As entrepreneurs, ideas excite us. But the timing of the idea is very important for success. For instance, my startup; Explara, ventured to solve an incredibly underserved industry (back then at least) - event ticketing & management by developing a ‘software-as-a-service’ solution back in 2008.
Almost immediately after launching, I realized that no one in the industry, including myself, had any data or reasonably accurate estimates for the scope of this ‘event platform’ industry. It was shocking, yes. But at the same time it reinforced my belief in my idea and my vision for Explara.
If I were asked to justify myself based on how many event organizers there were in India –I was launching a DIY (Do-it-yourself) platform for ‘event ticketing and management’ after all - we would have closed shop in 30 days! There was no government-backed data, nor any formalized network/association till 2011.
It was an unbelievably unorganized industry for the ‘digital age’. Even EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association), one of the biggest associations currently, was formalized by government backing only in 2011.
Venturing to solve pain points in an unorganized industry can be very challenging. Timing is crucial as well. I have seen a number of startups that were ahead of their time. They have a free run in an open market – undaunted by big players dominating the industry through years of consolidation. Yet they seemed to fail more often than not.
The key lies in sustaining growth of the industry as well as your startup. Stakeholders in such scenarios have the opportunity to witness massive value growth at dizzying speeds if they work together. For such industries it is imperative that we establish a robust framework of alliances that will ensure we have a sound foundation to build on.
Founder(s) and Team
Before starting up, I believed in super human efforts by founders driving an organization single-handedly. A few months down the road, I was forced to realize that I have to bring in people far, far better than me to even have a chance of success.
The ability to build and grow as team with much smarter, more passionate and hard-working individuals than us as founders is the key ingredient to build a company that lasts. And I cannot emphasize this enough.
Economy Downturns, Risks and Opportunities
The general trend is to start up when you notice a series of positive trends in the economy. Don’t. I believe one should start-up during a low point in the economy!
I feel this statement needs qualification. Here’s two personal instances.
When I started in 2008, the economy was going bust. I could build a great team a lot more easily as I had access to incredibly talented people at much lower cost than usual. We could build our business by focusing on our customer’s pain points while scaling fast, scaling hard and scaling cheap.
I won’t deny there aren’t risks associated with slowdowns in the economy. I had another ‘great’ idea around recruitment. When I had launched in the first quarter of 2008, hiring was frozen by most companies in India. I had to flush the idea and went on to launch Explara. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense.
Angel investors & Mentors
Having failed twice in my startup journey, my third attempt saw me move a lot more cautiously and pay more attention to my angel investors and mentor. And it showed during some really crucial times. It’s not about the money. Their help in business development, connections to key industry players and stakeholders and influencer support eased our journey of growth and credibility.
Most startups have it wrong. It’s not just about the money. Smart Angels add more value than you could possibly dream of.