Part 0: Why start a startup?
Well, think about it this way. Everybody that reads this could agree on one thing. There’s a lot of problem in this world. So much so that I don’t think we could rely on conventional companies to solve it. That’s why successful startup like the likes of SpaceX and Tesla exist in the first place. They exist to solve a problem that little dare to solve. The specific passion should come first, the startup comes second. That’s why on my 2020 article I told you guys about the same mentality: put helping other people first and yourself the second. Because making a startup is not about making you rich. For all we know, it could do the opposite, it could drain all of your money to some product that may never see the day of light.
One of my greatest inspiration, especially seeing the startup came from Indonesia is eFishery, an IoT based startup that provides fish farmers an automated feeder for their– fishes… The reason on why this is so cool because not many people thought of it being a big problem than Gibran Huzaifah himself that started eFishery. He puts his life on a mission to solve this world hunger problem and took matter on his own hands to solve it. From his bare hands and with his team he created the prototype, (I don’t know how much he cried on trying to make the perfect product), set up the business model, financial forecast, risk mitigation for the investment, try and try and try again to pitch with the investors, gain the investment money and see execute on his dream to came to live.
This path ofcourse is a path not many dare to take and not many could think of. Yet people like Gibran exist, people that believe in a grand vision that one could make significant difference in the world and that’s the type of people that I’m trying to be.
The infographic above shows eFishery growth and reach in Indonesia. Keep in mind that eFishery was created on 2013! That’s a lot of progress made just in 7 years! Gosh, what an inspiration to be, a lot of things were done just under a decade! This is what I want to bring to you guys, you guys have to believe that the best case scenario could happen!
Make your own best case scenario and try to change the world by entrepreneurship.
Part 1: Idea
Good ideas often sound terrible
Ideas are really tricky because this is the part where you want to validate your idea and in the same time doesn’t want to sound too crazy about it. The paradox is, the best ideas often look terrible at the beginning. It’s either sound too far fetched to exist or “noone is not gonna pay for that.” Even the silver lining sometimes sound bad, as if an idea sounded really good, you would feel like “huh why there isn’t any people doing it” then you proceed to find someone is already doing it and you close your books to stop pursuing your idea. Even though it doesn’t necesarlly you won’t compete with them, because good ideas have competition. Competition means that you are going in the right marketplace. You just need to cover your competition flaws and focus on your idea’s advantage. Don’t close your book too soon man.
Market and industry
So if you were to choose, you also would need to do some research on which market are rapidly evolving or in other words, the market that are going to big in 10 years. For obvious reasons you can’t just start a startup not being aware of this topic, you wouldn’t want to start a startup in a big but slow-growing market, that way it’ll be so hard to convince that you’ll be able to grasp a huge percentage of the market share and lead the industry. Take another lesson on eFishery and their targetted market which is aquaculture. Do you think aquaculture is a big industry? Name a company that is on the aquaculture market. Can’t found more than 5? That’s the point. It’s not a big market and there isn’t much known players on it, it’s a small but fast-growing market. These small but rapidly growing market often has customers that are usually pretty desperate for a solution, they would take an imperfect alternative but rapidly developing product.
This is also an advantage of being a student that is developing a startup. We should’ve a better intuition about which markets are likely to evolve rapidly better than people in the older generation.
Another approach that you guys can do is to ask yourself the famous Sequoia’s question: “Why now? Why is this the perfect time for your product and to start this particular company. Why couldn’t it be done two years ago and why two years in the future this would already too late?”
As a student, you are more likely to understand and have better perspective towards new pieces of technology. Try and learn while you’re still young and understand that good ideas takes a while, so start working on that right now. The other perks of being a student is also to meet a potential cofounders. If you’re reading this and you’re in college, you have no idea how good of an environment that you are in right now.
Part 2: Product
Your job as a potential startup founder is only one. Build something that people love. Not something that you merely love. That’s why most of the important advice that I gain is to focus on the first early customers, eventually building a small number of users that love my product rather to have an alternative to have a large number of users that like my product. Because get this, if you focus on a small group of people that love what you’re doing, you get something that people love, people will tell their friends about it. When people tell their freinds about it, you’ll see organic growth. As what
Sam Altman puts it
“Very few startups die from competition. Most die because they themselves fail to make something users love, they spend their time on other things.”
Iterating on your utopian product
So in the early stage, try to get users manually, get a small group that you would treat as friends, get extremely close to them. Listen to the pains and complains about your product from them and that’d be your way into gaining a great feedback. Because truth be told, you’re making someone to pay some money they earn for your product. Scamming them with your product is the last thing you want to do to your friends. So try to keep that in mind, do whatever you need to make them love you and always update them on what you’re doing. As far as we both know, they’ll be the advocates that help you get your next users.
The idea is there, the only thing that you left undone is to make sure that the product that sees the light of day is a great product. Great product by definition is a product that people loves, the way to reach that utopian milestone is from what I explained above.
Part 3: Team
I could only tell about the culture rather than recruiting a team itself. I think envisioning the culture and bring it to the team is crucially important and is often underlooked by many people in project management. The culture that you want to have when building a startup is to have everyone in the startup as involved as you can be, the feeling that they’re not just a part of team but a family, something greater than themselves and to know that we are all together to achieve one common goal. Make sure everyone in your team believes in the mission of the company and make them as welcomed as possible. Make everyone in the team feels like they’re as important as the founding people of the company.
The general advice that I would take is don’t to overrecruit your startup to the point is hard to figure out which one is who cause they’re too many employees and you feel that they’re expendables and indistuingishable, that’s really horrible. Even one of the great advice that i get is not to hire a duplicate, if there’s already someone working for that specific job don’t hire someone else to do it unless you really need to. That’s why in a team, especially being a founder you really need to know the day-to-day operations and where the problems are, even though they are many fields that you need to know that’s just one of the risk and responsibilities you need to take as a startup founder.
Create a culture on your team where each person on your team feels happy and valued, Their time, effort, and contribution means a lot for the company. As a leader you have to show it to them, show it in the weekly meeting, call them and ask about their barriers and obstacles even though you don’t quite master the subject, it doesn’t matter. What matters are that they know their time is being valued and if they manage to done the job, they will feel more than fulfilled it worth so much for the company. Every person in the company is the building block of your company success and you better treat them as what they really are.