From the Launchpad - Bibhusan Bista

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From the Launchpad - Bibhusan Bista

Bibhusan Bista is the CEO of Young Innovations, a technology company that builds innovative and powerful solutions to solve global development problems. In his role as a mentor at NEXT Launchpad, Bista seeks to help startups specialise in building innovative tools for global development. This paraphrased version of Bista’s interview with VMAG’s Pooja Rijal encapsulates his insights on the prospects for tech startups in Nepal and how startups in general can benefit from technology.

 

What are some challenges you faced when setting up Young Innovations? And what are some of the lessons you’ve learned?

When we established our company in 2007, we faced challenges related to accessing financial capital, connecting to and keeping up with a fast-paced market and getting the right customers to buy our products. Although we are still a startup company and continue to face similar problems, our ten years of experience has taught us some important lessons about dealing with such challenges.

We have learned that it is essential for companies to focus on what they are capable of excelling at, instead of chasing after opportunities that seem beneficial only in the short-term. We have also learned that an efficient, competitive and knowledgeable team is important. I like to compare a business team to a musical band consisting of different members—each member has different specialities, but they all have to comprehend each other’s styles and cooperate in order to make good music.

 

What is essential for startups to know, in your opinion?

Startups are often inclined to spend most of their time creating unique products. As a result, many of these new companies forget to think about what the market actually needs. It is important to know that it takes a lot for the market to understand your ideas and then adjust itself to it. So when pitching your ideas, whether to investors or potential clients, you need to make sure that your value proposition is clear. More importantly, you need to make sure that your proposition is positioned in such a way that the audience understands how it benefits them. If entrepreneurs are able to do this and have the ability to access the right networks and generate revenue within the first six months of their launch, then their companies are probably going to stay in the market for a while.

Photos: Govinda Maharjan

What causes startups to fail?

I have noticed that one of the most common reasons startups fail is that entrepreneurs are too confident about how easy it will be to acquire customers. They assume that because they have built an interesting website or a mobile app, they’ll get millions of customers immediately. This concept is wrong. Startups have to thoroughly revise their business models several times in order to get customers. And the same goes for getting investors too. Normally, investors in Nepal need some time to trust new products no matter how much expertise was put into creating them, so startups need to spend some time thinking about ways to pitch their ideas. Additionally, most startups, especially in the IT sector, also tend get involved in more than a few projects and thus obtain incomplete and messy results. As an IT company, you need to be more specific and factor-focused.

What is the thinking process behind your designs?

We’ve been following the agile development methodology model and suggest that especially IT startups do the same. Agile methodology is an iterative approach that builds a software gradually instead of trying to deliver it all at once in the end. For example, if a client approaches you to design exclusive software, the first thing to do would be to come up with a development model for the client. Then, startups would need to create a list of features—from most to least important—that the client would like to see in their software, execute and update the plan, and finally, wait for client feedback. In this example, the client is not a client, she is a partner; and the developers are not just labourers but very important stakeholders of the project. This ensures the entire team’s involvement and the client’s satisfaction.

 

How important are IT courses for startups?

Most students in Nepal miss out on information technology courses. In most government and private schools and colleges in the country, the traditional system of learning only through books is still prevalent. The curriculum in schools and colleges hasn’t changed much in the past five years, and institutions are unable to provide the skills and expertise required for teaching IT. This is one of the main reasons why many startups fail to use IT products well. In this day and age, especially as a business startup, IT skills are a must. Therefore, the education system in Nepal should incorporate IT courses that can blend into the growing technological ecosystem.

 

Is Nepal capable of creating an IT hub?

Nepal can definitely create an IT hub. We have several capable individuals and experts in the IT sector that can make it possible. However, we need to start slow. If we try to replicate Silicon Valley, it is unlikely that we will make significant progress or enough revenue. This is because the speed and scale of the technology used in Silicon Valley is extremely advanced, and such things may not be available for startups in this part of the world.

How can startups stand out from the crowd?

To stand out from the crowd isn’t rocket science. The key for startups is simply to have a clear vision of what they want to do in the first six months and then get their customers to trust and buy their products. Startups need to think ahead and look beyond the established trends to catch up with the next innovative idea. Also every startup company, not just those in the IT sector, should at least know the basics of coding to make the entire research process and work model easier to implement.

*First Published by the author in M&S VMAG

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Guest Tuesday, 22 August 2017