A Founder and Accelerator Manager’s tips to grow your business

A Founder and Accelerator Manager’s tips to grow your business
At ISB, I couldn’t decide whether to major in entrepreneurship, even though I knew nothing would make me happier than starting my venture. The overwhelming feedback I received was ‘Entrepreneurship is not something that can be taught in the class’. Those who have spent even a minute in Professor Arun Pereira’s class will scoff at the idea—after all, what is it you cannot learn in an Entrepreneurship class? In the end, I majored in Strategy & Marketing. I figured I might as well learn how to lead other aspects of the firm I would eventually set up.

Post ISB, I ended up in management consulting, typical of those who were yet to decide about where they wanted to be. Over the years, I branched out to innovation consulting and managing programmes that checked the feasibility of using emerging technologies (AI, Blockchain, AR, VR et al.) in various scenarios. The entrepreneurship spirit still kindled in me and in my early thirties, as a young parent, I felt as if my now-or-never moment had arrived. I set up my own for-profit crafts marketplace, highlighting rural talent in India. An Indian Etsy with a heart, you may say.

I handed the company over to the other co-founder after a couple of years, and started my current role as a product manager for early stage ideas where I get to listen to pitches, shape the technology that will eventually run the product/service, and help develop investment pitches. In all my years of wanting to be an entrepreneur, being an entrepreneur, and now helping other innovators get their ideas to the market, some lessons I have learnt hold true for many business ideas. 

  1. Ditch that PPT. Get going with the times.
How about sketching out your idea or building your wireframe in Invision or MarvelApp? Or a quick demo video on Biteable? The latest sketching and prototyping tools require minimal technical knowledge, and investors expect to see a clickable wireframe when you pitch. A thousand words and a picture on PPT can mean nothing if you have an interactive pretotype. (Look up that word— “pretotype”!)
  1. Versions. Versions. Versions.
You might sell the same idea, but the story should be different each time. What an investor likes to hear might not interest a potential partner or a beta user. Know your audience and keep multiple pitches handy.
  1. Accept failure. Embrace weaknesses.
Here’s a piece of advice that my pre-kindergartner’s teacher shared that could be useful: ‘Kids who fall often know how and when to watch out for pitfalls’. If your beta users found your app to be not so user friendly, maybe it is time to go back to the drawing board.
  1. End your pitch with the name of your idea and how to contact you!
I have listened to so many pitches during ‘Demo Days’ where the idea leaders have delivered a perfect pitch: Issue, Solution, Impact, Ask. But, in almost all the cases, they failed to end their pitch with a call out to their contact details. All it takes is a few seconds and potential investors will never forget your idea’s name if they liked what you delivered overall.
  1. Is that piece of tech absolutely required? Identify the business need accurately.
The market is hot for emerging technologies such as AI, Blockchain, AR, VR, Drones, RPA, but unless your idea specifically calls for it there is no need to ‘insert’ a hot tech in it. One of the greatest ideas to come out of the accelerator club where I volunteer was a ‘subscription model for hot lunches on working days’. Pay a flat fee of $5 every day and you have a host of restaurants open for you for your work day lunch, which otherwise might have cost you $8-9 plus taxes. No Blockchain, just assured revenue. It is important to keep in mind that no matter how powerful technology is, it's just a tool to solve a problem more efficiently.
Focus on finding opportunities ripe for innovation and would gain immediate traction with potential users!
This article is written by Keerthi Santosh Varier, alumnus from PGP Co '12 and member of Entrepreneurship and Startup SIG. Keerthi is a Product Manager (with EY) for early stage innovative ideas and, a social entrepreneur. In her spare time, she volunteers with DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia) area’s start up focused programmes such as DCSW. She listens to pitches day in and day out, from corporate innovators to serial entrepreneurs. Talk to her if you want to know more about growing early stage ideas.

LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/keerthivarier/