Are Startup events the new Reality Shows?

A student of mine recently wrote to me saying he was surprised that most of the B-Plan competition winners failed to start or failed after starting. He looked back at one award winning B-Plan presentation and found that even he (a nascent entrepreneur) could easily locate significant gaps in its business model. What surprised him was that none of the jury asked him anything related to that. They were enamoured by his presentation. That boy, encouraged by the jury and the award went on to start the business and eventually failed.

Could this unnecessary failure been stopped? Is it the responsibility of those who sit in the jury to be critical? But then how will these competitions run? Events are a part of the show business, “show” is critical.

His mail reminded me of a Reality Show on TV for identifying super singers. On one such final the boy who delivered the best performance did not come first. It was the one who got the maximum votes from the public (the most popular one) who came in first. One of the famous singers who was on the jury came to the stage and said something like this to the that boy who sang well and did not win “You may not have won the title today, but remember you are a real super singer.” And if I am not wrong he also offered him a chance to sing in one of his upcoming movies.

This is what I told my student – Please understand that the business model of events and reality shows is to create hype and raise emotions. It thrives on populism. Though they call themselves “Reality Shows” the only thing missing is “Reality”. So be wary! But remember that they are important and have their place in any entrepreneurship ecosystem! Make use of these events if they can help you, but don’t spend your life trying to be the new actor on stage.


If you are an entrepreneur

You will not be reaching out to people and programs to find out if you are one. You will simply begin acting on opportunities. Once you realise you need to grind your axe, you will then find the right people and programs to support you.

The one who searches for programs to attempt becoming one will probably never become one. The one who becomes will naturally gravitate towards the right people he or she needs to become even more successful.

Entrepreneurship education must look at contributing at all levels:

  • Providing inspiration
  • Providing tools and techniques to start
  • Providing methods to sustain
  • Providing approaches to scale

Entrepreneurship research is growing leaps and bounds. Sadly, much of this research remains hidden from entrepreneurs. This I believe is due to the entrepreneurship educators who do not soak themselves in the literature before delivering their classes.

If you are an entrepreneur and wish to hone your entrepreneurial skills, then search for the right program and constantly evaluate the value of your skills – are you improving and in effect, is your enterprise growing? If yes, continue, else quit and find the next person or program.

Good Luck with your entrepreneuring!

16 Startups Metrics

Startups discover and/or create new metrics everyday to showcase their potential. It becomes pretty difficult for those interested in startups to track them. Anna Vital produced a nice infographic with 16 widely used startup metrics. I thought it will be useful to readers of this blog to know about it.


One may feel how individuals (entrepreneurs) creatively camouflage information; but I believe it reflects the fast changing landscape of business creation (entrepreneurship) and the difficulty of measuring early stage ventures.  I am sure you will find some amusing, but be sure to know all of them – for you might see one being used in the next startup pitch for funding or mentoring!!

Happy Reading!

2 Things Startups NEED TO DO

  1. Build something that ‘someone’ wants / needs
  2. Talk to a lot of people who look like that ‘someone’

Startups ought to do this, but most don’t! I am not the first person to say this. Every worthwhile investor says this. Every successful startup seems to have done it. Every unsuccessful startup says they should have done more of it. At times failed startups thank ‘step 2’ to have failed quickly and learned a lot from it.

But even these days when I talk to founders, I find that they simply get distracted by the variety of inputs they get and lose focus on the above two actions. They make assumptions and build on imaginations. These kill startups.

So, if you are an entrepreneur – ensure you and your co-founders do the above two things religiously. It will help you and your startup in more ways than what a mentor or investor can do for you.

Don’t Think! Just Act now on the above two things.

Who is stopping you?

I asked one of the students who wanted to be an entrepreneur this question. He tried convincing me that there are innumerable factors (outstanding student loan, family pressure, peer pressure, social needs, etc) around him that’s stopping him. All of which seemed logical. But a personal experience this weekend gave me a strong response to his answer.

I usually like to jog every morning. Since the time I shifted homes, I have for some reason not jogged. For the first week or so, it was all about setting up. Then we had parents, in-laws, the weather was too cold, and then there were too many dogs around the apartments, inability to sleep on time, and so on. All reasons seemed fair and logical. So although I felt bad once in a while for not feeling as fit as before, I could not convince myself to run. This feeling had been welling up inside me for a while now. So, yesterday (Sunday) i got up a little earlier than usual and decided to go jog. It was a lot of pressure getting out of home. There was someone inside me saying ‘Why not sleep? Its Sunday, after all’ but somehow I had decided to step out. That was all that was needed. I loved it. The rest of the day I felt the pain in my body. This morning when I got up my legs were paining like hell. But I told myself, I loved it. So, there I was, jogging again. I think it is difficult to now stop getting out in the morning. Its the same mind at work. Isn’t it?

In this little (rather silly) episode lies the answer to the above question. ‘Who is (really) stopping you?’ Its ‘you’. All others are reasons that this ‘you’ is giving to you. So if you want to start a company, ‘start’, don’t find reasons to delay. As they say ‘life is too short’, why delay to live the life you have wanted. Entrepreneurship is the life that every wo(man) always wants to live. Entrepreneurship is not just starting a company, it is more than that. It is living life to your potential. It is exhausting yourself. It is experimenting. It is joy in the action. It is joy in doing. I have written this in earlier blogs, I have taught this in classes, I have written it in my books, I try to live it in my life.

Try it for yourself. For there is no one stopping you, except ‘yourself’.


Startups – Fad, trend, megatrend?

There is no doubt that 2015 started with a bang! Optimism everywhere. Probably the most spoken about word and equally inspiring too is ‘startups’. With the world attempting to emerge out of a seemingly never ending slowdown, entrepreneurship is rightly touted as the tool / lever for help. While entrepreneurship in its limited form seems to represent ‘startups’, this word seems to have gained epic status. If you were to roam around the campuses in India (i’m sure it is the same everywhere), one will be surprised by the number of people involved in ‘starting up’. It looks like you will be looked down upon if you are not part of some startup. Having seen this entire phenomenon and been part of it for over a decade now; i’m glad all this is happening! But the discussion today is – Are ‘startups’ a fad, trend or megatrend?

For this, one needs to know what is the difference between the three. Here is a short (extremely) definition of the terms:

Fad: is a widely shared enthusiasm for something, albeit one that is short-lived. At times these short spurts are so intense that they seem to take a large group along with them quickly. Rationality has no place during this period.

Trend: something that is emerging or tending to form with slightly more certainty than a fad. There is a little more rationality in this as there are some indicators. But the breadth and depth of their effects are only probabilistic.

Megatrend: these are trends that are slow to form, but have large scale effects over a period of time. Catching them early needs tremendous alertness and ability. These are visible as they are usually backed with facts.

With that extremely short introduction to three terms which you must have last learned in your marketing class, ask yourself which category ‘startups’ belong to today? Personally i believe we are moving past a stage where it seemed like a fad to a stage it seems certain like a trend. If certain actions are visible at the level of the ecosystem, it could very well become a megatrend to watch. What are these ecosystem changes: government intentions and catalysts; economic policies; societal changes; cultural mindset shifts; education makeover; amongst others.

A lot of things have to be altered, changed and at times revolutionised if we have to enable ‘startups’ turn into a real megatrend. There is no question that at some point  in time all governments will be forced to resort to ‘entrepreneurship’ as the tool to usher in large scale changes. While the ecosystem can only create a better environment, it can also enthuse and equip the youth (in body and mind) so that they can act to make the change happen.

Everything looks right now for us to move this emerging trend into a megatrend! What else do you think needs to be done to make entrepreneurship a phenomenon in India? Share your thoughts as we do our bit to build an entrepreneurial India.

Happy Starting up in 2015!

Why did you start-up?

The answer to this question makes a whale of a difference on what your actions are as an entrepreneur! Have you heard a story like the below:

The entrepreneur was building a website to generate traffic and then sell to the visitors some related products. The entrepreneur was certain that if he builds the traffic and the following, selling his wares to the following will be certain. This will result in recurring revenues and also tremendous value for the company. More importantly his concept is unique which is already becoming the talk of the town!

If you are immersed in the start-up ecosystem you know that this is not a unique business model. A lot of web start-ups do the same. The entrepreneur was building something that he felt was unique. Why was he building something that fundamentally had a value proposition and not a direct revenue model? It could have been his intention to do something unique! How often have you come across an entrepreneur who is focused on creating value without a sharp eye on revenues / profits? In recent times it is not strange to meet entrepreneurs of this type. But when they are studied as the ideal role models to entrepreneurship, it confuses many others who get into entrepreneurship / start-ups for other reasons.

When one of the invited entrepreneurs to my class shared an example like the above, one of the participants (an entrepreneur himself) in class asked me over lunch how the speaker could focus on the idea / concept over revenue generation? I asked him back this question: ‘Why did you become an entrepreneur?’

He looked perplexed at me and asked why it mattered? I told him to consider a situation where he did not generate revenue for 12-15 months and asked to rate his comfort factor? He said he could not last even 3 months without revenue (at least mentally). I told him that the person who spoke could last probably 10 years without revenue. Does that make a difference? He said ‘Yes’. I told him to think along these lines:

  • Why did you start?
  • Is that the focus of your plan and measurements?

And all of these will be based on the question I asked the entrepreneur – “Why did you start-up?” Let’s be honest with ourselves. It helps us be happy entrepreneurs and stay the course for a longer time.

What do you think?