Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

FB buys Whatsapp – a zillion opinions from a million people

My 2 cents on this topic:This is probably the hottest news we’ve heard in a while. So good that it has managed to topple whatever Arvind Kejriwal did today from the top of my news feed[For Indian readers only:) ]! While the acquisition is great news for the WhatApp team and a story all start-ups can draw inspiration from, I’m getting a bit annoyed at some peoples’ view about what the learning from this episode is.

“The main lesson is not to think about money too early. Build a customer base first, then think about revenue”

This is probably the most common lesson people are drawing from the Whatsapp story. But isn’t this obvious? This is probably the 1st sentence of Start-up 101. The real question is, how many start-ups can afford to wait that long?

A few years back when Jack Dorsey was asked how Twitter was planning to monetize, he coolly replied “We’ll figure something out”. Twitter eventually conceptualized ‘Promoted Tweets’ and ‘Promoted Trends’ and are minting money through that model. By the time Dorsey made that statement, Twitter had already accumulated Millions of users and their valuation was going through the roof. VC’s were more than willing to take a Billion dollar exit a few years later than a few hundred Million immediately. All start-ups are not that lucky.

Founders are always optimistic about their venture(as they should). They always believe that their company is the Next Big Thing. They want their users to have the best experience using their product and make it go viral. After all, monetizing your product leads to slow growth(charge your users –> slow growth, put ads on your product –> bad user experience –> slow growth), a lesson everyone knows about. So, let’s not make money just yet. Simple!

Every once in a while, founders need to take a reality check. Not every company goes on to become Twitter or Whatsapp. Not everybody will be as optimistic about the outlook of a company as it’s founders. Investors(and the outside world) may not believe in the company as much as the team. We can take the case of iStream.in that closed a few weeks back. Despite having a good user base, they weren’t able to generate steady revenue. 

To sum it up, “To monetize or not to monetize early, is the question”.

“Do you really have a choice?” is my answer


Your Idea is Worthless

Whoa! I think I offended every entrepreneur with that title, many of them might even consider this blasphemy. But with each passing day, I’m beginning to realize that this just may be true. Before I explain why I’m of this view, let me set some context on what lead me to this –

I have a HUGE circle of friends many of whom want to help in my start up. As I don’t require much capital (and coz most of my friends are broke ;)), helping with cash is out of the table. Few have offered to connect me with their ‘contacts’ or ‘Angels’, which I truly appreciate. The rest of them have either said ‘Lemme know if you need someone to brainstorm with’ or ‘I can give ideas on how to market your website’ or ‘I’ll help by giving inputs on design’.  

I think there’re 2 aspects in starting/running a business – ideation and implementation. Understandably, the ideation part is the ‘cooler’ of the 2. It includes, amongst other, a thorough understanding of your customers’ requirements, clarity on the long term vision of your company, a good mix of domain knowledge – first principles and creativity. But this is just half the story. It’s the implementation part which is tricky.

I’d define implementation as ‘getting the job done’. This is where it gets difficult. Getting your team to ‘understand’ your idea and making them carry it out to perfection can be a very arduous task. Implementation requires a lot of thinking on your feet. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong during this phase. It’s physically and mentally taxing. And above all, it takes time.

During the early part of your start-up, I’m sure you’ll find a hundred different people who’ll be giving ideas and these people are easier to find. The challenge will lie in getting ‘implementers’ to work with you and ensuring that your plans are carried out.

I’ll conclude this post by rephrasing my topic. “Your idea is worthless…unless you have a good enough team to implement the same”.