Growing pains

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Growing pains

(Source: culttt.com/wp-content

Most entrepreneurs are optimists. They have to be. Entrepreneurship is about risk taking, even though most risks that entrepreneurs take are calculated ones. That’s because entrepreneurs cannot afford to doubt their own ideas if they want to forge ahead. Optimism seems to be the hallmark of  Nepali entrepreneurs. There is a pervasive attitude of “bhai-halchha ni” among most entrepreneurs here, endowed as they are with the belief that everything will fall into place if they keep plugging away. But this optimism—that things will get better—can prevent you from noticing the obvious, and at times, it even creates the delusion that every wrong can be rectified with corrective measures.

Optimism of this sort can sometimes be fatal to ventures. This isn’t to say startups cannot make and overcome mistakes. One way to learn to make fewer of them would be to study how other local entrepreneurs have fared in their journey and learn from their mistakes. We talked to a few local entrepreneurs to understand how the mistakes they made in their startup impacted their venture and what we can learn from them.

 

Prakash Neupane, cofounder at NepFlight

I feel I should have scaled up my business much earlier. NepFlights started with a niche product, where we focused only on domestic flights. We thought we knew the market and our customers, so we were focused on our core services and missed potential areas that we could have branched out into. For example, we knew foreigners needed flights from Kathmandu to Pokhara,but initially we didn’t realise there was a bigger scope in hotel booking and other follow-up services, which the customers would want to avail of after they had confirmed their flight. It was only later that we saw these opportunities.

As a result, by the time we had better understood the scope of what we could offer, we had difficulties addressing issues with our initial system and working model. We thus had no choice but to rebuild everything from scratch. We were forced to reconsider our supply chain management model, and in the long run that cost us more money and time.

 

Ashish Shrestha, cofounder at HoneyGuide Apps

We were very product-centric at first. Although we knew what the market needed, the problem was in our approach. We had no knowledge about positioning and branding, so we went with the traditional approach for creating our product, which meant we were trying to create a new product category in the market itself. Our mistake was creating a marketing plan that didn’t have the particulars of a disruptive product. Initially, everybody assumed we were just a guidebook. Some even thought we were a trekking agency because those are the concepts and product categories people are familiar with.

This is why I regret not buying a Kindle on Day 1, for example. I could have used it to obtain so much more information. On a Kindle you can read blogs, books, and other available texts that offer information about others’ experiences and guidelines with holistic and actionable information. Reading allows you to borrow someone else’s brain. Life is too short to make all the mistakes yourself. We can learn from others just by reading up on what they have gone through.

 

Sachin Jung Karki, cofounder at Thrillmytrip

In one of my education-based startups, I made a mistake when choosing my partner. I selected a cofounder on the basis of my sentiments, rather than business compatability. Our visions conflicted and our startup didn’t even take off. If you’re collaborating, make sure you find people who are on the same page as you. Only then will you be able to enjoy working together.

 

Bobby Basnyat, cofounder at Semantic Creation

One of the biggest mistakes I made was to not properly understand the size of the local market, and therefore I failed to fully understand the limitations of the market. When we came up with our first product, Bishwa Cup 2014, the app was appreciated and well received, and newspapers published positive reviews. We had active and engaged users, but we did not have as many users as we had expected. When we developed the app, we focused on the elements that would be needed to reach a wider audience, but we should have studied the local market more thoroughly. If we had understood that there were not many local users, we could have made the product specific to our market. Doing so would have increased the value proposition of our product.

 

Anish Shrestha, cofounder at Fawesome Apps

My biggest mistake during the early startup phase was not validating the idea/product/business before starting to work on it. Without knowing the actual need in the market, we jumped into the game and fell flat on our faces.

 

Madhu Khadka, CEO at Web Robo

The major mistake I made during my startup journey was presenting my idea to the wrong people. I desperately needed a team to make my plans a reality, and I was sharing my idea only with people I felt comfortable with. Unfortunately, that meant involving the wrong people, a move that can be lethal.

I was also asking the wrong people for suggestions. So instead of getting constructive feedback, I received comments that frustrated and discouraged me. My idea was supposed to be my strength, but when others got me confused over it, I began to doubt myself, and I started to wonder if I was on the right path.

 

Aayush Shrestha, cofounder at Lishn

One of the earliest mistakes we made was focusing too much on product development. Because our team had an engineering background, our core objective for the first few months was to build an interesting product that worked. We later realised that we needed to give equal importance to the processes of validating the problem and validating the business model.

The result, as expected, was that we spent too much time building the product without knowing for sure that the solution we were building would actually solve the problem we had set out to solve. Once we realised our mistake and started exploring the business side of our venture, we found quite a lot of changes needed to be made to our product as well as our processes. There were a few places where we had veered quite a bit off centre, and we had to re-align ourselves. Fortunately for us, we caught our error quite early, but it still cost us some valuable time.

As most of the entrepreneurs featured have so honestly revealed, many of them made mistake of the same kind: they invested time in creating products based on assumptions, as opposed to research and facts. Validating assumptions, understanding customer needs and knowing the market are some of the basics mastered by successful startups around the world. In the startup world, as in many other spheres of life, it’s worth it to look (indeed, to see with some measure of clarity) before you leap.

* First published in M&SVMAG 

 

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Guest Wednesday, 20 June 2018