By Ashok Subramanian
Many cups of coffees later, it becomes clear that people are trying to create what we can call ‘experience templates’. The success of quite a few startups in attracting funds has made the ‘Silicon Value Entrepreneurs’ dream kick in into almost every youngster’s mind.
Let’s understand that before ‘startups’ came into picture, people were still starting up. They had dreams, worked diligently, invested their savings, bootstrapped and made products — and then endeavored to sell the products — software, engineering products, cars etc. Each of these stories is unique — from Hewlett and Packard to Walmart and in India — Reliance to Infosys.
Personally, I have lived through two busts — one in 2000 and then 2008. The first one, a proliferation of the so called software portals ù in the name of ‘.com’ and another a general recession that set the clock back for many small businesses. And then from the turn of the first decade of the new century, we are seeing a new technology startup culture, as they say, emulating the Silicon Valley culture.
What is so worrying here is ‘proliferation’. Like the earlier bubble, lot of youngsters dream of making it big — they have ideas that they believe will solve problems. That is a great starting point. The immediate step, as they have now heard, is as follows:
- Find a co-founder or a technology partner
- Prepare a prototype
- Seek an investor
- Use funds for marketing, setting up teams, offices
- Look for exit or another round of investments
This seems to be a simple but such an attractive template, that the young entrepreneur follows with blinkers on, like moth to a lamp. The social media is rife with this ‘experience template’. The experience template, as it is called, kills the ingenuity of the small business in its conventional sense. The experience template attracts more youngsters to believe that this is the only chosen path. Result – no market research, no efforts to construct a revenue model or business plan.
The ‘experience template’ brings in lot of value indeed – but that is, at best a guideline. There are now ‘consultants’ and ‘mentors’ who share these experience templates and try to support these startups. What is missed in this mentorship or consulting is that nobody has challenged the young entrepreneur on the very fundamentals – that not every great idea makes great business; and there are no ‘experience templates’ to follow.
The experience templates are like reading those ‘management books’ and expecting to become a Jack Welch or a Lee Iacocca. You can learn from an ‘experience template’ but it is your own experience that counts. Make your own thing when you convert your idea into a business.