In the trenches with the D50: Startups are not one-man shows
By Lum Ka Kay March 7, 2016
- Ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s about execution
- Asia is the best place for startups to launch
THE picture of an entrepreneur standing bravely by himself, beating the odds to create a business and make a difference: That’s not the real world, according to entrepreneurs themselves.
It’s not a one-man (or one-woman) show, it’s a team effort, said panellists at a discussion organised by the Malaysia Youth Entrepreneur Challenge Camp at the University of Nottingham in Semenyih on March 4.
1337 Ventures chief executive officer (CEO) Bikesh Lakhmichand said that founders have to learn how to delegate, instead of trying to do everything themselves.
“Entrepreneurship shouldn’t be a one-man show because that would be the reason why you fail – and I would never invest in a startup that is a one-man show,” he said during the panel discussion titled In the Trenches with DNA’s Digerati50.
The session was moderated by Digital News Asia founder and CEO Karamjit Singh, and also included baby products e-commerce startup Babydash founder Lavinie Thiruchelvam; and Code Ar.my cofounder and CEO Zafrul Noordin.
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Bikesh, also an inaugural Digerati50, said on their own, founders would not have the bandwidth to get anything done.
“Most of the time, it’s just ego. You think you have to do everything because it’s your company, you want the glamour, and you don’t want to let go.
“That’s what we’ve seen in most founders – they think the weight of the world is on their shoulders,” he said.
When asked when would be the right time to start a business, Bikesh said, “Now,” pointing to the university students who made up the bulk of the audience.
“This is your right time to start a business, because you’re young and naïve – what do you have to lose?
“And take this time while you’re still in university to find the right partner to work with you.
“My advice to all the young people out there: Just shut up and start, it’s not rocket science,” he said.
Zero balance and positive vibes
Meanwhile, Lavinie (pic above) noted that being employed and running your own business are two very different worlds.
The law graduate had been running her own dance studio for about a decade before cofounding Babydash.
“It [the dance studio] was a great business but it wasn’t scalable – not something that I could make really huge, and that’s why I started Babydash.
“As for now, I still struggle – my husband complains that I prioritise my business above many other things.
“But the thing here is, when you start your own business, you’ve got to put in your all, because there is no other way for you to succeed,” she said.
Zafrul (pic below) concurred, saying that with his own startup – Code Ar.my is the official regional partner for the Lean Startup Machine – besides the monetary investment, he also put in a lot of ‘emotional investment.’
“I’ve sacrificed relationships and my time with my family – all these are my emotional investments into the startup,” he said.
“When you found your own startup, there isn’t any balance. You’ve got to sacrifice everything you’ve got,” he added.
However, Zafrul also said that being an entrepreneur was one of the most fulfilling journeys in his life.
“The bitterness does have a sweetness to it,” he added.
Lavinie noted that mental perseverance is important when one embarks on the entrepreneurial journey.
“You have to constantly charge forward and be positive. You have to immerse yourself in what you’re doing, and you have to learn continuously throughout the journey.
“For me, I had zero knowledge about technology, but I went on the Internet to read about technology and to research companies from different parts of the world,” she added.
Ideas are a dime a dozen
A business often starts from an idea and one can have as many ideas as one wants, but is there any way to prevent it from being stolen?
Bikesh (pic above) said one cannot protect an idea.
“There isn’t any unique idea, what we see are variations of an idea. If you have an idea, it is okay to copy and do something that everyone’s doing, but the key thing here is how you can make sure you’re far better than the original idea.
“The most important thing is how fast you get your idea up and running,” he said.
Zafrul urged aspiring entrepreneurs to think more deeply about their ideas.
“It’s like nasi lemak [a local delicacy] – many people can cook it, but who cooks it best? Or who has the secret sauce?
“So think about your idea and what special ingredient that you’re going to put into it,” he advised.
Silicon Valley, pah!
Finally, Bikesh urged entrepreneurs to stop fantasising about the startup scene in Silicon Valley, arguing that Asia is the best place to launch a startup.
“Screw Silicon Valley. There isn’t much over there anymore. Asia, on the other hand, is where everything is. Everyone wants a piece of Asia.
“Think about the major e-commerce websites that are set up by foreigners – why do you think they chose Asia?
“Because Amazon isn’t in Asia, and if Amazon ever comes to Asia, it may acquire the e-commerce players here.
“You’re in the best place to launch the company, and that’s Asia,” he declared.
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