“The most beautiful people to be around are the ones with open minds. The ones who will tell you that sorrow is just as wonderful as bliss and that at any moment, you can be whoever you want to be and love whoever and whatever you want to love – whether it is religion or the same sex. I sit at bars and I linger in coffee shops just to find these kind of people…Without knowing it, they are slowing changing the world.”
Google India Commercial. “Partitions divide countries, friendships find a way”.
Start with this my friends.
In the odyssey of your startup, numerous factors will undoubtedly come into play. The list can be endless, and more than often, beyond inundating. It’s easy to be assailed with idle coffee meetings, vain pitches at meetups, foolish preparations for these pitches, despairingly gauging the fundraising climate, or naively worrying about extraneous factors that are just beyond your control.
Your time is limited. It’s vital for you to move swiftly, to test the riskiest assumptions you’re making, and compulsively validate whether your hypothesis even has legs. The best entrepreneurs have this uncanny ability to sift through the noise and discern for something I call the “limiting-factor” tasks. The term was inspired from my exposure to the hard-sciences in undergrad, and its definition can best be understood as the reactant in a chemical reaction that limits the amount of product that can be formed.
Within the chaotic, vast sphere of your startup, there will be certain undertakings that you just can’t move forward without, and they ultimately “limit” your ability to progress. These tasks are subjective and unique to each; it’s up to you to be due diligent. Competition is unforgiving in today’s brisk tech cycles, and you absolutely can’t afford for your team to work on something that no one will use, or on tasks that yield only marginal returns.
There is a popularized term in our industry that stems from the classic lean-startup school of thought called “Product-Market” fit. I personally think this term’s scope is a bit opaque, and prefer the word “Product-Customer” fit. I’ve opted for this because it places a substantial, dramatic focus on the only variable that truly matters — your customers.
The decisive limiting-factor is reaching this celestial destination of “Product-Customer” fit. If you’re not there, get there. You must ask the question– does this product I’m creating solve the problem of my customers? Do they like it? Even better, are they willing to pay for it? If not, you need to iterate on your product and fit it around your customers. Some of the best insight I can give is to get your customers involved as soon as possible.
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else”
Lovaash has two customers. First, we have Creatives. Some of the best painters, artisans, calligraphers, typographers, and cartographers from all over the world are creating Lovaash Online Stores by the hundreds every week in our private alpha. Second, we have consumers who own spaces— home-owners in the outskirts of cities, students with dorms, young professionals across San Francisco and Miami, owners of Italian to Korean restaurants, interior designers liable to enterprise clientele, and the list goes on.
My team and I are creating technology to solve the issues in selling the work of our Creatives through a SaaS (Software-as-Service) dashboard that manages transactions, real-time promotions, analytics, and more. And as a Consumer, you’ll be able to find exactly what you want through the lens of your personal space. The solution will be a 2-sided global marketplace with its foundation etched in inspiration, simplicity, and affordability.
Lovaash is where you “Enhance your Space”.
The most potent high is learning.
My co-Founder Mayer receives a fair amount of requests to consult young technology entrepreneurs in Sacramento and Silicon Valley about the direction of their respective startup endeavors. Mayer’s acumen on venture strategy is among the best I’ve seen, and I fully encourage students at Cal, Stanford, and UC Davis to reach out to him if need be. Every once in awhile I’ll tag along to one of these coffee meetings just for pure, curious inquisition; I’ve come to crave the energy these entrepreneurs bring to the table.
It has become commercialized in the startup community to say things like “Ideas don’t matter” or that “execution is everything”. But the truth is that ideas do matter, just not in the narrow sense of how startup ideas are traditionally defined. The best of these ideas are well thought out, can span years of potential shock, and carve out a formidable niche within their competitive landscape.
Though I’m not really interested in what your idea is, nor should you as an angel. Any “wantreprenuer” can come up with some idea and recite it to anyone who’ll listen. The question I always ask, especially at these meetings, is why now? Chances are that anything you try has already been done before on the internet. Antecedents existed for Youtube, Instagram, Google, and almost every other technology startup that has thrived since the dot-com bubble. However, each of these companies were valiant solely because the timing was just right.
Lets take Vine for example. The concept of digestible, looping videos is nothing new. There literally exists a graveyard of companies that vainly attempted to reach product market-fit with this idea. Vine succeeded because of its acquisition and ultimate integration by Twitter. Twitter’s robust and active user base frictionlessly adopted Vine into their tweeting habits to make way for a new form of sharable content. Youtube is another paradigm. Dozens of companies before Youtube attempted to create crowdsourced video sites and failed. However, those crowdsourced video sites were ahead of their time. Youtube got the market timing just right, and by 2005, all the puzzle pieces were in place– a new flash version, cheaper access to digital video cameras, blogs willing to embed video, copyrighted web content that easily exported to Youtube, and reliable home broadband.
Many folks ask me about Lovaash and the reason as to why now? We feel that 2013 is the right time for market penetration. The increasing ubiquity of SLR/DSLR cameras has brought a shift in how artists sell their work. Artists all across are outgrowing the gallery culture and are moving into the online space as global merchants. Lovaash artists currently span 36 countries and our marketplace will feature work that you’d never expect to find locally, at a fraction of the price, from street artists in Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, and Madrid. Only 3% of the world’s art is currently online, with even less of that in the sphere of mobile. Through other e-commerce leviathans like Fab and Amazon, we’ve learned that consumers are becoming more and more comfortable making larger purchases on tablets and phones. Lovaash will pioneer creativity onto the growing mobile frontier blazing way for a new, touching purchasing experience. What’s even more exciting is that the culture of sharing visual imagery is reaching a favorable zenith. Lovaash products are being Tumbled on Tumblr, pinned on Pinterest, virally shared on Instagram, Facebook, and StumbleUpon. Each image is accompanied with textual inspiration from its creator. Lovaash is not in the sales business, we are in the Inspire business.
Sometimes, you can do all the right things, but if it’s at the wrong time, it still won’t happen; and sometimes, you can do all the wrong things, but if it’s at the right time, it’ll somehow still serendipitously happen. So ask yourself the question– why now?
There is some advice that I feel is very important to first-time entrepreneurs– don’t start a “white board” company. A white board company is a company that you create just for the sake of creating a company. Entrepreneurs create scalable solutions for problems. It just so happens that in order to effectively distribute the solution of this problem it requires the creation of a syndicated team– a company. Problems are only truly understood by pivotal members of a market’s respective demographic who experience this problem first-hand. In truth, the best entrepreneurs find themselves as ones by accident. More than often, good ideas can’t be contrived.
Now this advice is a general rule of thumb. There have been some admirable examples of outsiders brazenly entering markets and introducing a new order that no one was expecting. Often market incumbents aren’t innovating enough and it’s these outsiders who are willing to try some of the most daring solutions. These solutions can take away a good amount of market share from existing players in the short-run, or at least enough for them to notice you. Your job isn’t to come out on top in the long-run here. Your indifference and naivety is your biggest weakness. Startups are marathons, and it takes a truly experienced and committed insider who understands the market, its problems, and its future to win in the end. You as an outsider should directly attack their customers. Disrupting the status quo in a competitor’s customer culture is entirely your power to leverage. Companies will do whatever it takes to protect loyalty. Force these competitors to address the situation and have no option but to buy you out.
If you want to win in the long-run, solve a problem that you yourself are experiencing.