ecosystem level and even more broadly with independent organizations and we are clearly seeing that it is possible to build a vibrant startup ecosystem in a city in three to five years, what is half or less, compared to known average.
Future entrepreneurs and current startups deserve this new scenario that we at Startup Commons are creating and we encourage others to contribute and develop innovation, better, faster and with less resources.
Are you a consultant or an entrepreneur?
- Learn more about Growth Academy Online Training & Certification Programs
Download our startup booklet and watch our videos to learn more about our framework to help startups to grow without "reinventing the wheel" and without wasting lot of time trying to connect the dots.
The framework is based on the startup development phases and aims to remove the highest universal risks on the startup journey.
If you’re in sales, you are always communicating. Your silence on a question that’s posed to you is also communicating something; not something good, that’s for sure. Winning sales communications move the deals forward. Anything less will stall or slow down the deals.
The Foundation for Winning Sales Communications
It may seem like the foundation is going to be ability to write well. While that’s an important skill to have, the foundation is really is the intent with which you approach the sale. Your intention has to be based on three solid pillars of serving, caring and providing value.
A. Intent to Serve: Your first and final intent has to be to help your prospects with their needs with one or more of your offerings. Of course, you don’t need to sacrifice your needs.
B. Intent to Care: You MUST care for your prospects concerns as if they are your own concerns. Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect and look at the deal from the other side of the table and see if the deal looks fair. If not, you need to go back to the drawing board.
C. Intent to Provide Value: However basic this appears to be, this is an important pillar. Your intent to provide value should be unquestionable.
With that in the backdrop, here are seven elements of winning sales communications:
1. Responsive: Even just a handful of years ago, B-2-B prospects were at a disadvantage, overwhelmed with new possibilities and solutions. Today it’s exactly the opposite. By the time a prospect reaches out to you, they’ve more than likely already researched potential solutions online, and they are much further along in the buying cycle. Sure, your offerings are differentiated from your competitors’. But as markets become more crowded with competing vendors, sales and marketing messaging is increasingly commoditized.
When offerings look more or less the same from a feature/function perspective, responsiveness takes the center stage. Respond late to a customer inquiry or other request, and even with a reasonably good offer, you might end up losing the deal to someone else who was more nimble. Problem is, there’s only so much time in the day, so responding in 10 minutes instead of 10 days requires the right tools and mindset.
“Hi [FIRST NAME],
Thank you for your inquiry. Please find below my responses to your specific questions.
Also please know that as long as we work together, I will try to respond to any call or email within 12 hours (and I’ll try to be much faster!). While our solutions and services are unique in the market, at [COMPANY] we also differentiate ourselves by our responsiveness and dedication to customer care and satisfaction.
2. Right The response has to be accurate on many fronts.
This seems like a given, but think of all the emails and other materials that are riddled with “unintended hyperbole”, exaggerating to the point that it’s nauseating.
A few examples:
- We build world-class inventory software
- We make the world’s best burgers
- We are the gold standard in compensation consulting
- We have the industry’s leading ecosystem of fully-integrated interfaces to all major functional applications and officially-certified business processes.
Unintended hyperbole is on one end of the annoyance spectrum. On the other end, you have “willful misrepresentation” of facts to make your offering look superior to competing vendors’ offerings. In the latter case, you might be able to win in the short-term, but only at the expense of your longer-term credibility and opportunities in the account.
More often, negligence is the culprit; sellers rely on content they know may not be the most recent or accurate. Being right is often nothing more than ensuring that sales-ready content is easily vetted and approved by the right stakeholders. This shouldn’t require circulating documents or lengthy meetings. More importantly, once vetted, the content needs to be readily accessible (meaning at the “point of use”) at the front lines of sales engagement.
If you’re an early-stage startup that’s looking for a little help to get your business off of the ground, look no further than the recently established Founders Space accelerator and incubator. Founders Space, which was just opened a week ago, has already made it a point to provide some of the best perks and opportunities for its participants, including seminars, networking events, pitch competitions, and access to amazing set of experienced advisors, VCs, and angel investors.
In San Francisco, startup accelerators are fairly easy to come by – just Google it. However, few offer their participants the comprehensive package that Founders Space has put together. Thanks to founders Steve Hoffman and Murray Newlands, Founders Space has managed to assemble an impressive experience for early-stage companies that focuses on the development of their brand, their product, and achieving their business objectives.
The way it works is really quite simple, too. Startups can apply to join Founders Space, and once they’re accepted, they will go through an intensive 4-week “Boot Camp” where they will attend sessions taught by experienced industry professionals, along with networking events where they will be introduced to relevant VCs and angel investors.
“We are looking for companies that we truly believe in to join Founders Space because we have a dedicated and experience group of advisors and investors who are ready to take on the next big thing,” Steve Hoffman said. “Our goal is to teach these early-stage companies everything they need to know and introduce them to the right people to help them get things going and become the next major enterprise.”
For early-stage startups, the Founders Space location couldn’t be in a better location, either. The co-working space is situated in the heart of SF’s tech industry at SOMA Central, the same building where Instagram, Twilio, and a handful of other successful companies originally got their start.
“We’ve got a great co-working space in SOMA that encourages and inspires collaboration, but also enables our startups to have the meetings and business events that they need to,” said Murray Newlands. “Once we start our accelerator program, we plan on having regular networking events and seminars to give our startups the opportunities to learn and connect with other people in the industry.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Founders Space or applying for their program, be sure to visit their website for more information.
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Chandan Raj, CTO at YourStory. Apart from tech -learning and sharing about founders, innovators and changemakers psyche and natural system evolution. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
If you are an entrepreneur like me, I don’t need to tell you that there are characteristics that will help you out as a leader, for example, needing less sleep than the average person and being able to read people as if they are sitting across the table from you in a poker game. There are many resources for this kind of advice once you get your business moving. But what should you keep in mind when you are just building your business and its most important asset — its culture — from day one?
To help inspire you, I’ve collected four top insights for creating a winning culture from top business experts and added in my own experience with my company Vuclip and previous ventures.
1. Create a Meaningful Mission
Make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, has a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society – Larry Page, Google co-Founder I agree wholeheartedly.
The best way to achieve meaningful impact is to focus on a mission that is close to your heart. The best companies inspire people by giving them an opportunity to do work that they believe in and enjoy. For example, I could not imagine doing anything else other than building a business that is fostering innovation at the intersection of the media and mobile technology worlds. And in turn, the company has attracted like-minded creative, vibrant employees that inspire me on a daily basis. Find that cause that inspires you and is the spirit of your business.
2. Honor Merit Over Tenure & Ideas Over Hierarchy
“When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”— Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric.
Enlightened leadership teams ask employees to contribute ideas because they recognize managers and executives don’t have all the answers. I believe in encouraging debate and action on ideas. By way of example, at my company we have a standing weekly “Concept-Accept” forum where anyone in the company can have an audience of all our executives. Typically there are multiple ideas presented each week and there is healthy debate and discussion on these ideas. Following that discussion, a concept is either green lighted to move to validation and productization or sent back to the drawing board for additional work. Many of our successful product capabilities have been built from ideas originating in these meetings. This fosters innovation and allows anyone and everyone to voice their ideas freely and be heard.
3. Inspire Authenticity ”Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet — thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing — consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.” —Lance Secretan, leadership theorist and former CEO of a Fortune 100 company.
A business and its leaders need to inspire people to be their true selves. I’ve observed that there is often a dichotomy between how people present themselves at work and their personal lives. And this is not a good use of energy. Employees should be focused on the business, outsmarting the competition, managing time well and collaborating with others, not on an inward battle. If you build an environment where people can have fun and connect with their creative instincts, you not only are empowering them to do their best, but in turn they are inspiring everyone around them. Ultimately, this makes for an exceptional company culture.
4. Embrace Risk
“In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” – Mark Zuckerberg, chairman and chief executive of Facebook
The status quo is no place for an adventurous, exciting, inspiring start-up with its eye on the prize. Here’s a personal example. When we were just getting Vuclip off the ground, not many saw the value in starting a company addressing the needs of emerging markets, the fragmentation of the mobile space was daunting, mobile networks in places like India vary with regards to reliability, not to mention that YouTube was already dominating the video market. We had a lot going against us. But the management team was excited by this challenge. We developed unique technology that no one else could build and went after this opportunity with everything we had. Today, we are thrilled that this risk paid off and so are the 120 million users that use Vuclip per month. My point is certainly not to brag. We’ve had just as many detours as we’ve had direct hits and we continue to learn from both. I wanted to illustrate that resting comfortably is not interesting and will likely not inspire your employees or customers for very long, so try something new, fun and exciting! In summary, if you can please indulge me just one more quote, I wanted to share one from Jack Dorsey Co-Founder of Twitter. He said — actually he tweeted – “success is never accidental.” And I agree. I believe amazing businesses arise from exceptional work cultures. If your business is a house, I see culture as the foundation. If your house is well built on top of a solid foundation of a meaningful mission, creativity, authenticity and smart risk, then the maintenance of that home is seamless. And being inside of it day after day is a joy. And if you are competitive like I am, then you can be satisfied you have the best house on the block.
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Nickhil Jakatdar, a successful serial entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. His latest venture, Vuclip is the world’s largest independent mobile video company with over 120 million users globally, with over 20 million users from India. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
Many a time, entrepreneurs, in their rush to see their ideas take form, miss out on getting their legal affairs in order. Look at it as a necessary evil, if you will, but there are certain agreements that an entrepreneur simply must not ignore.
1) Founder Agreements
Depending on the choice of entity, and without prejudice to the camaderie among the founders, it is essential to execute a founder’s agreement. If the chosen form of the entity is a partnership, ensure that your partnership agreement is in place. This contract sets out in clear terms the understanding that the partners must have in order to run the desired business. Typically the clauses include the capital invested by the founders, owner of the intellectual property and whether it may be licensed, terms relating to issue of shares at a later point in time, exit clauses, and other specifics that can clear any potential ambiguity. While it’s all good to say that an oral agreement is more than enough and business is based on mutual trust, some entrepreneurs have learnt the importance of this document the hard way. It is not unheard of that companies close operations and write away an idea forever because of founder disputes on IP or because of differences on how an exit opportunity must be valued.
2) Charter Documents
Charter documents include the Memorandum of Association (MoA) and the Articles of Association (AoA) that contain the basic information regarding the Company. The MoA contains information relating to incorporation details, share capital, members’ liability, etc. The AoA contains the regulations governing the management of the Company like information regarding general meetings, Board of Directors, proceedings by the Board and details on voting rights. .
3) Trademark License Agreements
Such an agreement is necessary for a company and its founders so that the company owns a trademark (or has filed an application with the trademark registry). This contract sets down the rightful owner of the IP, his protected rights and the rights that will be offered to the user of the brand. An agreement of this kind is useful for start-up companies dealing with products and services (restaurants, food business, clothes, etc) as they look to build a brand. In some cases, an entrepreneur may opt for the franchisee route to market his products or services in which case the considerations are different from vanilla company brand owners..
4) Employment Agreement
It is necessary to establish the rights and obligations of employees and this can have varied benefits. If the company is working in an area that uses heavy IP or human resources, it is crucial to include IP protection clauses, non-compete and non-solicit clauses in the employment agreements. At a later date, it assists an entrepreneur in that he is not entangled in an IP theft or competitors poaching his talent. Note, even if the founder is appointed as a managing director (MD), it is good to have an agreement in place. The new Companies Act provides that the terms and conditions of appointing an MD must be stated in the board /shareholder resolution itself. Compliances with newer laws such as prevention of sexual harassment at the work place, trading in securities, prevention of corrupt practices and so on make this exercise of compliance a good corporate habit.
5) Share Subscription
This agreement sets out the details regarding the ownership of shares, and the resulting representation rights of each of the shareholders along with the terms and conditions in the event of a future exit or sale of shares. This lists out the conditions required in the event of termination, the obligations of an investors and other shareholders at the time of raising a round of capital and at the time of exit during a capital event. ,.It is the document that binds all activities inter-se shareholders and governs the shareholder rights in a play of capital. The practices and considerations in negotiating and finalizing this document is an art as well as a craft that is becoming very sophisticated and requires due consideration from the Founders .
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Harini Subramani, a Consultant at J. Sagar Associates. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
History has been written. Narendra Modi has led BJP right into the Indian Parliament; this time as a ruling party with a clear cut majority. I analysed what lessons startups can learn from his way of doing things. Here are eight steps to learn from Narendra Modi’s way to grow your startup business into a great company.
Step 1) Know the pain existing in the market.
Every idea begins with a problem it is trying to solve. In India’s case, it was the poor governance, corruption, and slow development. People had had enough of it. Rising unemployment and red-tapism had sapped people’s energy and drained their money. Big-companies didn’t want to move here due to political instability and the government dragging its feet on crucial issues. Anna’s movement has already shown Indians the true face of the government. Narendra Modi has crafted all his promotional pitches and activities around these problems and promised people to deliver solutions for them.
Take away: “Have deep understanding of your market, understand the problems and craft your product/service according to it.”
Step 2) Set up credibility
Building a great company is a marathon, not a sprint. Many founders try to scale the untested solution, even when the processes and plans are not at place. The best approach for scaling is building credibility in the existing market; it may be small, but it matters. People will recognise you by what you have already done, and then only listen to you. Modi already has set a great example of planned governance in Gujarat, the star state of India. He has a long record of being a volunteer in different activities, since his childhood. The RSS also helped him in building a strong image. He also was a star performer in the eyes of industrialists due to his development record Gujarat thus big corporate houses backed his funding. The paid promotion came afterwards.
Take away: “Start small, but start now. May be your initial footprint will be smaller but it will help you understand the market well, and will set up your credibility in the next markets, a been there and done it approach.”
Step 3) Assemble a great team
A company is an abstraction of a people working together. The team behind Modi’s win deserves an equal appreciation. The BJP has made a great team, including experienced leaders like Rajnath Singh, Dr.Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj, and Arun Jaitley to name a few. They all were assigned specific roles, where they gave their best. All were engaged in multiple rallies, meeting round the clock and didn’t rest even after the last turn of polls. All the candidates of the party played their roles in getting the 272 (majority) mark.
Take-away: “A team can make or break a company because the chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The first step to business is selling your dream to your team, if they aren’t convinced, your customers definitely will not.”
Step 4) Be the Face
We mark Virgin Group by Sir Richard Branson, Facebook by Mark ZuckerBurg and so on. Be the face for your startup, and represent it to the public at large. While the Congress party did not declare any PM candidate, people had already guessed who it would be. Being bold matters, the first step the BJP did was to choose a PM candidate. It was a tense period for the party, and most of the times we try to avoid such situations. But the BJP took it boldly and made Narendra Modi the face of BJP for 2014 general election although it resulted in internet conflicts, and Nitish Kumar withdrawing his support. We all now know how important and powerful the decision was.
Take-away: “Be a leader, or find someone, have a uniform tone, take the ultimate responsibility, be the face for people; people are interested in stories.”
Step 5) Start Early
Don’t wait for the perfect climate, just go and break things. The BJP had started its election campaigns long ago, Modi appeared in numerous places giving speeches about his dreams for India and Indians. He started using social media as early as 2009, which gave him a clear cut advantage in later stages. When you start early, you learn a lot in the go, the stakes are small. Mark started Facebook within a month of getting the idea. The first version was crappy, but what it is today is definitely a revolution.
Take-away: “Start from where you are; don’t wait. The perfect climate is an imaginary event.”
Step 6) Utilize all media
“Abki Baar Modi Sarkaar.” This slogan has reached every nook and corner of the country. Modi utilized all channels for marketing, whether they were internet based like content creation, tweets, social media, you tube videos etc. or paid like newspaper, TV ads (even in cricket world-cup, the famous 20 second ads), distributing merchandise to local people and business, and reaching them via non-traditional methods like ‘Chai pe charcha’.
Take away: “Find all the media channels you can to promote your startup, meet more people, choose free marketing channels in the beginning, and remember No Press is bad press.”
Step 7) Develop Evangelists not just Supporters
I am sure your Facebook wall and twitter feed are filled by posts from Modi fans in the past one year. Create a brand people love to share, create a viral loop, the ultimate goal of a marketer is to send his message beyond his first set of audience. Modi successfully did it; his messages were floated all around social media in no time. All his supporters praised his views and ideas, and shared them with their peers. It made sure that if Modi could not directly reach so many people, his message was sent to them via his supporters.
Take-away: “Build a brand people want to talk about, you can also artificially inject viral loop in your product/service (remember Dropbox’s famous referral program?)”
Step 8) Be an Executer
This is the key. No matter how great your plan is, how cool your team is, everything will go down the drain if you aren’t a good executer. Each and every thing in BJP’s election campaign was well planned in advance. They had employed different in-house and external agencies for maintaining the campaign. Modi himself did many rallies on a single day, at the age which is set as a date of retirement by our government. He appeared in TV interviews, and yes everything appeared planned, and was executed well on time. The operations are the core of any business and should be taken care with the ultimate responsibility. Jeff Bezos planned and executed Amazon in Indian market so well that it has started capturing major market share within a year of its launch in India.
Take-away: “No one remembers a great marketing plan which never crossed the boundaries of a paper or a board room, you have to come out and execute, may be you will fail, but you will learn to grow.”
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com, by Ankit, a 21 year old Student-Entrepreneur from Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management (IIITM), Gwalior. You can get in touch with him here. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
NewCo Factory, the public accelerator from city of Helsinki, is one year old and we wanted to talk with them to review what has been an intense year full of activities and challenges. Due to their amazing results, NewCo Factory is amongst nominees for "Best Service Provider" category by Nordic Startup Awards, an event to recognize and celebrate the startup ecosystems based in the Nordic region.
This time we talked with Jaana Pylvänen, a startup advisor in NewCo Factory. Her strengths are in building professional, committed teams which have clear strategy and capability to test the innovative concepts with customers. Jaana has Master of Econ. and she has long career in Nokia Networks as recognized innovation driver and execution focused project leader in all the continents. Jaana has also experience in running design oriented business in three continents and passion for digital marketing.
What is NewCo Factory and Why did you start NewCo Factory?
NewCo Factory accelerates growth business in Helsinki. It is a public service with intention to increase entrepreneurship to new audiences, such as people with lot of international business experience and university education. There is a growing need to get advice and coaching on your business ideas, team building and commitment as well as for MVP validation in the market. This development phase of a startup contains a lot of risk, which leads to lack of private interest from financing and/or advising.
32 startups in your Acceleration Program, 5 foreign startup companies moved to Helsinki, 100+ persons work in NewCo Factory startups, 70 persons work in co-working space, 111 startup events organised – 1020 persons attended, 95 persons coached for sales or investor pitching, 650 person profiles in Statup Commons web community, Startups raised early stage funding 1,7+ Meur, NewCo Startups finalists in many European statup comptitions (code_n, Apps4Europe, Red Herring TOP 100 Europe etc). Amazing metrics after one year of hard work: very active community, attracting international people, job creation, etc. Which is your secret?
We are target focused, execution driven and willing to make a difference. Our people are professional, with long career in international business. It does not bother us if all the pilots do not succeed, it is better to try and see, what is working and then scale that. It is also beneficial, that we do not have much money, so it means we have to concentrate on actions we can do ourselves. All activities and materials are only in English, which enables people with very little or no knowledge of Finnish to join us.
What methodology are you presently using to support startups?
We are still on piloting phase, but our idea is to utilize lean type of methodology, where startup should test they business scenarios with customers. We are focusing on the strengths of the startups teams and developing the team as committed and professional as possible, not forgetting the agile methods.
What stage do you look for companies at?
We are looking for the startups, which have committed teams with competencies in producing the MVP within the team, i.e. in Phase 0 in Startup development phases. The company does not have to be registered yet, but we require a shareholder agreement between the corefounders.
You are part of a great startup ecosystem in Helsinki. What makes it unique?
Helsinki and metropolitan area is very small in size of geography and population. We cannot compete internally, but we rather focus on networking, partnering and helping the others to succeed. It is vital for an ecosystem to work. If you give, you will receive.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs considering an accelerator?
Test your first ideas with potential customers several times, before you start to build our product. Typically entrepreneurs are building the solutions for themselves, but real, paying customers might have different problems, which require a solution. It might take a lot of time to understand the need for the pivot, if you build your product on one customer only. Accelerator can help you with building your solution, work in organized way, help you with pitching, and funding.
Is there a “bubble” of startup accelerators?
I think that accelerators are the schools for entrepreneurship, can we have a bubble of that?
There's a clear shift towards crowdfunding in startup scene. What are you doing to adapt it in NewCo Factory?
We are considering crowdfunding with each of our customers separately. The readiness of the team, solution and funding for that particular industry need to be carefully considered as well as with all the other funding options.
Apart from the move towards industry specific (‘vertical’) accelerators, do you see any other big trends?
There is big trend to fish for the best startups from the accelerators to the neighbor cities and countries and utilize public funding as a bate for the reasoning.
Which is the best accelerator in the world?
That depends on what you are looking for, but we can be very proud of our accelerators in Helsinki.
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