Connect with us

Entrepreneurship

13 Tips For Tech Entrepreneurs

Published

on

Because of my work as an entrepreneur, teacher, mentor and now director of Wayra, I have encountered hundreds of entrepreneurs seeking the magic formula for success. While there is no formula that works for everyone, there are a number of tips that I think I can give to avoid (or at least mitigate) the typical mistakes entrepreneurs make, especially during their first steps. That is why I have compiled the following list that I hope you find interesting:

  1. Embark on something you like. The entrepreneurial path is not easy. In fact, those of us who are experienced in this can safely say that is the most difficult of all. If you’re going to start a business, do it in an area you enjoy and do work you’re passionate about (we can’t all be CEOs or General Managers). That way, when the blows start falling (and believe me they will) and you have to work many more hours than others, at least you will do it willingly and it will be pleasant.
  2. Focus. The popular saying is very clear: “Don’t bite off more than you can chew.” I’ve met dozens of entrepreneurs who think they can handle 2 or 3 projects simultaneously and in the end are successful at none. I recommend that you focus on one and save your other ideas for later. Of course you can change what you’re doing as you go. What you can´t do is everything at the same time, especially when you’re new to all this.
  3. Look to create something important, not money. Most modern entrepreneurs look to generate money fast, which leads to attracting the wrong kind of investors and employees and the company usually perishes prematurely.  The idea is that the company must make sense and preferably change (improve) the lives of the people it touches. If this happens, the money will follow.
  4. Reach out to your potential market fast. As good as your idea may be, it is best to test it as early as you can. That is, look for feedback from your potential customers even before your product or service is ready. Waiting for the final version can cost a lot of money and effort. Use constant feedback to improve your product or service and then get to market with something you have tried.
  5. Finalize versions. Everything can be improved, but there is no need to wait for a perfect product or service. One of the major mistakes of entrepreneurs, especially engineers, is to continue adding functionality to the product, which leads to eternal development cycles. Having an original version and closing it once the original objectives have been met is important. Later, you’ll have time to make improvements in subsequent versions.
  6. Address a need. Another major error of technological entrepreneurs is developing something just because they have the ability to do so, without regard to any needs of the target audience. The end result is often a technology that lives in search of a market, the cause of death for many companies. It is much better to start in reverse, realizing that something is missing or could be improved and then seizing the opportunity.
  7. Follow your instinct. Listening to others, your clients, mentors and friends, is recommendable but be careful because you will face many different opinions and you can lose your way. Follow your instinct and accept advice, but without losing the essence of why you began in the first place. If you try to make everyone happy, you will probably fall into mediocrity.
  8. Differentiate yourself. Make sure you have some important differential value over your competitors. Doing the same as others is not enough.  You have to do it better, cheaper or in a different way to excel in the market. Your business must have a clear advantage over the rest that is also sustainable over time to prevent someone bigger coming along and competing with your same advantage.
  9. Persist. Success usually takes time, so you have to be persistent in your attempt to achieve it. If you get frustrated quickly, entrepreneurship is not your thing. Do not confuse persistence with obstinacy: be persistent but also learn to lose. One of my favourite sayings is “lose, but do not lose the lesson.” Even by losing, you can gain courage and experience.
  10. Delegate. You have to learn to delegate, you cannot do everything yourself. Entrepreneurs often believe that only they can do something right and take a hand in everything. This can eventually lead them to ruin. As a company grows finding specialists for different areas is essential. Lean on people you trust and that you can eventually train to be better than you in a specific area and give them power to carry out tasks.
  11. Control your ego. Many people find criticism difficult to accept, but we must always learn to listen. Pride is the natural enemy of success, so if you shut yourself off from the world, you end up being the only customer of your development.
  12. Lose your fear. Challenge yourself, explore and dare to do things that you have not done or have not been done before. While it is true that if you do not try you will not fail, it is also true that if you do not try you will never succeed. Most of the most successful entrepreneurs made many mistakes and learned from them, and that made them better and more valuable in the end.
  13. Help others. In Mexico, this happens a lot. We tend to follow a route without looking at those we tread on, without giving or asking for help. If you become successful, give a little back to those who are behind you and to the ecosystem itself. In addition to generating good karma we promote Mexico’s image to the outside world. The fact that there are more successful projects helps us all, because it improves the conditions for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Although being dogmatic about rules on entrepreneurship is difficult, (after all, it is an adventure), perhaps you may get something from these tips. And, of course, extend the list with some of your own experiences. Can you think of any?

written by Marcus Dantus, an entrepreneur who often writes for ThinkBig. see more.

Callum Connects

Benjamin Kwan, Co-Founder of TravelClef

Published

on

Making music to create a life for his family, Benjamin Kwan, started an online tuition portal and his music business grew from there.

What’s your story?
I am Benjamin and I’m the Co-Founder of TravelClef Group Pte Ltd, a travelling music school that conducts music classes in companies as well as team building with music programmes. We also run an online educational platform which matches private students to freelance music teachers. We also manufacture our own instruments. I started this company in 2011 when I was still a freshman at NUS, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

I was born to a lower income family, my father drove a taxi and was the sole breadwinner to a family of 7. I have always dreamed of becoming rich so that I could lessen the burden placed on my father and give my family a good life.

After working really hard in my first semester at NUS, my results didn’t reflect the hard work and effort I put in. At the same time, I was left with just $42 in my bank account and it suddenly dawned on me that if I were to graduate with mediocre results, I would probably end up with a mediocre salary as well. I knew I had to do something to gain control of my future.

During that summer break, I read a book “Internet Riches” by Scott Fox and I knew that the only way I could ever start my own business with my last $42 would be to start an online business. That was how our online tuition portal started and after taking 4 days to learn Photoshop and website building on my own, I started the business.

What excites you most about your industry?
Music itself is a constant form of excitement to me as I have always been an avid lover of music. As one of the world’s first travelling music schools, we are always very eager and excited to find innovative ways to a very traditional business model of a music teaching.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in Singapore and I love the fact that despite our diversity in culture, there’s always a common language that we share, music.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Hands down, SINGAPORE! Although we are currently in talks to expand to other regions within Asia, Singapore is the best place for business. I have had friends asking me if they should consider venturing into entrepreneurship in Singapore, my answer is always a big fat YES! There’s a low barrier of entry, and most importantly, the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
I have been blessed by many people and mentors who constantly give me great advice but right now, I would say the best piece of advice that I received would be from Dr Patrick Liew who said, “Work on the business, not in it.” This advice is constantly ringing in my head as I work towards scaling the business.

Who inspires you?
My dad. My dad has always been my inspiration in life, for the amount of sacrifices that he has made for the family and the love he has for us. He was the umbrella for all the storms that my family faced and we were always safe in his shelter. Although my dad passed away after a brief fight with colorectal cancer, the lessons that he imparted to me were very valuable as I build my own family and business.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
You can not buy time, but you can spend money to save time! With this realisation, I was willing to allow myself to spend some money, in order to save more time. Like taking Grab/Uber to shuttle around instead of spending time travelling on public transport. While I spend more money on travelling, I save a lot more time! This doesn’t mean that I spend lavishly and extravagantly, I am still generally prudent with my money.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would have taken more time to spend with my family and especially my father. While it is important to focus our time to build our businesses, we should always try our best to allocate family time. Because as an entrepreneur, there is no such thing as “after I finish my work,” because our work is never finished. If our work finishes, the business is also finished. But our time with our family is always limited and no matter how much money and how many successes we achieve, we can never use it to trade back the time we have with our family.

How do you unwind?
I am a very simple man. I enjoy TV time with my wife and a simple dinner with my family and friends.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Batam, it’s close to Singapore and there’s really nothing much to do except for massages and a relaxing resort life. If I travel to other countries for shopping or sightseeing, I am constantly thinking of business and how I can possibly expand to the country I am visiting. But while relaxing at the beach or at a massage, I tend to allow myself to drift into emptiness and just clear my mind of any thoughts.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Work The System, by Sam Carpenter. This book teaches entrepreneurs the importance of creating systems and how to leverage on systems to improve productivity and create more time.

Shameless plug for your business:
If you are looking for a team building programme that your colleagues will enjoy and your bosses will be happy with, you have to consider our programmes at TravelClef! While our programmes are guaranteed fun and engaging, it is also equipped with many team building deliverables and organizational skills.

How can people connect with you?
My email is [email protected] and I am very active on Facebook as well!
https://www.facebook.com/benjamin.christian.kwan

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Entrepreneurship

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read, “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang

Published

on

Before you enter a Startup or before you choose your founding team or new hires read “Entering Startupland” by Jeff Bussgang.

Jeff knows how to spot and groom good culture, as the book session was held in Zestfinance a company he invested in and now, “The Best Workplaces for Women” and for “The Best Workplaces for Tech”, by Fortune.

These are the questions during the Book Launch.

How to know if a hire including the founder is Startup material?
Jeff says to watch for these qualities.

First, do the hires think like an owner?
Second, do the hires test the limits, to see how things can it be done better?
Are they problem solvers and are biased toward action?
Do they like managing uncertainty and being comfortable with uncertainty? And comfortable with rapid decision-making?
Are they comfortable with flexible enough to take in a series of undefined roles and task?

How do we know if we are simply too corporate to be startup?

Corporate mindsets more interested in going deep into a particular functional area? These corporate beings are more comfortable with clear and distinct lines of responsibility, control, and communication? They are more hesitant or unable to put in the extra effort because “it’s not my job”.

If you do still want to enter a startup despite the very small gains at the onset, Jeff offers a few key considerations on how to pick a right one.

He suggests you pick a city as each city has a different ecosystems stakeholders and funding sources and market strengths. You have to invest in the ecosystem and this is your due diligence. Understand it so you can find the best match when it arises.
Next, to pick a domain, research and solidify your understanding with every informational interview and discussion you begin. Then, pick a stage you are willing to enter at. They are usually 1)in the Jungle, 2) the Dirt Road or 3) the Highway. The Jungle has 1-50 staff and no clear path with distractions everywhere and very tough conditions. The Dirt Road gets clearer but is definitely bumpy and windy. Well the Highway speaks for itself, doesn’t it?

Finally Please – Pick a winner!

Ask people on the inside – the Venture Capitalists, the lawyers, the recruiters and evaluate the team quality like any venture capitalists would. Would you want to work for the team again and again? And is the startup working in a massive market? Is there a clear recurring business model?

After you have picked a winning team and product, how would you get in through the door?

You need to know that warm introductions have to be done. That’s the way to get their attention. Startups value relationships and people as they need social capital to grow. If you have little experience or seemingly irrelevant experience, go bearing a gift. Jeff shared a story of a young ambitious and bright candidate with no tech experience who went and did a thorough customer survey of the users of the startup she intended to work with. She came with point-of-view and presented her findings, and they found in her, what they needed at that stage. She became their Director of Growth. Go in with the philosophy of adding value-add you can get any job you want.

And as any true advisor would do, Jeff did not mince his words, when he reminded the audience that, “If you can’t get introduced you may not be resourceful enough to be in startup.”

Startupland is not a Traditional Career or Learning Cycles

Remember to see your career stage as a runs of 5 years, 8 or 10 – it is not a life long career. In Startup land consider each startup as a single career for you.

Douglas Merrill, founder of Zestfinance added from his hard-earned experience that retention is a challenge. Startup Leaders to keep your people, do help them with the quick learning cycles. Essentially from Jungle to Dirt road, the transition can be rapid and so each communication model that starts and exists, gets changed quickly. Every twelve months, the communication model will have no choice but to break down and you have to reinvent the communication model. Be ready as a founder and be ready as a member of the startup.

Another suggestion was to have no titles for first two years. So that everyone was hands-on and also able to move as one entity.

Effective Startupland Leaders paint a Vision of the Future yet unseen.

What I really enjoyed and resonated with as a coach and psychologist was how Douglas at the 10th hire thought very carefully what he was promising each of his new team member. He was reminded that startups die at their 10th and their 100th hires. He took some mindful down time and reflected. He then wrote a story for each person in his own team and literally wrote out what the company would look like and their individual part in it. In He writing each of the team members’ stories into his vision and giving each person this story, it was a powerful communication piece. He definitely increased the touch points and communication here is the effective startup’s leverage.

Douglas and Jeff both suggested transparency from the onset.

If you think like an owner and if you think of your founding team as problem solvers. Then getting transparent about financials with your team is probably a good idea. As a member of a startup, you should insist on knowing these things
Such skills and domain knowledge will be valuable. There is now historical evidence of people leaving startups and being a successful founder themselves because they were in the financial trenches in their initial startup. Think Paypal and Facebook Mafia.

What drives people to enter a startup?

The whole nature of work is changing. Many are ready to pay to learn. Daniel Pink’s book Drive showed how people are motivated by certain qualities like Mastery, Autonomy and Where your work fits into big picture. Startups do that naturally. There is a huge amount of passion and the quality of team today and as it grows then the quality of company changes.

The Progress principle is in place, why people love their startup jobs is not money rather are my contributions being valued? Do I see a path of progress and do I have autonomy over work and am I treated well?

Find out more about StartupLand on Amazon

And learn from Zestfinance

Continue Reading

Trending