what can be done to overcome them
“Start-ups” and “entrepreneurship”are the buzz words at the moment in Dhaka. Recently, I
had an opportunity to visit the capital and could not refrain myself from exploring what the start-up culture has grown into over a period of three years.
Three years ago, the start-up ecosystem was at its nascent stage, while my knowledge was limited. At present, Lightcastle Partners has been established as data magnets of the country. Deligram is being quoted as the Bangladeshi Amazon. Hungrynaki has expanded their borders. Even Daekho is an emerging start-up, focused on media content. Maya and Doctorola are providing tech-based health services. An amazing achievement is from Shohoz and Pathao who are pioneers of acquir-ing financial injections from abroad. Start-ups are booming in Dhaka.
The government has launched iDEA, a project to support and invest in promising start-ups, Access to Information (a2i) is already funding many innovative ideas. North South University has started an entrepreneurship major in their BBA program, BRAC University has been operating the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) and Dhaka University has the DU i-LAB. Most of the people I know are either running start-ups, thinking about running a start-up, or involved in someone’s start-ups in some way.
A majority of people who are aspiring to become entrepreneurs are not actually doing what entre-preneurs do. They are just behaving or talking like entrepreneurs. Instead of solving a real problem, instead of building a real product, they are just building pretty websites and business cards. Instead of getting real clients, they are polishing their LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram to make sure that the word “CEO” is written everywhere.
They are networking, they are going to events, they know where their niche is, they know how the product will look like and what it will serve, but when I ask them to show the product, or want to use it, the result is null. There is nothing.
Some common behaviours I have noted about these people are:
• They are always researching and comparing better technology for their products and services, although there is little or no usability tests with the consumer
• They are into entrepreneurship because everyone is doing it
• They all want to be their own boss
• They are hiring a designer to create their logo, website, or business cards
• They are writing fantastic copies of their LinkedIn profiles
• They are going to all sorts of networking events
• They are buying and doing all kinds of online courses for hundreds of dollars
• They are working with people, but have little or no trust
• They are not focusing on one idea, rather playing around with multiple ideas with different groups
Therefore, some questions inevitably arise:
1. Where is the product?
2. Is your product reaching any customers?
3. Are you making money?
The products I am talking about are not social businesses or innovations, rather legitimate business products. The question is, how long can you keep this up? Are you actually doing any business? Do you just want to impress other people? What does the title CEO actually mean to you? Is it the best use of your time? What happens when you fail the first time? Will you quit or stick up to it?
Entrepreneurship is the idea to set up a working system, that generates a cash flow over time without you necessarily being involved in it. On that note, you can come up with as many great ideas as you can, you can plan out all the business plans you can, but unless your idea generates a reliable and sufficient amount of profit, it is worthless.
On that note, the priorities of an entry-stage entrepreneur should be to focus totally on:
• Discovering a real problem and a target market and whether the market is willing to pay if it is solved
• Coming up with a great product that can be automated, scaled, and made profitable
• Testing your assumptions with data as soon as you can with your prototype
• Make iterations of your product until your target market is satisfied
• Making you first profit as soon as possible so that you can invest it
The only think you need to do is invest 80% of your time into developing a product that customers would absolutely love to pay for, build your customer base, and care for your existing customers.
Acting as a CEO or a founder, and not doing the actual work, will only cost you money, time, and energy to maintain that image, while someone is doing the actual work.
This is the current gap I see in a majority of entrepreneurs. We have quite a few incubators in Dha-ka right now. However, if we don’t address this problem, percentages for failed entrepreneurship will only rise.
The timing for our aspiring entrepreneurs has never been so right, but we need to work on a grow-ing and sustainable culture that focuses on being effective and efficient.
Touhid Kamal is a business anthropologist, currently learning on the human-sidedness of people analytics. He writes from Germany.