Ask Me Anything: 10 Answers Before You Turn Entrepreneur

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In my article in 2016, I had written “Turn Entrepreneur in 2016 (8 Reasons)”. 2 years later, I revisit those reasons and see if it is still valid and see what has changed?

1.   Entrepreneurs Are The New Black – $100bn In VC Investments

Despite all the uncertainties in the global markets, entrepreneurship continues to be much sought after even in 2019. And it is not without a reason.   Globally, the U.S Venture Capitalist Investments are on the steady rise from 2009(US$ 20+ billion) to over $100 billion by the end- 2018.  Investments into India alone have tripled from just over US$ $4b in 2015 has grown to a massive 12.65 billion in 2018, a record of sorts.

However, on further analysis, you will note that late stage start-ups with a proven record of success took the lion’s share of funding raised, even as the industry welcomed new ‘unicorns. What this means is that if you get to have success at every stage of your start-up, money is not a big issue for scaling.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Screen-Shot-2018-10-09-at-9.52.23-AM.png?resize=768,694

2. The Age Of Garage Entrepreneur Is Dead

Entrepreneurs are no longer just folks starting out of a garage.  You will find that the new age entrepreneurs are well educated, are either freshers or those with experience of working in the industry, have a few skill, capabilities, and competencies up their sleeve. And they are aware of that too. You will find that they come with a passion of Garage Entrepreneurs and have ring-fenced that passion with a lot more practicality in combining strengths. They will usually partner with like-minded co-founders who fill the gap their own skill gaps required for business. This age of entrepreneurs has their feet firmly on the ground in understanding the real problem that they are trying to solve. Yet are dreamers with their own idols like Elon Musk or Sachin Bansal or a Jack Ma.

3. Lifelong Employment Is A Myth Busted, Forever.

I said this in 2016, and this holds truer in 2019 than before. The age of lifelong employment is dead – and buried. With the security of lifelong employment and associated pensions gone, more people are looking to get into the driver’s seat and take control of their destiny. They may not be quitting their day-jobs to start off but are cranking their start-ups with the luxury of income from the day jobs funding their passion in part or in full. If you are contemplating, don’t spend the rest of your life contemplating, no do you need to take that leap by quitting the day job when you will face revenue pressures to even sustain yourself. You can well do both, by spending a few more hours on weekdays and dedicate weekends to get the start-up off ground. Once you are confident of taking of jettisoning the mother-ship you can.

I said this in 2016, and this holds truer in 2019 than before. The age of lifelong employment is dead – and buried. With the security of lifelong employment and associated pensions gone, more people are looking to get into the driver’s seat and take control of their destiny. They may not be quitting their day-jobs yet, but are cranking their start-ups with the comfort of regular income from the day job, that funds their passion in part or in full. If you are contemplating, don’t spend the rest of your life contemplating. Nor should you that day job, when you now that will face income pressures to sustain yourself.

A blended approach could be that you can do both, by spending a few more hours on weekdays and dedicate weekends to get the start-up off ground. Once you are confident of taking off, jettison that mother-ship and raise your sails to the headwind.

4. Unemployment And Underemployment Continue To Be Triggers For New Ideas Take Shape

Student unemployment combined with gross unemployment and underemployment seems to be the first ‘triggers,’ though not necessarily the reason for success of many entrepreneurs. The education industry is churning out graduates and postgraduates at alarming rates and the number of big corporations that can absorb such talent is far too less. Education has become expensive, with student loans mounting, yet with no assurance of campus placement, entrepreneurship seems to be the only recourse if you have that fire in the belly.

Since supply far outstrips demand, it is logical that more students are seeking out entrepreneurial experiences with self-funding from friends and family to start with – many with aspirations to build the next Facebook, Uber, or Tesla. The others go through basic education simply to better equip themselves or in anticipation of one day taking that big leap from a cushy corporate job on to an entrepreneurial journey.

5. Disruptive Innovation Seldom Happens In Large Companies.

A lot more disruption and innovation happen today than ever before. And yet, most such disruptions have started with the new entrepreneurs and not the big corporates.

The very fact that the big companies went on to acquire the smaller players at high valuations goes on to prove the value created by new entrepreneurs. When was the last time a Google disrupted the industry? YouTube was an acquisition. Facebook acquired WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus. Microsoft did that with Skype and LinkedIn.

The pace of disruptive innovation has been accelerating since 2005. The new biggies are barely teenagers, the 100-year legends are far and few. New disruptors are disrupting previous disruptors.

6. Failure Is The New Badge Of Honour

The Silicon Valley’s adage on entrepreneurial spirit, ‘Failure is a Badge of Honour,’ is no more restricted to the Valley. In the past, Asian economies like India, China and Indonesia that constitute over half of the world’s population rewarded formal employment and had a social stigma attached to failure.

This new decade had changed all that. Today, you have the wealth created by entrepreneurs from India and China. It is more like this generation of Asians are getting back vigorously and challenging the tenets.

Even as the likes of Jack Ma (Alibaba), Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal (Flipkart), Aggarwal (Ola) have either diluted their stake to move into philanthropy or the next big thing, there is a new generation like Rashmi Daga (Fresh Menu), Ritesh Agarwal (Oyo), Nandan Reddy and Rahul Jasimini (Swiggy), Deepinder Goyal (Zomato) that have filled in those spaces with fairly big shoes. The spirit of failure does not seem to perturb them, and they are reinventing, realigning from their mistakes along the way.

7. Freemiums Break The Jinx Of Entry Barriers

Starting a business is hard and one needs to be systematic and efficient. Hiring external resources cost money. On the other hand, buying software which you may not use or may find limited use at exorbitant prices is a big deterrent to productivity. A lot has changed in the last few years. I have compiled some of the world’s best software and tools that makes it easier for any entrepreneur–  Analytics (Google Analytics) , Collaboration (Slack, Trello) , Communication (Skype) Design Tools (Canva) , Document Storage (Dropbox/ One Drive/ Google Drive) , Email Marketing (MailChimp) , Invoices And Billing (Zoho), Social Media Schedulers (Buffer, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck), Spreadsheets (Google Sheets), Survey Tool (Survey Monkey) , Word Processing (Grammarly, Google Docs).

Thus, all components of your business that requires software tools are available for free to start off and then ‘pay as you grow.’ This is a great boost for entrepreneurs and start-ups who can use world-class tools with zero spending.

8. New Marketing Models Shackle Traditional Stongholds

Acquiring new customers and ‘spreading the message’ is no more limited to expensive newspaper advertisements and television spots. The online marketing channels are all about creating inbound leads and low-cost outbound reach, to targeted audience at extremely optimised and affordable costs. Imagine reaching out to your new prospects at budgets as low as low as $10 (Marketing on Google Facebook, Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn) for advertising each day.

The new marketing models with digital marketing and content creation techniques using some of the tools mentioned above, have spawned the imagination and amplified the marketing capability of every entrepreneur.

You can now, target, reach out and engage your audience for the right demographics and geo-focus. This translates for you into a theoretically unlimited market size with hyper-local targeting. Since markets have democratised and entry barriers for distribution busted, you have infinite opportunities as a new player that offer value to your audience.

9. You Don’t Even Need That Permission To Start

This is the best part. The world has changed and has changed forever in the last decade. Governments across the world are waking up to the new reality of changing demographics and have opened ‘Start Up’ and Incubation Centres in every part of the world to encourage and give a boost to the new entrepreneurs. The painfully expensive permissions from the Government and regulators are long outdated for most new set-ups.

Social structures have changed, sources of funding have changed and most of them are an advantage for the new entrepreneur

10. There Is No Better Time To Start

The Internet has flattened the world for 2 decades now. That the advances in mobile telecommunication, increased bandwidths and broadband penetration have led to a convergence of idea centres a decade ago. Together, they have unleashed a potential that is available today for you- in all its magnificence – for you to start. If you must start, there is no better time to start than now. A journey of a thousand miles – starts with the first step, they say.

The question today then is not: “Can we build this?” but rather, “Should we build this?”

 _______

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*****

Please do share your thoughts and feedback and I will be glad to learn from you.

**The author is an entrepreneur with two decades of senior leadership experience in India and Asia-Pacific and now runs Futureshift, a boutique consulting outfit that helps businesses chart their digital marketing strategy with the @ZMOTly framework to achieve impactful outcomes. He is available at rajesh@futureshift.com.sg **

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