The Start-Up Hype
If you happen to live in countries which invest heavily in technology industry, chances are you are a part of the culture that may glue your gaze most of the time onto magic boxes that are known better as smartphones. We grow accustomed to arrange our schedules, do web searches, send emails and even count our calories intake with these wonderful devices. Just as our lives are getting more interconnected and demanding, convenience becomes a necessity. The solution for this comes elegantly in the form of mobile applications or simply known as ‘apps’ which have successfully championed the lifestyle of convenience and personalization. The rising popularity of apps opens a window of opportunity for plethora of young entrepreneurs in founding start up companies. In this article, I would like to share my own experience and humble opinions as a co-founder of a tech startup about this much-hyped start up age, especially for those who are interested in founding a startup.
As I have mentioned, the massive popularity of mobile application generate growth of mobile apps developer. This is reflected by the sharp increase in the number of students enrolling in the Computer Science program on the United States who went on founding startup companies with the purpose of inventing the next big thing at the Silicon Valley. On a more positive light, the idea of venturing out and founding your own company is commendable and increasingly feasible, especially with the increasingly abundant venture capitalists and incubators that can readily guide startups to their success. The spirit of entrepreneurship is also vital to harness personal independence, aside from providing better solutions and stimulating the macroeconomy.
My own experience in start up scene happened by accident. One of my group project assignments in my master program required us to provide simple technological improvement in any field. I came out with the idea of EZPark, which allows user to fill up the meter by smartphone. It was very simple yet effective method which was highly recommended by my professor, so much so he recommended me to pursue it as a startup. My idealist self was intrigued and embraced the idea readily because I felt that I could give real contribution to the society. However, my team and I faced great challenges from the city council. I then realized that creating a solution is much more than just a product; it is a combination of endless prototype testing, legal framework, solid engineering team, having a market and fund to run the startup.
The challenges that we faced geared my team to humbly learn from our ignorance about legal and non-technical frameworks, fortunately we managed to consolidate our ideas brick by brick. One important lesson that founder should take note is that an excellent product means to disrupt the market; it should fill a gap in the system and challenge the norm. Thus, if you are creating a product that has clear guidelines about how you are doing it out there, it is very likely that your idea is not as novel as you might think and may not turns out to be ground-breaking. Although I did not have the opportunity to see the final prototype of my idea because I had to go back to Indonesia for good, I am grateful to be given a chance to experience start up alongside brilliant friends.
I would say that having an opportunity to found a startup is an invaluable experience. I was exposed to the weight of responsibility of being business leader and able to discuss innovative ideas on meetings with many intellectual individuals. If you are interested in being a founder or joining a startup company, you should be very specific about your set skills initially but be willing to experiment with business aspects outside your comfort zone later on because the fast-paced innovations is the basic survival requirement for any startup. Furthermore, I have noticed that all successful start up founders have to acquire one important attitude: the ability to selflessly indulge and solely focus in all the process of creating their products, even in the tiniest aspect. It is not enough that founders believe in and pursue an idea, they also have to embody the products in their minds constantly.
To elaborate my opinion further, I believe a good startup in general should invest the majority of her time in three factors: identifying its market early on, validating product and tirelessly educating the market. By identifying a niche market and validate ideas, startup founders shave clearer idea which product feature should they strengthened and prevent them from the trap of falling in love with their own ideas as this may result in them closing their ears to constructive feedback. Educating the market is also an absolute requirement to gain potential customer base. It is normal for potential customers to have doubts about your product. It takes a lot of interactions and requires a long time to establish trust with them.
From the factors above-mentioned, it is clear that startup that aims for sustainable revenue model relies heavily on its market research. This market information does not come in handy. It takes enormous time and detailed execution in prolonged period. The main issue is that experienced players and seasoned incubators should also project this concept transparently, rather than blurring the concept with the image of bright colored office features which place a wrong emphasis on playfulness and positive vibes of start up ecosystem.
However, along with the relentless glamorisation of technology startups and multi-billions worth acquisition deals of Instagram and Whatsapp, many startups falsely aim to emulate their successes overnight. Almost every college student (especially engineering students) has started dreaming to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. They are creating products not to provide solution but rather to sell the company for a quick get-rich scheme. As such, many startup founders are targeting more coverage on newspapers rather than working on their revenue model. Many fails to notice that startup requires extra rigor and steely determination from its founders to survive since day one. In the worse case scenario, there are many start up enthusiasts who are actually brilliant individuals retired much easily because they began with the mistaken mentality that start up is easy.
All in all, startup is a just form of early business entity. In order to survive, it needs a sustainable growth and positive revenue stream. The unique aspect of startup is that founders have the greater freedom to express their own ideas and create unique solution for everyday problems. The startup hype definitely will stay for a couple of years. While it is easy for aspiring startup founders to be swept away by the lure of fame, prestige and wealth that come along with this hype, it is important to to realize that every road to greatness is not paved with polished marbles, but rather jaunted by steep cliffs. Success only comes knocking for those people who relentlessly work hard and seize every opportunity they can.
Photo is provided by the courtesy of the Homegrown Blog (https://homegrownph.wordpress.com)
Raymond Biondy Henka earned both his M.Sc in Technological Management in 2013 and B.Sc in Chemistry with minor in Material Science Engineering in 2012 from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. He currently is the CEO of PT. Kharisma Semesta Hijau specializing in heavy machineries and several warehouse complexes in Jambi Province, Indonesia. Previously, he worked in Deloitte Ltd as associate consultant and journalist for the Strait Times Singapore during his stay in Singapore. An avid reader, his interest lies mainly in music, management system, investment and entrepreneurship. A passionate vocalist and writer, he enjoys good jamming session and composing lyrics with various musician friends during his down time.
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