Recently we conducted a Webinar, as part of FounderMates’ event. The webinar was presented by VijayKumar NRR, a senior mentor with the National Entrepreneurship Network and Lead mentor at Kyron Global Accelerator in Bangalore. Vijay has a over a decade of experience as an entrepreneur, intrapreneur and a mentor to startups and SMEs.
The webinar say enthusiastic participation with several questions being asked by the entrepreneurs.
I thought I should point out some of these Q&As for the benefit of all entrepreneurs:
Q. I am an entrepreneur at heart. I tried my hand at entrepreneurship but it failed. I have lost my savings. What should I do now? Opt for a job or again start something?
A. Look at your own environment. Your mom, dad or spouse – do they support you? It is OK to fail as an entrepreneur. But often the society here does not accept that. Even Michael Dell’s mother wanted him to be a doctor. He had to persuade her about his dream. Even if you join a job, try to learn as much as possible from that job. If you have the entrepreneurial bug, you will start your company again. Learn from your job. You will be satisfied that you are still pursuing your dreams. Work for another startup for some time so you continue learning so that you can come back as Entrepreneur one day.
Q. How should someone form the initial team? How can you trust a stranger and convince him/her to work for equity?
A. First 2 employees need to be more passionate than you. Every big organisation has started with the first few employees who are more passionate and probably smarter than the founders. Skills can be learnt. But your character cannot be changed. Find people with the right character. Look out for interns. Share your knowledge with institutions and get their students to join. Try to take help from fellow entrepreneurs who have gone through this phase.
Q. Why do tech entrepreneurs think they can do sales and marketing or every else?
A. There is nothing wrong in learning about sales and marketing. But do you have the skill to do? You should be shameless to go ahead and be able to convince the customer to buy the product even before its fully ready. Tech entrepreneurs often lack that. You need to allow people to do things and grow and learn. You can’t do everything. You should understand what sales is. That helps understand ground reality. But you should delegate responsibility. If your skills don’t match, don’t do it
Q. When a startup wants to scale up or expand, should it look for strategic partners or strategic investors? And also, how to decide the split with them?
A. There is no standard answer to that. Depending on you need you can go for either. If you need to plan for exit, looking for investors is a better option. Also the equity split can be decided based upon realisation of some returns. Don’t give away stake upfront. Rather make it such that a strategic partner can liquidate the stake when returns come in.
Q. What are other ways to raise money apart from banks, VCs or angels?
A. Always raise money from customers. Apart from VCs. angels, there are lot of seed funding agencies, accelerators etc, but the best way is to raise money from the customer. You can also look at strategic partners who can invest in you and be your partner to scale and grow.
Q. Which banks or government organisations support funding for startups other than angels and VCs? Do we have any encouragement from Government to support entrepreneurship in India?
A. Yes there is department which is helping MSME. A Cabinet Level minister is looking after that. Several international collaborations are happening. Lot of funds are coming in. SIDBI is a nodal agency which handles funds for MSMEs. They are directly dealing with entrepreneurs through mentors. Will take some time as India is a complex market. They have micro level as a multi crore funding. Lot of “nano” level funding from Government in the form of Grants (National Innovation Foundation ,National Research Development Corporation) for your IP are available. Even Dena Bank in Mumbai has started loans without collaterals for startups in Mumbai.