Startup – Dream team

here is what I think makes a good startup team which can abide by Mr. Bezo’s  pizza rule. This is largely based on the little experience I have had.

What you must have:

1) Idea guys (will be called visionaries if the idea works out; daydreamers otherwise)
Job -> Come up with ideas, circumvent blockers, find new business models, keep finding possibilities. networking. Keep the energy high and motivate the team with possibilities

2) Hustlers (the ones who do)
Identifiers -> hands on, eager to implement ideas in a quick & dirty manner. They keep the ball rolling and ensure progress

3) Geeks
They take the MVP to a respectable product stage. Ensure tech differentiation and ensure the right long term product decisions.
Caution : Can add tremendour value. But often turn out to be perfectionists and learners and have a bias to work on the hottest technology. Most often it is a overkill and slows you down dramatically. Simple solution: Make a pact that the initial product will be made using without learning anything new unless everyone else is convinced

4) Gray hairs
1 (only 1) guy  with deep expertise & experience in the sector the startup is dabbling in – to avoid typical pitfalls & lay out best practices. Also opens a lot of doors and you move faster to market for validation / concept selling

5) Legs & grey cells:
Lots of first principle, high energy, lateral thinking guys who approach problems with a fresh, unbiased, audacious solutions

Ta Da! Your job is done

A long list of start-up lessons

This post will be a recurring one, since learning follows mistakes and I tend to make lots of them.
For me, it should also serve as a reminder of how how to avoid entrepreneurial missteps

  • Stop seeing walls, find roads instead –  Do not sit and find problems  with ideas. This is a favourite activity of first-time entrepreneurs. People go as far to think “what if people start hacking my product/ copy it/ download it illegaly instead of paying for it?” I think if you make something good enough that people start hacking it, you will find 10 ways to make money off it. The goal is to build something like that good! There will be a 100 reasons why something will not work. Our job is to find 3 possible ways that might work, experiment with them and scale the one that works. Or prove for yourself without reasonable doubt that it can not work.
    p.s.:  Avoid building something solely using data off a popular service such as FB , unless you can attain the required escape velocity.
  • JUST DO IT – The only way to analyze or weigh an idea is to start working on it. No amount of armchair analysis or research is worth much. Instead, here is what you do : Just start doing it.. yes, right down.. sit down and start DOING it
    . Think there is a problem worth solving? Think of how you want to solve it. See existing substitutes and solutions. Then just start doing it yourself, manually, without tech.  Do it using what exists. Let it be manual, time-taking, uncool, unscalable. Doing this will give you the best insights about what are the current limitations of using existing solutions. It will tell you if the problem / need is as acute as you imagined it to be. You can then be imaginative about solving these  pain points and see if the solutions excite you. Ask yourself if you would be happy doing this everyday. Once you think you have a good solution, do the market sizing and decide if it is worth the effort
  • Focus Focus Focus. be a miser about the team’s mindshare.  At the outset, be ruthless about pruning anything that is not a show-stopper in the next quarter. Once you have figured out what sells, or the most important features for your users, you can afford more time As you grow and have several things going, stick to focusing on the 3 most important things, no more.
  • This is not a university – Ban the culture of learning new things before building. NO NO NO.. The goal at the begining is building something rickety which works using WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW. If you don’t have a tech founder, learn basic tech before you start. If you have one, make sure he is building in a language he has already mastered.
    Do not get carried away by latest technology, elegance, beautiful code, scalability, speed and such nerdgasm that your tech team or tech co founder might be dishing out. All these things matter only when you have a million users. Initially focus on getting your first 1000! techies love to learn and experiment with good things but it is often not the best thing for a startup
  • NOT EVERYTHING IS WORTH SOLVING – Think big -Your consumers (B2C) focus more on convenience than saving a few bucks. Don’t focus too much on ideas that make a marginal difference. The world will not change if you bring down the price of an egg-roll by 20 Rs. Ditto if you open a momo outlet.  Most don’t even notice the convenience charges or hidden fees in booking services such as bookmyshow. Most do not keep a count on how much they spend on sundry, small expenses. So, efforts to lower these costs will mostly go unnoticed, unlike deep discounts or cost of petrol which are IN-YOUR-FACE
    However, Businesses are good clients if your idea can make a sizeable dent in their bottom line.
  • WANTS vs NEEDS – When thinking of B2C ideas, focus on what people WANT to do, not just on solving problems. The biggest  B2C ideas find a deep rooted desire and use modern technology to better ways to fulfill these desires – connect and share with friends (facebook), speak out (twitter), write (WordPress), collect antiques (e-bay), show-off and share experiences(quora), be naughty (snapchat), stay connected effortlessly (whatsapp), collect memories(instagram), collect cool & special gadgets(apple), instant music(pandora, ipod,walkman). Find a similar, deep-rooted desire and see if you can play on it
  • B2C is sexy but B2B pays bills -Most young, first time entrepreneurs lean towards big B2C ideas. They are fascinated by google, facebook, twitter, amazon and instagrams of the world, by their scale, hype, visibility, glamour and cool-quotient. However, consumers rarely pay( especially NOT in India and the developing world) and can always choose to ignore a paid service unless it is an extremely vital or essential one. On the other hand, businesses spend lots of money on different activities, and are savvy enough to pay for growing their business. It is easier to build a sizeable, profitable business in B2B if you have a decent product. Young entrepreneurs often ignore this segment and chase B2C ideas (which I agree are much cooler)
  • Move over vanilla B2B and B2C – For entrepreneurs who do not have the requisite experience to so a B2B venture, I recommend a C2B marketplace approach. Essentially, you build a platform that gets a lot of users and match them a business. The business gives you a cut. of sales. A lot of cool ideas we admire fall in this category – RedBus, Zomato, BookmyShow, JustDial, paytm,
  • Don’t overdo the research & first principles- Ok, so you have an idea. Don’t keep daydreaming or researching about it. There is no end to either and you will lose a lot of time. Do basic research on substitutes and competitors. Get a general understanding from the first google search result page. Then get to work on linkedin. Find people who are in the industry. However smart or diligent you are, it is unlikely you will understand the drivers & pitfalls of the space better than someone already operating in that space. prepare a questionaire, pick up a pen and get to the OT(surgery) with a veteran
  • In the end, it is down to one question – what problem are you solving for someone?
  • Keep it simple, very simple  – The best products ideas are built when you strip features to make something really simple.