"What My Failed Start-up Taught Me"

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India saw around 350 start-up casualties in 2016 and 2015 and collectively a few billion dollars were flushed out. Some of the entrepreneurs are now hoping to be second time lucky. However, many of them have gone back to the safer shores of a job but of course with their share of great learnings. We asked few from the latter bucket: How's that helping them wear the new hat?


Stay Lean

(Vineet Singh Then: Co-Founder and CEO, Buildzar (marketplace for construction materials, $4m funding in January 2016 from Puneet Dalmia, Managing Director, Dalmia Bharat) Now: Chief Business Officer, MobiKwik)

RIP-Buildzar April 2015 - Nov. 2016

The biggest thing I learnt was lean execution. As an entrepreneur at Buildzar, I learnt that capital, not people, is the most precious resource to manage. The culture of bootstrapping which I evangelized and executed at Buildzar is what I brought to MobiKwik. For instance, at MobiKwik, we opened four offices for which we wanted to hire people. But instead of blindly staffing those offices, we have decided to ramp up the head count on performance basis like a start-up does. So most of the team leaders have to earn their head count by showing progress in their respective work.

Break Down The Problem

(Aman Haji Then: Co-Founder and CEO, Klozee (apparel rental platform, seed funding from TracxnLabs in August 2015) Now: Member, Strategy team, Livspace

RIP-Klozee April 2015 – March 2016

The approach to how you solve a big problem is what I learnt at Klozee. The idea is to break down a big intimidating problem into a bunch of smaller and easier problems and solve them independently. At Livspace, we had launched a campaign which deals with transitioning people on payroll model to a freelancer model. It was a totally new idea, so when we began it was quite intimidating for us. But, when we broke it down, we realized that there are just a few things that we need to really focus on. While moving towards the new model, we had to make sure that the customer experiences remained the same. Second problem we faced was getting designers on the platform to cater to the consumer demands. At Klozee, I also learnt the art of making decisions based on data such as number of dresses needed, type and style of dresses, essentially customer pain points.

Prioritize Things

(Talvinder Singh Then: Co-Founder, Tushky (marketplace for leisure activities locally, raised $63k in Sept. 2012 and $200k in August 2013 backed by 500 Startups and others) Now: Senior Product Manager, OYO Rooms)

RIP-Tushky June 2011 – Nov 2015

I learnt how to prioritize things - what needs to be worked upon, what problem I should be solving, when I should be solving, etc., and to rely on very less data because start-up usualy have access to limited resources. At OYO Rooms, let's say in marketing there are four-five channels available but you don't have sufficient data to know which one would work. For that you need to be able to prioritize what experiments you would run and what are the metrics on which the experiments should be judged so that you can get some data to make a choice. This approach of prioritizing things and being miser in terms of what are the metrics we should be tracking is what I learnt at Tushky.

Develop Marketer Mindset

(Damandeep Singh Soni Then: Founder, Planet GoGo (content aggregation app, seed funding led by HT Media in Dec. 2015) Now: Head – Growth, MobiKwik)

RIP- Planet GoGo: Sept. 2015 – Dec. 2016

How to drive product innovation from marketing perspective? - is one challenge lot of start-ups face. So the need is to have a marketer who can drive product innovation but since they come from a different back ground the skill sets that are required for the profile doesn't match. At MobiKwik, there is a lot of product mindset and our campaigns, product changes that need to be done from a marketing perspective are driven by the marketing team which is very data driven. At Planet GoGo, I used to look a lot at the product and marketing which helped me to come up with better ideas that encouraged me to drive something as complex as this at MobiKwik. For e.g., MobiKwik is offering cash back as the loyalty point called SuperCash. To create this whole product, you need a marketer mindset to understand incurrning cost, how much loyalty will be built and also how to make sure the product doesn't remain a me-too.

(This article was first published in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)