Key Factors To Build Your Startup

Key Factors To Build Your Startup

In many ways, entrepreneurship is a gamble. Despite following best practices and having a solid business strategy, there’s still an element of risk in how to start startup  company. Whether or not your venture takes off depends on some key variables.

Let’s look at the most important factors for startup success. The below mentioned four factors will greatly influence the successful launch and growth of your startup or company:

1) The Right Team

You may have a great vision, but you’re going to need the right talent to bring to make that a reality. Your core team (including co-founders) and first few hires are especially important since they build the startup’s culture, develop the business, drive innovation, and execute high-level goals.

The Right Team
The Right Team

2) Customer Retention

As an early-stage entrepreneur, you should be tracking how frequently customers use your product/service and their retention status. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that customer acquisition equals startup growth. But customer retention is the fundamental aspect that underscores sustainable growth. Therefore, robust startup health goes together with strong customer engagement.

Customer Retention
Customer Retention

3) The Perfect Timing

In products/services where the barrier of entry is low, the timing of the launch is critical. If you enter the market too early, there’s a chance you’ll end up wasting resources waiting for the trends to catch on. If you enter too late, you’ll be left fighting for a foothold in the market space. So, it’s not just the first-mover advantage; it is also the first-mover timing.

The Perfect Timing
The Perfect Timing

4) A Robust Marketing Plan

Positioning your product/service makes a massive difference to business growth. From attractive packaging and showcasing your USP to creating a digital presence to positioning your startup as a thought leader, there’s a lot involved in crafting a marketing plan that appeals to your target audience. Therefore, the marketing strategy should consider customers’ buying decisions and preferences.

A Robust Marketing Plan
A Robust Marketing Plan

To know more about the key factors to build your startup, sign up for Wadhwani National Entrepreneur Network’s (NEN) pro bono courses. You’ll learn to validate your startup idea, develop a business plan, network with other entrepreneurs, and much more. The startup development program provides experiential learning, exposure to mentors and investors, masterclasses, pitch days, etc. These free-of-cost courses are open to students and young professionals who aspire to be startup founders and entrepreneurs.

Apply today:

https://entrepreneur.wfglobal.org/ignite/
(For those in later years of the graduate program/ PG students/ working professionals/ pre-incubated having a validated idea to launch a venture)

A step-by-step guide to launching a startup

a group of people sitting on a bench

Do you dream of being your own boss?

Do you dream of setting up your own venture? Wondering how to start a startup in India

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Being an entrepreneur can sound daunting but breaking the process down into simple and doable steps will get you started. If you are ready to launch a business, here is a startup guide.

1) Identify a great business idea

Identify a great business idea
Identify a great business idea

All successful startups start with a powerful idea. Here is a startup guide for Entrepreneurs with steps for building a startup. The first step in launching a startup is identifying a problem and finding ways to solve it. There are a few ways to go about this. You can mine your personal interests and see if there are any products/services you can sell related to your hobbies or something that would solve a common frustration in those fields. You can research existing products and look for market gaps or common complaints about popular products.

2) Validate the business idea

Validate the business idea
Validate the business idea

Once you zero in on your product/service idea, it’s time to understand whether there’s a real market and demand for it. Before you go all out, you need to know whether there’s a significant number of people willing to pay to use your product, and the best way to do that is through your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). You can set up a store (a virtual store is cost-effective) to take pre-orders, launch a crowdfunding campaign, or create a beta version of the product. Direct customer feedback to understand how your product is being used is invaluable.

3) Put together a business plan

Put together a business plan
Put together a business plan

How to start a business plan?

Formalize your business idea and streamline the business creation process by thinking through things methodically and formulating a structured business plan. It should describe your products/services in detail, include information about your industry, operations, finances, and thorough market analysis. A solid business plan is essential to raise funds, which leads us to the next step.

4) Secure funding

Secure funding
Secure funding

Raising money for your startup is one of the toughest parts of the entrepreneurial journey. Without funding, you risk not being able to pay for your operating costs. You can look to various avenues such as friends and family, angel investors, venture capitalists, and banks to secure funding. To make sure you raise adequate funds, estimate your costs and cash flow, including loan interest rates.

5) Build a strong network

Build a strong network
Build a strong network

Surround yourself with the right people who will support you as you go forward and live your dream. You’ll need mentors, business advisors, accountants, insurance professionals and bankers who you can turn to whenever needed. Apart from this, you also need to find the right co-founder, the team, vendors, suppliers, and partners.

6) Build a customer base

graphical user interface, application, Teams
Build a customer base

Finally, once you’re ready to go live with your startup, chart out a marketing plan to spread the word and attract customers. Use social media marketing, rewards and loyalty programs and influencer and affiliate marketing to reach your target audience. You can also give out free samples and demos and sponsor local events. Remember to ask for direct customer feedback and continuously improve your startup’s offerings.

While these six steps give you a gist on how to launch a business, there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes.

Learn the basics of entrepreneurship and get the right guidance by signing up for National Entrepreneurship Network’s (NEN) courses.

So, if you are a young professional or a college student who dreams of turning an entrepreneur, Wadhwani Foundation’s National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) can help you to put together the basics and launch practice ventures through its experiential and immersive entrepreneurship courses, which are free of cost. The courses entail practical knowledge, projects and assignments, access to mentors, pitch simulators and pitch days, and a lot more.

Apply today:

https://entrepreneur.wfglobal.org/ignite/
(For those in later years of the graduate progr(For those in later years of the graduate program/ PG students/ working professionals/ pre-incubatees having a validated idea to launch a venture)am/ PG students/ working professionals/ pre-incubatees having a validated idea to launch a venture)

Technical Skills Essential for Startup Founders

Technical Skills Essential for Startup Founders

Starting out, entrepreneurs don many hats, often playing CEO, CFO and CMO, all at once. As a startup founder, you need to be able to oversee all aspects of your venture and expand your knowledge to include several skills that will hold you in good stead.

Beyond a great product idea and business strategy, specific technical skills for entrepreneurs is a must. Let’s look at the five essential technical skills startup founders should know:

1) Spreadsheet tools

Spreadsheet tools 1 1 1
Spreadsheet tools 1 1 1

Numbers never lie. A tool like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets is important to track vital data like sales and growth. It’s also useful for modelling business scenarios and understanding which factors are the most important for business growth. Microsoft Excel enables you to forecast accurately and control spending and serves as an excellent introduction to basic book-keeping/accounting. Get comfortable setting up formulae and charts on Excel so you can interpret the numbers relevant to your startup

2) Data collection and analysis

Data collection and analysis 1 1 1
Data collection and analysis 1 1 1

Data analysis is critical for Business Strategy and functions like Marketing and HR. Knowing how to collect and analyze data will empower you with recognizing trends and patterns and make predictions for your startup’s future. By deep-diving into data and comparing different data sets, you’ll be a much more insights-driven leader and have a more holistic understanding of your venture.

3) Front-end development skills

Front end development skills 1 1 1
Front end development skills 1 1 1

Even a non-technical startup founder should ideally know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. These skills will give you more freedom to harness your creativity and set your product/service apart. Today, several online courses impart front-end development skills at little to no cost.

Over the years, with even basic HTML skills, for example, you’ll be able to save thousands in programming costs just by being equipped to edit simple things like links and images in code. At the very least, you should understand the basics of coding so you can understand the technical side of your business and communicate clearly with the tech and development team.

4) Basic SEO

Basic SEO 1 1 1
Basic SEO 1 1 1

As a startup founder, you want customers to visit your website. Learning search engine optimization (SEO) will help you strategize how to rank high on the results page of search engines. SEO will enable you to create relevant content for your startup’s website, blog and social media. Understanding keywords and what your target audience is searching for also will also help you understand your customer persona better.

5) Design tools

Design tools 1 1 1
Design tools 1 1 1

Picking up design and wireframing tool know-how will come in handy when you set about building your outward-facing website/app. It will also greatly help you convey your vision to your product or design team by giving them a sketch of what you want to be achieved, rather than a set of vague instructions. The sketch doesn’t have to be perfect – a basic attempt will also yield much more quality results than not giving them a proper visual reference.

If you are a young professional or a college student who dreams of becoming an entrepreneur, Wadhwani Foundation’s National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN) can help you to put together the basics and launch practice ventures through its experiential and immersive entrepreneurship courses, which are free of cost. The courses teach the  technical skills for entrepreneurs and entail practical knowledge, projects and assignments, access to mentors, pitch simulators and pitch days, and a lot more.

Apply today:

https://entrepreneur.wfglobal.org/ignite/
(For those in later years of the graduate program/ PG students/ working professionals/ pre-incubatees having a validated idea to launch a venture)

Debt financing is key to success of startups

a person sitting at a table using a laptop


I run a startup that provides fund-raising solutions to entrepreneurs, and a perplexing question that is often put across to me is – DEBT or EQUITY financing?

Each time a startup succeeds, it aspires for more success in the near future. Moreover, today the parameter of success is equated with the capital that stands in accounting books. Many startups fail to take corrective decision to raise funds optimally and end up with larger cost in the form of Interest that reduces their profit and adds to liabilities. Most entrepreneurs believe that equity is a cheaper source of finance, but as a chartered accountant, I like to draw their attention towards the fact that in many situations, debt is actually the cheaper source of finance. The question arises, how? In equity suppose you have earned Rs. 100 but you will end up paying Rs. 30 to the tax department and be left with only Rs. 70. However, in case of debt financing you will enjoy the following benefits:

1. You have to pay interest on only the amount which you have taken as loan
2. You can pay off the loan in the desired no. of instalments

Debt financing allows new startups to pay for buildings, equipment and other assets for growing their business much before the projected earnings begin to materialize. Hence, this can be an excellent way to pursue an aggressive growth strategy, especially with access to low-interest rates. Closely related is the advantage of paying off the debt in instalments over a period. Compared with the equity financing, debt financing benefits can be enjoyed by not relinquishing any ownership or control of the business.

However, before raising funds, you should be ready with answers to the following questions that will facilitate the process:

1. How much money is needed to run/initiate the business?
2. How will the money be used i.e. disbursement criteria?
3. What is the collateral security and its value?
4. Who will be the guarantor?
5. How will the loan be repaid?

A startup at initial stages obviously will not have multiple properties to be provided as collateral. However, this should not be a worry as in such cases you can opt for the option of ‘collateral-less debt financing’.

Understanding this fundamental problem of startups, the government has launched the CGFSIL scheme where new startups can acquire a loan from ‘Startup India, Stand Up India’ initiative. They can go for composite loans (inclusive of the term loan and working capital between Rs. 10 lacs to Rs. 100 lacs) and can enjoy benefits of lower interest rates as compared to other banks (i.e. MCLR +3% + Tenure).

Thus, think big, explore new ideas, innovate your future and forget the rest because there are measures available to help you to fulfil your dreams. Debt financing is the key to your successful business provided you have a good enough credit rating and the financial discipline to make repayments on time. However, by agreeing to provide collateral to the lender, you may be putting some business assets at potential risk. Hence, a note of caution is obvious.

What Does An Investor Look For In A Pitch Deck?

What Does An Investor Look For In A Pitch Deck?

Here are 9 Tips

People in the startup world know that it is okay even if you are not able to bag the desired investment in initial attempts. However, it is absolutely important to assess your pitch. Doing it right and having done your homework properly gives you the confidence.

Closing an investment deal depends on multiple factors. Being able to map out an investor who is looking to invest or has a history of investing in similar businesses is most important. The stage at which your venture is also contributes to the match-making. To run any business, you need investment from the right source. Many find it analogous to dating. While there could be different reasons that your venture is still waiting for the perfect match, you must check if your pitch is not the reason for it.

A pitch needs to be a perfect balance between who you are and what proposition you have for the target audience. The pitch deck may come in handy on different occasions; from trying to fix a one-on-one meeting with an investor, to presenting on stage in front of an audience of investors, or to submitting an application on investment portals. Though each time the key elements would remain the same, only the structure would need slight modification.

Elements of a Pitch Deck

“VCs like to not take risks and bet on sure things”
Dave McClure
Founder, 500 Startups

The objective of the pitch deck is to convince the other party that your idea or product is going to make a difference so that you get the go-ahead. To impress the investors and get funding, your pitch needs to capture all elements that they generally look for. Here are tips to formulate a ‘complete’ investor pitch:

Introduction

If your pitch is able to grab attention in the first 30 seconds then half of your work is done. To achieve this, you will need to figure out the most interesting part of your business and then start with that. It can be your vision, traction achieved, the team or the technology you are using. The pitch should then be able to create a smooth transition to different segments.

Problem Statement

The pitch should talk about the problem or the need that exists and convince the audience that this problem needs to be solved. The founders should focus on a unique and efficient solution to the problem or need.

Value Proposition

The pitch should give a glimpse of the solution proposed to the problem/need. It needs to provide a brief on the value proposition.

Market Size

From an investor view, this section is one of the most important. After all you don’t want your investor to assume that the market size is small and not scalable. Hence, it is critical to identify the number of potential beneficiaries of your proposed solution and showcase the scalability in due course of time.

Business Model

It is now turn to put forward the plan for revenue generation. Mention all the revenue streams you have identified for your business. Put it in a structured way.

Competitive Landscape

Identify your competitors and regularly monitor them. Investors are keen to know how well you know your competition and how are you distinct from them. A detailed competitor analysis exhibiting your competitive edge is a big plus.

Team

This is a key factor that investors analyze in an early stage startup. Investors are looking for a combination of executor, thinker, designer, developer skills in the founding team. At the end it is all about implementation and it is the team that drives results.

How long the team members have been working together? Why this team is the best team to execute the startup plans? What kind of culture and chemistry does the team represent? Make sure you have answers to all these questions before making your investor pitch.

Financial Projections and Key Metrics

This section is for you to talk about your startup’s financial model; unit economics, revenue and expenses projections and any other financial metrics that you think is relevant.

Traction/ Market Validation

Every startup founder who is looking to raise funds will need to carefully evaluate and put forth the metrics relating to the traction generated. It can be revenue, number of downloads, number of users or visitors and so on. It depends upon the industry the startup falls under. In today’s scenario, the traction can make or break an investment deal.

A fine pitch helps the investors to filter out a business model that is scalable, self-sustainable, difficult to replicate, and has a team which can most efficiently execute the idea.

Sushil Baranwal is Founder, Morphedo
@imsushilb
https://facebook.com/morphedo

https://instagram.com/morphedoindia

BUILD THE RIGHT CULTURE IN YOUR STARTUP

BUILD THE RIGHT CULTURE IN YOUR STARTUP

Culture is worth thinking about from the beginning as it is all that matters in a startup. Startup is more like a dream craft in which people board and culture is what holds them strongly. What kind of company do you want to build? How do you want your team to treat each other? It all depends on the culture the startup defines. If your startup culture if set right, it is capable of handling the startup by itself.
Here are few tips to get your startup culture right.

Sell your vision

As stated, a startup is nothing more than a dream-craft. Nobody wants to board a directionless craft. People board the craft with hope. And to do justice to the hope, you need to sell your vision. A good vision will help your team members visualise their future both personally and professionally. The initial core team or your initial hires are the ones defining your company and your culture; so making sure that they share the same vision as you becomes very important. A study says 80% of a company’s culture emanates from its founder and hence transfer of the founder’s inspirations, roots, founding story to the core team is paramount for alignment on the same axis. This will enable a strong cultural base in your organisation.

Hire well

Half your company’s culture is set, if your hires are right. A wrong hire can cause a lot of damage to your organisation. A right hire can be spotted in many ways and one of the simplest ways is to hear a lot of ‘We’ than ‘I’ from the prospective candidate.

Also when hiring, look more for attitude than skills. Skill-set is something that can be honed by training over a period of time. In a startup one must have the right attitude to learn, to grow, to team spirit, to listen, to persist, and to hard work. These attributes matter more than that of skill-sets. Skills are something that could be developed over a period of time but attitude is inborn. So hire based on attitude. Since businesses are built on people, hiring right becomes the most important aspect in setting the culture right.

Set the environment right

Smart people require smart work environment. Smart environment need not necessarily mean a hi-end posh office, it could also be a garage but the environment related to infrastructure, co-workers, processes and surroundings should be conducive to growth, learning and happiness.

Promote talent

Recognising and promoting talent is very important. The organizational culture should foster identification and appreciation of key potential performers- a monthly or a weekly activity. This will boost morale and a productivity-led culture.

Work attitude based on inspiration & personal growth, not fear.

Let your startup have a work attitude be focused on inspirational and personal growth. Fear might drive productivity but only as a short-term measure, and will also cause attrition. But inspiration driven work shall cause more productivity over a long term period. “Nobody wants to work for a dictator boss!”

Share growth & victory

Learn to communicate and appreciate, and share growth & victory related accolades. Celebrating for even the smallest of accomplishments will induce happiness within the organization, build a responsible team and boost productivity. This will facilitate a culture of ownership for both failures and successes.
Provide ownership. Promote leadership

Most startups make the mistake of not delegating ownership due to fear of failure. But only from failures will the team learn their mistakes. And only by learning from failures, leaders are born. Great organisations are built by great leaders.

About Santhosh Palavesh

Santhosh Palavesh a NEN E-Cell member at Velammal Engineering College – Chennai, is the CEO and Founder of UMM Studios, a hybrid agency focusing on Marketing, Creatives & Technology. Today it has 500+ clients with overseas offices in Belgium and Dubai. Santosh has won numerous awards for his endeavors.

STARTUP YOUNG: 4 ADVANTAGES

Investor Pitch


Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google when they were 25, Apple’s founders’ Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were 21 and 26 respectively; Bill Gates was 20 and his co-founder was 26-year old Paul Allen. Marc Zuckerberg was in college when he created Facebook. The list of 20 something entrepreneurs hitting home runs with their startups is huge.

While experience is valuable, your 20s could potentially be the best time for you to startup!

You can take more risks in your 20s:

Building a startup demands a lot of sacrifices. You will watch your classmates and friends earn degrees, buy cars and travel around the world while you sweat it out in your 1BHK office. You have to endure the emotional roller coaster that is the life of a startup founder. Founder depression is very real. For every step you take forward, you may seem to be taking two steps back. Add to all of this, you may barely be making any money at all.

Going through all of this takes a lot out of you mentally and physically. While having a family to go home is comforting at times, you may end up not having time to do anything outside work. Having lesser responsibilities outside work helps keep costs low and focus on getting the work done without having to worry too much outside my startup.

You’ve probably played around with ideas in college:

Startups and entrepreneurship are buzzwords in college campuses. Entrepreneurship clubs, conferences and hackathons were pretty much everything I cared about in college. I barely attended classes, but was very active in the entrepreneurship scene. I tried to build my first company when I was 19, my co-founder ran a fairly successful web-development agency straight out of college. All of my conversations with my friends were centered on ideas and opportunities. We thought about everything from solar powered air conditioners and grocery delivery to ad-free social networks.

Working at a large company can sometimes suck the creativity out of you. A lot of my friends who have worked at large corporations for a few years now have got accustomed to the comforts that a steady job provides. While they talk about the boredom of a 9-5 role and their desire to startup, this is where the conversations usually stop.

It is incredibly hard for most people to even imagine trying to get by without their monthly paychecks.

You can afford to work 12+ hours a day:

My first job was at a startup trying to disrupt the job board space. The founder was about 40 years old. Juggling between the startup and his family and children was proving to be incredibly demanding on his health.

I could regularly put in 12 hour shifts and stay on weekends whenever necessary. My body and mind were able to take the strain of sitting in front of a monitor for days, sometimes without sleep. This situation is quite common at an early stage startup.

Building a product is an extremely time consuming activity. The ability to consistently put in 12 hour workdays diminishes quite a bit as you become over 30 years old.

You’ll learn a lot more, much faster:

In the first 5 years of your career, nothing is more important than how much you learn. If you work hard on your startup, you will learn a lot more than you would at any regular job. Only a job at another early stage company can come close to competing. Like Paul Graham says in this essay , you’ll learn a lot and the job at Google/Microsoft will still be waiting for you. My co-founders have no problems finding high paying developer jobs and I have been offered multiple roles at several other startups. In the past two years I’ve learnt more about SaaS product management and online marketing than I would have at any other job. Starting up early can have a tremendous impact on your future career growth, even if you don’t succeed. Most startups fail, but the founders end up doing great.

While there is no “best” age to start a company, this paragraph from Paul Grahams essay on why not to startup sums up my thoughts perfectly:

“This one is real. I wouldn’t advise anyone with a family to start a startup. I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just that I don’t want to take responsibility for advising it. I’m willing to take responsibility for telling 22 year olds to start startups. So what if they fail? They’ll learn a lot, and that job at Microsoft will still be waiting for them if they need it. But I’m not prepared to cross moms.”