He was leaving the next day and I hadn’t visited him yet. The night before his flight back to San Franscisco, I joined him at his aunt’s house for dinner. My family and his family were there. Sitting around the dinner table. His mother wanted him married, he joked about the wrong age. You know how extended family dinners go. I asked him what he was doing back in the land of Silicon Valley. The answer hardly was surprising.
“I am working in this startup,” he said, “making apps for mobile.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, “so what is your role there?”
A slight pause. I noticed it because I was looking for it. Then he said, “I am in Marketing”.
“Ahaan,” I said, “and what do you market there?”
He pulled out his iPhone, showed me the game his startup has developed.
“We are right now working with This&That publisher, and we are publishing their books as apps,” he said and handed me the phone to check it out.
“So this is a good channel for you to keep the revenue streams solid, right?” I asked.
“Yes, yes. This keeps us afloat while we work out our new product.”
“You mean your MVP?”
He raised an eyebrow, “yes, our MVP is ready.”
“Where exactly are you in the startup phase?” I asked between mouthfuls.
“Near the end,” he said, “the business model is ready for scale.”
“Are you guys funded yet?”
“Yes. First round. Angel basically.”
“Nice. So tell me,” I lowered my voice so prying ears won’t hear this, “you really aren’t in Marketing, what do you do in the startup?”
He smiled, “customer interviews mostly”.
Do you want to start a new business?
There is a new language out there. The startup language. There was a time when starting a business and running an existing business were considered the same thing. Essentially, a one-man briefcase company was considered a smaller version of a big corporate.
We have moved away from that confusion. And rightly so.
It is great to think big, but all of us have to start small. There is a reason a business plan never worked, there is a reason offering too many services in the beginning was not a good thing. But we were unable to explain that reason. It was just the way things worked.
A friend of mine opened up a graphic design shop. He was offering everything under the sun, from brochure design to web design to stationery design to billboard design to the decal design that would go on the company’s vehicles. I would tell him “don’t do it”, I would tell him “don’t offer everything right now”, I would tell him, “focus on one service and gradually expand from there”.
But now I can tell him to make his MVP (minimum viable product), I can tell him to plug in the 9 building blocks of the business in the business model canvas, I can tell him to first test his hypothesis, I can tell him to iterate his business model in the real world.
Do you have a plan for that?
There was a “hit and miss” feel to starting up and that made it quite uncomfortable indeed. Now we have a plan. We have a way of testing your business ideas, and getting your first product out the door as quickly as over a weekend!
Once you read the literature, once you read the case studies, once you go over the methods that have developed, you can’t help but get excited. I have had my fair share of starting businesses in varied industries by God’s Grace, and now I feel more confident than ever to test new ideas and help others start new ventures!
This opens a slew of opportunities for us to test more ideas and to feed our curiosity in a structured manner.
Geography doesn’t matter
Whether you’re in Lahore or in San Francisco, you face the same challenges: how to test your idea without wasting time doing things that won’t matter? The mechanics of business are universal; it pays no attention to where you’re from.
And the best news: the principles that are being codified in the Silicon Valley apply to a startup in Lahore!
I wish that we never stop learning. I wish that your ideas see the light of day; may it be opening a dairy farm in your ancestral land or making an app that sells for millions.
The world is waiting for you to start.