In these unprecedented times of (using the word unprecedented) uncertainty, many of us are contemplating taking the leap of faith and becoming full-time entrepreneurs. In this edition of the Zymurgist Diaries, let’s attempt to understand the VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) minds of startup founders, and how simple structures and good planning can help founders manage VUCA in the pandemonium of launching a startup.
As an Entrepreneur Mentor in Residence (EMiR), being associated with London Business School’s experiential entrepreneurship activities supporting students and alumni who are interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship, whether launching or growing their own ventures. One of the most common questions I have been asked in the past 100-odd sessions is
“I am quite overwhelmed. Where do I start?”
It doesn’t matter if it is a first-time founder, or an experienced one, or someone from a business family looking to go back to the family business.
The nebulous days of your startup can be pandemonium with high levels of anxiety and lack of direction
In the last edition (Agrippa’s Trilemma) of Zymurgist Diaries, we saw how simple structures could help Founders answer the question – “WHY-THE-HELL-DO-I-WANT-TO-DO-THIS?”. In this edition, let’s explore the next question – “WHERE-THE-HELL-DO-I-START?”. But before we get started, we need to discuss a bit more about the concept of failure.
Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.
Need I say more?
In all pandemonium, there is a cosmos; in all disorder, a secret order.
Depending on where you are in the lifecycle of the startup, you can choose to start in the below order:
- Write the Business Plan – How?
- Find the right Co-Founder(s) and revise Business Plan – How?
- Build the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or package the Service
- Find your first Client
- Find the Product-Market Fit – How?
- Plan for Scale-up
- And if nothing works, explore an Exit – How?
- Start with VUCA’s arch-nemesis – the “Business Plan”.
Take out some time from your “busy” schedule and spend a few days on a good business plan; it will save you several months of torture and uncertainty down the road.
A good business plan helps in understanding the playing field
A good business plan can help you elucidate your end-to-end strategy, identify probable roadblocks, assist you in finding your strengths and weaknesses and hire co-founder/resources accordingly, and most importantly, evaluate the viability and commercial feasibility of your idea.
A good business plan helps you understand your gaps in skills leading to better co-founder selection
- Next, Co-Founder(s)
Managing a venture is so often likened to being in a marriage. Finding the right co-founder is one of the most difficult decisions entrepreneurs face. Whether co-founders are bound by friendship or sewn together by VCs playing Team-Tinder; co-founder relationships are incredibly powerful in deciding the success or failure of the venture.
At the conception and in the first year or so, the 3 key skills are:
- Product/Engineering / Subject-matter expertise– to build the product or lead the service
- Marketing – to create the marketing mix, formulate the go-to-market strategy, generate leads, manage branding and support sales
- Sales – to nurture the funnel, close deals, manage accounts, collect and report feedback to product development and continue to build a deal pipeline
Remember – above the “Product-Market fit” is the “FOUNDER-Product-Market fit”. VCs do not really fund solo-founders, and a team of two-three is just perfect. However, not every co-founder chooses to stay back till success manifests. So, choose wisely.
- Re-assess the Business Plan and Co-founders
The Business Plan is a living and breathing document and will help you articulate the Product-Market fit, which is not a status, but an ongoing process… It is always in BETA mode.
What matters the most in the early years is having a team of hustlers who can develop products/create services and create a market to sell them to. So, continue to re-assess the Product-Market-Fit and the Founder-Product-Market-Fit.
Entrepreneurship is a marathon of marathons. The entrepreneurial voyage, romanticised with media stories of achievements, but in reality, it can be pandemonium unless you have a compass (business plan), is lonely unless you have the right crew, and is fruitless unless you have the right Product-Market-Fit in a big enough market.
So, before you start remember this:
Before you dive into entrepreneurship; make sure you have a map, a compass, funds, a telescope and the right people to have a memorable time.
Parting thoughts till the next blog:
“The most expensive way to earn money is to work at a job you hate.”
About the author:
24x Founder, 3x Success, 2x VCExit, 19x Failure, 100x Resilient, 14x Sectors, 6x Continents, $3+ billion deals originated and advised.
Chennakeshav Adya (Keshav) is an eclectic value creator for mid-sized firms and PE/VC funds on Fund-raising, M&A, growth, corporate strategy and deal-making (currently, as co-founder of Adan Corporate). He is a resourceful entrepreneur with 20+ years of global experience in building businesses from a concept and growing global teams from 2 to 200+.
A deca-lingual, multi-talented zymurgist, Keshav is skilled at using the founder’s mentality and thrives in uncertainty and chaos, directing teams through the “Unknown” in the initial 1-2 years of setting up any type of new venture.
As an Entrepreneur Mentor in Residence (EMiR), Keshav is associated with London Business School’s experiential entrepreneurship activities supporting students and alumni who are interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship, whether launching or growing their own ventures.
Keshav is reachable at email@example.com and loves speaking to startup founders and VC fund managers on topics of growth, technology, and the traps of entrepreneurship.