5 Lessons I learnt from my second startup
Global Startup Labs is an initiative by Massachusetts Institute of Technology to encourage startups in developing countries.
MIT University strongly believes that startups are what will push the developing world.
The entrepreneurial mindset is deeply rooted in the founding of MIT and greatly encouraged through various competitions at the university itself. Past alumni are responsible for producing annual revenues of $1.9 trillion the equivalent to the world’s 10th largest economy (if it was a country).
Among these impressive statistics 40% of MIT founders are serial entrepreneurs who start multiple companies after graduating.
MIT & Mauritius Telecom Partnership:
Entrepreneurship is very risky, world-wide 9 out of 10 startups fail in the first year. GSL is an initiative which looks to share the great resources of MIT with developing countries to give them the best chance possible of success.
Mauritius Telecom generously gave their resources to provide us all sorts of luxuries, I hope that this partnership lasts long into the future and GSL Mauritius continues to be an ongoing project. The startup scene in Mauritius is almost non-existent and innovation at best a copy from abroad, paste in Mauritian market scenario.
It has been almost 2 weeks since the final pitch and demo day. The culmination of 2 months hardwork put into a 5 minute pitch and 10 minute question time in-front of a Panel of judges including a Professor from MIT, a Venture Capitalist and two very successful Entrepreneurs.
They say a good entrepreneur is one who constantly readjusts his sail, learning not only from his own mistakes but those of others.
In my attempt to get the most out of this opportunity I’ll be sharing my biggest lessons learnt from the course
Almost everybody dreams of being a CEO at some point of their life. But what does it really mean and how dedicated are you to making it a reality?
In my humble opinion a CEO is not someone who uses control to get the outcome they desire (x leadership style) but someone who uses their elevated position to understand the real issues with the problem they are trying to solve.
A good CEO knows not only how to tackle the obstacle but who is best suited to tackle it and what to provide them to give them the best chances of solving it efficiently.
My team had a lot of issues with leadership and I took both a proactive and reactive role in the team, my only regret is to have not have taken a firmer stance throughout the course.
When you are a small team of 5 there is no such thing as CEO.
A wise relative of mine once told me how there is no point fighting over something that doesn’t exist yet. Which unfortunately is exactly what we did. When starting a startup you should focus on providing value to your target customers, that should be your only priority if you fail at that then your company will not have value and its shares will be worthless.
For that reason hustlers make the best team mates. The type of people who go and get shit done are irreplaceable.
Emotion clouds your judgement, failure can feel like a crushing defeat unless you learn to change your perception of failure to keep your mind healthy and you moving forward.
Viewing failure as a learning opportunity is critical for self-development, some of the best advice we ever received was from one of our MIT instructors who has two startups himself.
Whenever we had some problems we were struggling to solve he always had some great insight about how to proceed. Despite never telling us the solution his insight always came from another angle that made the problem look like an opportunity. Like a true entrepreneur when we came to him with a problem of Mauritius not having standardised electrical systems he looked at it as an opportunity to win and sell them better distribution boards.
Being able to always look on the bright side and find that opportunity hidden in the world of problems and stress is something that I aspire to improve however I often suffer from paralysis by analysis and have realised over the years imperfect action is king. There will always be time to reiterate and incorporate feedback.
I first started my marketing agency because I believed that in a world that is becoming even more globalised it is the products and companies which are able to convince their customers of the value that they can bring that are successful.
Despite having learnt a lot in the past year I was unable to build a brand for our startup that truly envisioned the possibility of what we were building.
The challenge is that we were doing something extremely technical, when the average Joe does not even know what The Internet Of Things is how can we begin to tell them how we can use it to save energy and help hotels reduce their operating expenses?
Having a great product is not enough, nobody cares that you can save the world, you have to focus on their pain points and how you can help them, unless you can summarise it with a few words or discuss it in an elevator pitch your product is worthless.
To be part of any efficient team requires strong communication. It is effective, efficient communication that allows your team to be greater than the sum of its parts.
In order for everyone to be on the same page it is important to have certain rules and procedures to follow. However rules and procedures should not exist just for the sake of it. Startups have the advantage of being agile, thus rules should change as the team and their needs adapt over time.
Failing to contribute to effective and efficient communication is not only damaging to the startup but also the other team members. Should crucial information be left out from group chats or not communicated an individual is limiting not only themselves but the rest of their team.
Every business opportunity stems from a business problem. While some problems are not worth as much to solve as others it is important to understand the problem you are solving as well as why you are the best person to solve it.
If you are not the best person to solve it then you better damn well have the right team to solve it backing you up. But having the best team does not mean anything if you do not spend the majority of your time doing the skill that you are best at.
In order to do that it is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses so when teamwork is done you can trust your team to handle things that they are good at. While they trust you to do what you are good at.
It was a rocky road, we originally started with 5 members in our team and sadly 2 of them left us during the course to join other groups. Despite my own pitfalls and mistakes I made during the course I am proud to say that ultimately we were the smallest group to win a prize (It wasn’t about winning but that was a nice surprise) with some groups having almost double our group members we all played a crucial part in our success as a team.
Success in our definition was having a working demo in a real 5 star hotel in Mauritius. Our mix of hardware and software using IOT technology allowed us to transform and retrofit normal rooms into smart rooms. By using real hotel rooms used by real guests we were able to monitor energy consumption and remotely control devices in the room. By bringing automation to hotels we extrapolated our findings to an estimated energy saving of Rs 1.3 Million per year for each hotel. While each hotel would have unique hardware and requirements we built a truly scalable system that allowed us to integrate and tailor our application to the hotels needs, wants and current software solutions.
By aligning our needs with our customers we created a truly win:win situation.