Tag Archives: Startups

Business Partners, the struggle.

That is my wife and I going through one of our usual debates  - I am not too sure what this one was about, but I think it was about how it feels to abseil down the Sipi, which she had just finished doing.

That is my wife and I going through one of our usual debates – I am not too sure what this one was about, but I think it was probably about how it feels to abseil the Sipi, which she had just finished doing.

There is nothing as hard as getting the right business partner. If you thought getting the right marriage partner was a challenge, try getting a business partner. I actually think its just the same. I have started up a couple of ventures over the last number of years and in all these years, I have worked with a number of people. From deceitful individuals to unreliable individuals to talkers and none doers.. the list goes on.

Let me tell you about one of my latest partners – I am hoping I can change him before he becomes another ex-partner. Lets call him David. David is a great guy, very talented and hardworking too. David however, has a problem of being over ambitious and lacks commitment. I know this because I was David a few years ago. Unfortunately I learnt that the hard way and learnt to change a few things about myself.

I met David after I stumbled on one of his works, honestly I was impressed with what David was doing but just like many Ugandan businesses, David had no business around what he was doing. He had a relatively good product with no process and no people around it. I met with David and enlightened him on the potential of the idea he was working on. He was very excited and for days he couldn’t stop calling me asking me when we were going to start working together. The day came and we sat down and worked out a plan and rolled into action.

A few days, weeks went by and all was fine until the business hit its first bump; the demand became slow. Please note that this was not because the product was bad or the marketing was bad, no! It was simply because our processes were not yet fully in place. The product had gone through a number of improvements but it was not yet there. David started getting impatient and a friend of his introduced him to Tour and Travel business and showed him a dream of what sort of money they could make. David without warning, came to the office when I was not there and packed up and left – ever had a partner that did that to you? Yeah, in University a girl did that to me. Apparently she did not know how to tell me that she had met someone else. Remember my comparison of a marriage partner to a business partner?

I did not go after David when he left – yea, I am a very arrogant man sometimes, my wife hates that about me but I most times can’t help myself. Anyways, a few months later, I got a call from David begging me to meetup. Yes, begging! I said to myself, he is a good guy, talented and means well, let me meet him and see what happens. I swear to you our meeting was like a girlfriend-boyfriend-make-up meeting. So many promises were made, so many apologies shared… it was actually emotional, in a way. Long story short, I took David back. With lots of conditions obviously.

He was excited and swore to me how he is now focused and committed. A few weeks later, David started showing the same signs that he did before. He started running late on deliveries, he started coming up with all sorts of side businesses and ideas – businesses/ideas that were making him late on what his primary role was. So many times when he is talking to me about these ideas, I am listening and thinking, what is happening to this man?!

Anyways, I am right now seated on my verandah with a hot cup of tea, enjoying the cold breeze and wondering what should I do with this partner of mine? Giving up is something I promised myself not to do anymore, I want to shape him in place but I do not know if I have the patience and the energy to see it through.

Did I mention that David ALWAYS gets funny whenever he gets some money? Yeah! I just sent him a hundred thousand on to get started on some work for this week and he went to the office again and carried out office equipment – again, that he is going to work from somewhere else, I do not know where and nor was this move discussed! Honestly, I am hoping and praying that he is probably going to work the whole night and didn’t want to do that at the office.

I want to put the blame on him being a millennial but I don’t know.

Oh well, they say you can never get the perfect partner but you work with the one you get to make them the right partner. Here is to project David.

PS. If there is one thing that I have learnt in all my entrepreneurship journey is that persistence and focus are KEY in the success of any startup. Without those two, you are as good as not starting.

PSS. I know you might be wondering why I used a picture of my wife and I on this post. See, my wife and I are completely different people – sometimes anyways. But, we have managed to find ways how to work out our differences. If it wasn’t for focus and persistence, we would not have lasted a year in our relationship later on marriage.

Lessons from Startup TV Series

StartUp_Channel_800x1200-683x1024If you have known me for awhile or read anything about me, then you know about my startup hustle and some of the projects that I worked on in the past years.

Obviously there are many lessons I learnt, some of which I wished I learnt them before reality hit me in the face. The other day  I watched this TV Series called Startup – Plot summary

Miami – A desperate banker needs to conceal stolen money. A Haitian-American gang lord wants to go legit. A Cuban-American hacker has an idea that will revolutionize the very future of money itself. Forced to work together, they unwittingly create their version of the American dream – organized crime 2.0.

It starts off slow but it is a good watch. Here are scenes I watched the brought back some of the lessons I too learned the hard way – just  like they did.

  1. When building a startup, there is nothing more important that getting the right team. In the movie, they team was setup under strange situation but it actually turned up to work perfectly for them
  2. To scale or sometimes to get the startup off the ground, you need funding. Funding NEVER comes easy. In the TV series, they had some money that they had started with and then the lost it and had to look for more startup capital which did not come up easily at all.
  3. Times will get HARD but do not lose focus. In the TV Series, after they had secured an addition 1.5M USD, they were hacked and all the money stolen.  They were obviously broken. Izzy lost it, it was Andy who was pushing her and giving her hope until Ronald came in with an idea of an office that got them back on track.
  4. The devil is in the detail. When Izzy finally got a meeting with an investor who agreed to fully fund the startup, she was offered a contract that cut out the other two guys that she started the business with. Her passion to get GenCoin off the ground got her signing the contract without taking it to her lawyers to proof read it. Later on, she was actually kicked out of the company she started in parents garage. A company the almost lost her life for.
  5. Never forget the people that stood by you. Izzy was so desperate to get GenCoin off the ground that when she was presented with a contract that cut out Andy and Ronald she signed it. Fast forward, when she was kicked out of her own company, it is the same two people that she came crying to. Imagine, if they were not forgiving?!

Here is a list of other entrepreneurship movies to look out for;

Silicon Valley

Although you fell in love with Martyn Burke’s Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999), that’s not the one we’re talking about here. Silicon Valley, a TV series released in 2014 that is fast approaching the limelight is a comedy series that showcases the inner workings of life in the Silicon Valley. The show revolves around six young men who co-found a startup company amidst the heavy competition in the Mecca of the Business World. Three seasons of this invigorating series are out while the fourth is set to air in 2017.

Startup

This series, starring Adam Brody and Martin Freeman, is set to be released later this year, and just its cast is enough to excite anyone! It’s unique and interesting concept makes it stands out from its contemporaries. In this show, a banker from Brooklyn, a Haitian gang lord and a Cuban hacker put their heads together to raise a potential multi-billion dollar business on ‘digital currency’, that could revolutionise the future of money itself. Can’t wait? Neither can we!

How I made my Millions

A CNBC original, this show leads you to the greenroom of the business world, where after the curtain fall, the biggest businessmen and women reveal how they took ordinary ideas and turned them into extraordinary businesses. Most of these center around businesses that have crossed the $1 million mark. Aired in 2011, How I made my millions showcases the typical ‘American Dream’ and tries to show that if you have the idea, the resources and the willpower, you can make things happen.

The Profit

This much-watched series shows that being a successful entrepreneur isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It broadcasts the raw, challenging and often ugly side of starting your own business. The show revolves real-life businessman Marcus Lemonis, one of the biggest sharks of the business world and his decision to invest money into struggling companies and turn them into highly profitable entities in returns for a percentage of both business and profit. It is a great in-depth lesson for all entrepreneurs, as the first part of the show a tutorial of sorts where they show you what NOT to do as an entrepreneur. The motto of the show emphasises the three P’s – People, Process and Product – the triangular mantra of success for any startup founder and members.

This was one of my favorites

This list was originally posted on YourStory

The waiting game!

People wait.
They wait for that elusive day when they’ll finally have enough time (guess what?—you never will), enough education (there is always more to know), enough money (no matter how much you make, someone will always have more). They wait until the children are grown (news flash: just because they’re grown, it doesn’t mean you’re rid of them) or until things settle down at work (they never will). People wait until . . . until . . . until . . . They wait, and they wait, and they wait, until that fateful day when they wake up and realize that while they were sitting around, paying dues, earning their keep, waiting for that elusive “perfect time,” their entire life has passed them by

To Get Featured in Media, DO NOT PITCH YOUR PRODUCT

 

This is another one of the many articles that I stumble upon and find very interesting and worth keeping that I repost on my site

[dropcap style=”1″ size=”3″]E[/dropcap]ntrepreneurs that are looking to get attention from bloggers and journalists will often pitch their businesses themselves or though a PR agency.

It’s sad that most of those pitches fall flat and are likely to be completely ignored. A waste of time and money for everyone.

For example, here’s a pitch from a PR professional. I’ve changed it slightly to avoid embarrassing anyone:

“I’m working with a wonderful new business… The owners grew up together and decided to go into business… it’s a story I’m sure your readers will care a lot about!”

Uh, no. It’s unlikely that people are going to care about this story.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure the entrepreneurs are great people, but many entrepreneurs can tell a tale of struggle and euphoria and heartbreak and someday, against all odds, turning their dreams into reality and making their business a success. While occasionally readers might be inspired or motivated, for the most part we’re just not that interested in other people’s stories. Unless those stories are particularly remarkable we’re more apt to just keep living our own dreams and writing our own stories. So, the things we’re interested in is not other people’s stories, but information that helps us write our own.

So what should you do if you’re trying to spread the word about new products and services, landing new customers, bringing investors onboard… all the stuff you hire PR agencies to do for you or, more likely, try to do on your own?

If you’re looking for press, forget the formulaic, cookbook approach to crafting a winning media pitch. That approach may result in coverage in a few outlets… but not the ones you really want.

Quick rule of thumb: Any media outlet that will do a story based on a crappy pitch is a media outlet that will get you crappy exposure.

Let’s pretend you’re thinking about pitching me an article idea for OnStartups.com (which has a modestly sized, but awesome audience).  You can apply the following to any media outlet or blog, though.

Here’s what to do and not to do:

Don’t tell me your story is unique.

No offense, but it really isn’t. There are thousands of Ramen noodle stories. There are thousands of 3 am “Eureka!” stories. There are thousands of maxed-out credit cards, relatives won’t return your calls, last-minute financing savior stories.

Your story is deservedly fascinating to you because you lived it (just as my story is fascinating to me), but to the average reader your story sounds a lot like every other entrepreneur’s story. Claiming your story is unique creates an expectation that, if not met, negatively impacts the rest of your pitch.

And if your story truly is unique, I’ll know. You won’t have to tell me.

Don’t tell me how much a little publicity will help you.

Never waste time by explaining how this could be a win-win relationship or, worse, by claiming you want to share your wisdom because you simply want to help others.

I know you want publicity, and I know why. I get it. I’ve been there. We’re cool.

Know what I’ve done recently.

It’s easy to think, “Hey, he recently wrote about choosing a co-founder, so I should pitch a story about how I help people find co-founders”

Um, probably not. If just wrote about co-founders. I’m probably good for a little bit on that topic. Never assume one article indicates an abiding fascination with a particular topic.

But do feel free to pitch if you aren’t a member of the choir I just preached to. Different points of view catch my attention; same thing, different day does not.

Know my interests.

You certainly don’t need to know I enjoy late-night walks on the beach. (Hey, who doesn’t?) But skim a few posts and you’ll know I have a soft spot for company culturestartup funding and startup marketing

So if you really want to get my attention, don’t use the tried-but-in-no-way-true “mention you really enjoyed something recent the writer wrote” approach.

Instead put your effort into finding an angle that may appeal to my interests. If you can’t be bothered to do that you’ll never get the publicity you want.

Forget a profile piece.

Straight profile pieces that tell the story of a business are boring. (At least I think so, which is why I don’t post those)

The best articles let readers learn from your experience, your mistakes, and your knowledge. Always focus on benefiting readers: When you do, your company gets to bask in the reflected PR glow.

So,readers don’t want to know what you do; they want to know what you know. If you started a company, share five things you learned about landing financing. If you developed a product, share four mistakes you made early on. If you entered a new market, share three strategies you used to steal market share from competitors.

And while you may think the “5 steps to” or “4 ways to” approach is overdone, keep in mind readers love them… and even if I decide not to frame the story that way, developing mental bullet points ahead of time is a great way to organize your information (which helps me) and ensure you have great talking points (which definitely helps you.)

Realize that the more you feel you need to say… the less you really have to say.

Some people think bloggers are lazy and look for stories that write themselves. I can’t argue with the lazy part, but I really don’t want to read a 1,000-word pitch with a comprehensive overview of the topic and a list of semi-relevant statistics. The best products can be described in a few sentences, and so can the best pitches:

So now let’s get specific. Pretend you’re crafting your pitch:

Remember: forget what you want.

Many people think, “Wow, it would be awesome if OnStartups.com ran a story about our new product—think of the exposure! So many VCs would read it! We’re looking for funding!”

Maybe so, but unless you focus on how readers can benefit from the story (learning about your new product isn’t a benefit to readers), that’s not going to happen.

Then, think about what I want.

I want to inform and occasionally – hopefully – entertain readers; the more you can help me accomplish that goal, the more interested I am in what you have to say.

Then craft your pitch with publicity as a secondary goal.

In the example above, the PR pro didn’t offer readers anything. His only focus was on getting publicity to benefit his clients.

Flip it around and focus solely on how you can benefit readers. When you do, your company will benefit by extension.

For example, if you want to spread the word about:

· New products or services: Share four lessons learned during the product development process; describe three ways you listened to customers and determined how to better meet their needs; explain the steps involved in manufacturing products overseas, especially including what you did wrong.

· Landing a major customer: Describe how you changed your sales process to allow you to compete with heavy hitters in your industry; share three stories about major sales that got away and what you learned from failing to reel them in; detail the steps you took to quickly ramp up capacity while ensuring current customers needs were still met.

· Bringing in key investors: Explain how you helped investors embrace your vision for the company; describe four key provisions that create the foundation for a solid partnership agreement; share the stories of three pitches to VCs that went horribly wrong and how those experiences helped you shape a winning pitch.

Sound like a lot of work? It is, but it’s worth it. When you offer to help people solve problems and learn from your mistakes, bloggers and writers will be a lot more interested.

More importantly, readers will be more interested in the news you want to share because first you helped them—and that gives them a great reason to be interested in your business.

[note color=”#FFCC00″]Posted by Dharmesh Shah on onStartups.com[/note]