Be a startup. But don’t become a startup
When it comes to a startup, we are, probably, living in the most exciting and interesting times. Exciting because the eco-system is super friendly in the UAE for startups and interesting because every day a new startup is born with a new dream (or same dream) with a delicious twist. Truth be told, most startups that I come across are actually clones of each other. People are happy with uberizing things.
There is absolutely no problem with starting up and dreaming big – to build a business. However, how many startups do we know that reach the level of success that the world recognises and applauds. The answer is…very few of them.
As an entrepreneur, I see Dubai and UAE as a goldmine of startup ecosystem. There are amazing incubators and accelerators in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Fujairah and RAK. It is quite easy to start a business as there is no red tape or bureaucracy coming in your way. All you need to do is choose your best platform (incubator or a direct free zone as you like) or even DED in Dubai, present your business plan and if it has what it takes to be incubated and incorporated, then welcome to the world of startups. Or as Steve Jobs said, “making a dent in the universe”.
But this is where the real problem is. After starting up, a lot of entrepreneurs and companies stay in that startup comfort zone for too long, and that can be very dangerous, and eventually cost you the company and you end up closing it. 90 per cent of reason could be, “ahh well. I couldn’t sustain it and couldn’t make enough money, or I couldn’t market it,” etc.
Even before the dot com bubble, the startup world was nothing new and was spanning over 110 years and possibly even more. Take IBM, for example. The company started in 1911 and we all know it as a giant today. The same goes for Intel, incorporated in 1960s, which now operates as a giant today; powering our life with fantastic products. And of course, we all know about Google, MS, Apple and Samsung etc.
The question is, how to create startups that will turn out to be the IBM of tomorrow. It is about the business model and the team, but the most important trick is the day you start your startup, the day you are beyond pitching, exhibiting and incorporating. Now turn the switch off to the “word” startup. You are now a business and start thinking “business” and start meaning business. How to do that? Keep it simple. Think revenue, revenue, revenue. And because you are a startup you can run on a very low-cost model while offering low cost services. The chances of you earning more revenue by spending as less as possible is 100 per cent possible through optimised and effective digital marketing, and through startup events while making sure that the right people know about you.
Don’t think billboards and hoardings from the get-go. Stay compact and think about cost-effective ways of marketing by making sure you get the maximum out of each dirham you spend. If you want to be heard, then shout! Let everyone know that you exist. Pitch your startup to every media outlet out there, to everyone you meet in the elevator, to everyone you jog with, to everyone you travel with, shout it out!
If you are a platform startup, spend as much time as possible adding more suppliers into your platform because when you open the mall you don’t bring in customers first, you add the shops first. Besides the shops, add all the offerings first so when the customer comes to your platform it is impossible that the customer goes out without buying.
If you are an entrepreneur who is just starting up please note that in the beginning you will be doing everything yourself, at least for the first few months. Sales, HR, accounting and all that your business does, it is important that you go through that because it will only make you closer to the heart and soul of your business, and the closer you are, the better. It will also help you improve and when needed improvise the procedures as your team grows just like how Jeff Bezos did in the early years of Amazon.
It is also very important to think about creating a culture of customer-centric approach. Be your customer’s advocate because as a startup, keeping your customer at the center of your universe will bring you even more customers. Remember, that a happy customer is +10 customers and an unhappy customer is -100 customers.
So, to build a business, focus on revenue, marketing and keeping the customers happy. Love and learn as much as you can, and you will see that you are building a real business organically, and not just a startup. Think business from day one and everyday will start getting better and better. All the best.
Source: Khaleej Times (founder and CEO of Finalrentals.com. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.)