In the first year of being an entrepreneur and deciding to go and do your own startup, you are going to uncover multiple challenges along the way. To help you with this journey, I recently interviewed David Henderson (CEO) and Dana Blouin (Chief Data Scientist) of the first year startup Drvr.
Drvr is a combination of a device and a sleek piece of software that allows companies to capture data on their fleet of vehicles and then use their platform to analyse the data to assist in optimising driver behaviour, vehicle safety, and resource management.
Thailand is rated the second worst country in the world for road accidents with almost 30,000 people dying on the roads last year. This alarming statistic is partly what makes Drvr’s business concept so compelling outside of the obvious data insights.
Throughout the interview, it was clear that David and Dana were creating something much bigger than fleet management, but more a change in society and a vision of something bigger. David was a wealth of knowledge and took me back to what it’s like to be in year one of a brand new startup.
Dana, on the other hand, is clearly a thought leader in the tech space and has a very impressive career background. His expertise in “The Internet Of Things,” came across loud and clear, and is obviously a key motivation for him joining Drvr. He regularly speaks at technology conferences, is studying a Ph.D. and has an audience of 53K worth of Twitter followers.
What makes Drvr unique, as a startup is that it started in Australia and then moved to Bangkok in the first year to be closer to the most under-utilised customer-base. While the challenges exist, many of the lessons David & Dana taught me had some unique insight because of the change of locations.
Below are the nine strategies they gave me that you can use in year one of your own startup.
1. Frustration in the corporate world is useful in the startup world
If you are just beginning your first startup, then there is a high chance that you have probably left a corporate job of some form to follow your passion. Now in the first year it’s going to be very hard so you will need some pretty strong motivation.
David told me his own corporate story, which was the seed for starting Drvr. While working a corporate job in Australia, he was always getting enquiries from Asian companies trying to solve traffic and fuel stealing issues.
On a number of occasions he took a proposal to the board of his company and recommended that they expand into the region. On many occasions, he was consistently rejected (a key ingredient in successful startups).
He puts the rejection down to the fact that corporates can often be too conservative and even worried about things in a new market such as political risk, lack of understanding of the market, underdevelopment of the country and even corruption.
“Unless we take a few risks as entrepreneurs we won’t be able to succeed in business” – David Henderson
Dana puts the issue down to the suggestion that size can hamper mobility of a company and the bigger they are, the harder it is to pivot and make adjustments. He says, “it’s not that large business is not interested in innovation it’s just that they can’t move quick enough to take advantage of it.”
So David used his frustration in the corporate world as his strategy to join forces and form a startup with his colleagues Damien Williams and Eugene Peresada. So if you were previously working a day job and being told you couldn’t do something, then that’s your motivation for the first year of your startup.
Do you want to go back to being told you can’t do something every day? If not, continue with your startup and keep pivoting your idea until you find a revenue generating market.
2. Validate your idea with pilots
The first step to validation is to get feedback from industry professionals about your product or service. Assuming the feedback is good, you can then get your sales people (or you if you don’t have any) to offer pilots to prospective customers
If the customer feedback is positive, then your sales people should then get the clients to sign a contract for your product or service. Once you have customers with recurring revenue each month, then you have essentially proven your concept.
This is the exact strategy Drvr used to prove their startup concept and direction.
3. Make tough money decisions
As a startup founder, every day you have to make decisions about things you would like to do but can’t afford to do. In Drvr’s case, they were forced to make decisions like whether to spend money on going to conference, or whether to rent a new office.
Get used to making these tough decisions because the first year will require you only to fund the essential strategies of your startup.
4. Sales people are more powerful than marketing
If there was one strategy that came out loud and clear from Dana & David, it was that in the first year of a startup, unless you are focused on the consumer market, marketing should be a low priority. The best strategy that both of them continually recommended was to get sales people that have existing networks to customers you want to do business with.
Drvr has been successful because they have hired great sales people, focused on one clearly defined region to begin with and sold their service – simple. In places like Asia, more so than anywhere else, email is looked at as spam, cold calling doesn’t work and businesses don’t tend to look at Facebook or Newspapers to find services.
Leverage your business development efforts with existing networks before spending any money on marketing to make sales.
5. Time your first capital raise
Don’t raise funds immediately. You need to validate your idea first because most startups tend to pivot at least once. For Drvr, they pivoted within the first few months of their launch. If they hadn’t done the pivot, then they would have burnt through their cash.
The initial idea for Drvr was a user behaviour insurance that monitored driver behaviour and sent the data back to the insurance company and the driver. While this feature is still part of the product, it’s not their core offering.
Through their experience of attempting a seed round capital raise, David strongly believes you need to have some traction; otherwise it can become an impossibility to raise money. Now that Drvr has that traction, they are very likely to raise their seed round in the coming months.
6. Social enterprise elements drive culture and engagement
A trend that I see more and more, which I also saw with Drvr, is startups having almost a side business in some form of social enterprise. To drive great team culture, Drvr has a major goal of working on projects that have a benefit to the overall society that they serve.
Recently Drvr partnered with another Thai startup to help an off grid school with some much-needed school supplies and help to assess future needs for the school. This gets the Drvr team really excited and gives them a social enterprise element to their business.
How can your startup make an impact and change socially with your community?
If a startup team member’s primary motivation is to make money, then they are in the wrong place at a startup. David says they are better off working in a large organisation where over a five-year period they will probably earn more money.
Using the social enterprise aspect to Drvr, David gets his team to stay engaged by getting them to think of the opportunities they are going to have in advancing their career, being able to make a difference, having a large amount of responsibility and getting to work on some cool projects.
7. Develop a new kind of customer service strategy
By being a Thai startup, Drvr learnt that the expectation of customer service in Asia is much higher than other parts of the world. Asian business expects a startup to not only provide a service but to participate actively in their business. This creates an opportunity for a startup to win a client for the long term.
Asian business taught Drvr that you have to provide them with training and be the one that answers their questions when they need it. These businesses don’t expect to ring a call centre and talk to someone reading off a script.
“This strategy for customer service that Drvr learnt in Asia not only applies to the Asian market,” Dana told me, “it will be the differentiator between successful startups and the ones that fall by the wayside by using call centres and scripts.”
8. Attract talent and engage them
Drvr hired one of the first iOS developers in Myanmar Arkar Min Aung who has become a bit of a tech celebrity in the region for his work. What attracted him the most was the opportunity to work with a quality software development team and the chance to learn from Drvr’s co-founder Eugene, who is a very talented back end programmer.
So the lesson we can get from Drvr here is that money is not the only motivation to attract talent. When people get the chance to work with someone they can learn from and whom they respect, this will often outweigh the bias that money can have on attracting talent.
The same advice should be said for you as the startup founder. Using your own capital to bootstrap a startup means that the only way you will stay motivated in the first year and not second-guess yourself is to have no backup plan. You must lead the team by example.
David & Dana told me that once you attract good talent, there are a number of ways to keep them engaged but that most of all you need to make your startup a place where people want to work.
In the first year, you really need to focus on measuring results and not the hours people work. Your motto should be “there are projects and we need them done, not how many hours did someone work.”
An easy way that Drvr found to attract talent and keep them engaged is to give each team member equity in the business (even if it’s only small), which helps give team members skin in the game. Combine this element with a social enterprise model, and you have a recipe for startup success.
9. Outsource basic functions
In year one for Drvr, they have remained very lean and outsourced most of the non-core roles. It’s no secret that being lean in year of your startup will set you up for success. Have all your information stored in the cloud using something easy like Google Apps For Business so you can add new users easily to your startup and allows users to work from anywhere.
For graphic design, try marketplaces like Design Crowd or Fiverr to find freelancers to outsource quickly too – Drvr found someone on Fiverr that ended up becoming their main graphics person. Outsource all your bookkeeping and ideally have someone local review the outsourced work regularly.
Regarding office space, start in a co-working space and scale out until it becomes more cost effective to get your own startup office space. These few little tips will help you stay lean in your first year and ensure you’re in business for year two.
***Entrepreneur Quick Tips***
Dana – Entrepreneurship is a beautiful thing and drives a lot of the innovation and creativity that we see in society. It’s not for everyone because it can be stressful and demanding. If you want to take the journey of entrepreneurship, the benefits far outweigh the challenges if you are ready for it.
Flush out your idea first, and validate it. Check if it’s feasible, something the market wants and something that’s economical. If you can answer yes to these things, then there is nothing stopping you from moving forward and making your own success.
David – Entrepreneurship is not an individual endeavour. You can’t do this as a one-man band. Every successful startup is built around a great team of people. Work with people you can trust and rely on and don’t put everything on your own shoulders.
Dana’s Favourite Book’s – “The Hundred Dollar Startup” and “Where Good Ideas Come From”
David’s Favourite Book – The Lean Startup
Visit Drvr’s Website for more information about their company or follow them on Twitter @Drvrapp.
How to Create a Winning Startup Culture
Some time back, in my infographic on 51 Business Mistakes that most Entrepreneurs Make, I had outlined that one of the biggest mistakes is that you do not give any thought as to what you consider would be a great startup culture. And, without good policies or HR to keep things in check, the startup begins to develop a toxic business culture. (more…)
51 Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Dream Startup
So you’ve got an idea. You know it will work. And, it means the world to you.
You are an entrepreneur and you think you can rock the world with this one idea that matters to you the most. And, you set out to form the idea into a startup that you are going to nurture and develop into a blooming business in the upcoming years.
However, I don’t want to throw water over your dreams but, I do need to bring this “optimist” you into the hard and cold reality…….. the reality which says that 90% of all startups fail.
Of course, this can bring a great deal of uncertainty into your life and you got to be prepared to deal with it. You are also going to face a ton of challenges in your life which will force you to grow as an entrepreneur. But, the important thing is that you stick with it.
Of course, as Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s friend) once said, “All I Want to Know is Where I’m Going to Die So I’ll Never Go There”. No entrepreneurs want their startups to fail after putting in days and weeks of effort into it.
So, a lot of research has been put forward into knowing what does actually sabotage a startup?
Fortune reported that the single biggest reason startups fail was because they do not identify what the market wants before setting up their startup.
However, it isn’t as simple as that. An entrepreneur needs to perform a comprehensive business plan before he sets out with his business idea. Also, you have to know whether your business idea actually suits you or not. If it doesn’t then, you either you need to fine-tune yourself with your business idea or you need to change the business plan so that it suits you.
And, it is only after that, should you venture upon your startup.
Now, is that all? Of course not. The problem most entrepreneurs face when they first begin their entrepreneurial journey is that they don’t know what they don’t know.
That’s where they tend to make a series of mistakes that may cause great harm to their startup.
That’s why I scoured for successful entrepreneurs to provide me with information on what they think were the most common mistakes that startups do. Plus, I also got tips on how to avoid these mistakes.
You can check out the original article here: 70 Mistakes Startups Make And Tips On How You Can Avoid Them
Now, it’s your turn to do some work. Let me know what you thought of these mistakes and tips that entrepreneurs commit. Do you know of any other mistakes that entrepreneurs do? Comment below!
8 Key Factors That Discourage Investors From Putting Money Into Your Startup
Today’s ideas are tomorrow’s winning businesses. Ideas executed brilliantly and with proper investment bring your business success. That is how the world of business got the likes of Apple, Google, McDonald’s, Amazon and so on.
But why in spite of the brilliant and promising ideas at the core of their business, many startups fail to attract investors? Why do investors hesitate to put their money into some startups? Well, investors have reasons and only by deciphering these reasons we could get hold of some deterrent factors that hold them back.
Let us explain some of the vital factors that prevent investors from putting their money in the startups below:
1. Inefficiency or Absence of Leadership Qualities
Inefficiency is the most significant deterrent factor for pulling the success of most startups. This can also be referred to as the lack of leadership qualities. Investors always want to make sure that they don’t lose their money through a company that has an extraordinary business model but no efficient and skilled business leader to make it successful. When fetching investment from investors, you need to offer a clear prospect and detailed plan of how you are going to achieve the goals.
2. Lack of Trustworthiness
An investor puts his money on a venture purely on the basis of the credibility and trustworthiness of the business. This is why besides having a sound business plan with clear objectives, you need to establish the integrity in terms of the security of the investor’s money and how the fund is going to be invested to give results as per business plan.
If an investor has a feeling that the startup may not have enough customers to fulfil its financial liabilities or if it finds that the business is hiding some information, it may further push the trust of the investors down. Total transparency and establishing the faith of the business brand are crucial for finding investors in favor.
3. Lacking Experience in Business Management
You have a great business idea backed up by a sound business plan and solid trustworthiness based on your background, but you have zero experience in managing a business. This is a serious reason for an investor to deny making any investment in your business. An investor cannot put his money just to allow you trying and learning your management skills the harder and riskier way. Uncertainty is the single biggest turn-off factor for any investor and lack of managerial experience is synonymous to that.
4. Business Model is Not Sound Enough
You have a business idea, some efficient, competent and experienced professionals as leaders, the great stamp of trust and pretty much everything that make a company look promising. But what about your business strategy and business model? Are they sound enough to take on the market competition and challenges for business growth? Well, this is what investors are most interested in.
In most cases, a business model is what makes an investor think twice and even take a backward step from investing in a startup. After all, your business model and strategy will decide how your business and products will be able to withstand competition and become victorious.
5. Taking Investors for Granted
This is a big mistake on the part of many startups. Just by becoming confident in the potential and the soundness of the business model and prospect, a business can consider getting investors on board requires just a little effort and time. But in reality, getting investors on board is the toughest thing a business can think of.
This is why without proper and meticulous preparation, it would be foolish to approach investors for your business. Most investors receive hundreds of such emails and a similar number of approaches through other means and they coldly just let them pass. This is why you need to send them very detailed proposals backed by strong recommendations and referrals.
6. Targeting the Wrong Investor
Every business has a target customer base, right? Not all customers are interested in every product in the market. Similarly, not all investors are interested in your business. Investors based on their prior experience and industry exposure, put their money in businesses that they know like their own palm of their hand.
So, targeting an investor who has no interest in your business will only drain your energy and bring you unnecessary frustration. When you are seeking investors for your software startup, don’t approach someone investing in real estate business.
7. Non-Realistic Proposal for Funds
Investors normally come with huge experience of your industry and so they have a clear idea about the fund requirements for your business startup. Moreover, they already have invested in other ventures or have gone through many proposals. Naturally, they have every bit of estimate already in their mind. So, any proposal claiming a lofty and unrealistic amount will only face rejection.
This is why it would be wise to become meticulous about your estimation of the required fund and calculation of various cost factors. Have meticulous details about every facet of investment backed up by breakup of the costs. Only when you can convince them with correct estimation, investors can take interest in discussing the matter further.
8. Make Sure Your Product Solves a Customer Problem
Will any investor put money in building a simple calendar app now? No, simply because such an app idea has no value for the end users now. Will an investor put money in a product that has already been outdated and has no use? No, no investor has to even go through such a proposal for dismissing them.
Well, to fetch investment, your product must be thoroughly customer-centric. It not only has to solve a problem but has to deliver some competitive value in comparison to similar products in the market.
Obviously, finding an investor for a new business is not an easy task, considering the huge competition that businesses need to deal with. But, if your business idea is unique and you fill all those requirements correctly as mentioned above, finding investors may not be as tough as it sounds.
5 Must Have Branding Tools for Your Startup
Your brand is more than just the colors on your website. And for startups, it’s important to create a strong and memorable brand from the beginning if you want to stand out from the competition, scale your company, and find your ideal customers faster.
Here are 5 simple tools that will help your company avoid branding mistakes, take charge of your visual identity, and set a solid foundation for future growth:
1. Graphic Design Software
The word “design” doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before deciding on your startup’s logo, colors, designs, and overall tone, consider working with a brand strategist who can translate the core ingredients of your startup into a visual identity that speaks to your target market.
Brand strategists have expertise in the psychology of colors, shapes, textures, and words, and they will work with you to make sure that your branding appeals to your target audience. Once you have those basics of your brand established, there are several tools that can help your company refresh and maintain your visual identity.
The absolute best graphic design tool for non-designers is Canva. While the free version has a lot of functionality, the paid plans offer more customization such as the ability to import your exact brand fonts and colors.
But if your company handles all of your design in-house, you will need something more advanced than Canva. In that situation, I would recommend Adobe Creative Cloud to startups who work on their designs in-house, as it includes top-notch design software like Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, InDesign, and more.
“Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room – Jeff Bezos
2. Visuals & Creative Imagery
Have you ever wondered where your competitors get those beautiful branded photographs that end up on their website? While it’s possible that they worked with a photographer, it’s also likely that much of their imagery comes from stock photos.
Here are my recommendations on the exact places to purchase stock imagery to improve your company’s branding:
- Creative Market – A treasure trove of quality visual imagery where you can buy anything from stock photos, to branding mockups, to social media templates (Facebook cover photo, anyone?), to custom fonts… the options are nearly endless.
- Adobe Stock – Beloved by designers, and the platform offers tiered pricing plans based on your image needs and download quantity.
- Pixels – If you’re on a tight budget and just need to grab an image or two for a blog post, you may be able to find what you need on Pixels – which is great because all of the photos and videos on Pixels are free!
3. Social Media Scheduler
You’re a leader. You’re an entrepreneur. Your staff, board, funders, and admirers depend on you to make big decisions, lead the ship, and plot the vision towards your company’s future. You don’t have time to stare at a blank screen every day wondering what to post on Facebook.
By using a social media scheduling tool, you can sit down for a few hours, schedule batches of content, and schedule the dates and times when it will post to your accounts over the next couple of months. Then, once the content is posted, you only need to worry about responding to comments and engaging with your customers. 21st century efficiency at its finest.
Popular social media schedulers include Buffer and Hootsuite, both of which include free and paid plans. Not sure what exactly to post? Check out these social media ideas from influential businesses. And if the idea of writing and planning months of content still overwhelms you, our next tool will help you stay organized and on-brand.
4. Editorial Calendar
When it comes to your content, it’s time to step it up a notch and start thinking like a media outlet. Every piece of content that you put out as a company, whether it’s an e-mail blast, blog post, social media post, podcast, or video, needs to be aligned with your brand.
Each major magazine maintains an editorial calendar which outlines the overarching theme for each of the upcoming 12+ months. By establishing a monthly content theme in advance, they create a framework to generate and organize their ideas.
Consider creating an internal editorial calendar that will guide your startup’s content over the next 6-12 months. The software tool you use to maintain your editorial calendar isn’t that important — I like to use Trello, but you can also create a simple numbered list in Google Docs or Microsoft Excel. You may be surprised at how quickly the creative juices flow once you have an editorial calendar in place.
“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” – Paul Rand
5. In-Person Networking
Offline efforts count towards your branding too! And if you run your entire startup from behind your laptop screen, you miss out on ample opportunities to build your business offline and gain local referral partners.
If you’re new to in-person networking, start by visiting Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com where you can browse for events in your area. Think outside the box when it comes to selecting events to attend. For example: If you’re a chiropractor, it makes sense to attend local holistic health meetups. But you could also attend a travel event and meet digital nomads who don’t yet realize that a chiropractor can help them recover after long plane rides.
Remember that you’re not at the networking event to make instant sales, you’re looking for referral partners and connections. Don’t be the person who tries to shove your sales pitch down everyone’s throat upon meeting them.
As you can see, there are many simple online and offline resources that can help you spruce up your branding, reach new customers, and pique the interest of your target market. If you take branding one step at a time and start with the tools above, you will be well on your way to creating a brand that your customers will cherish and remember.
Have you used any of these branding tools before? Are there any additional tools that have helped your startup’s branding shine? Share your thoughts below!
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