“It’s not the idea that is unique but the way you implement it”

In many ways the dream of every wannabe entrepreneur is the same. They all think that their idea is a million dollar one and will top the list of NASDAQ in a short span of time. But the question is how many really survive in this battle?

Let’s take Orkut for instance. Orkut started a few months before Facebook. Even though Google and Mark Zuckerberg had the same idea, how did Facebook excel in the game? Is it really the survival of the fittest theory or was it Mark’s strategy which made him a millionaire? The answer is, Facebook launched with very basic/core features and was able to promote better user adoption.

I recall the words of my mentor “It’s not the idea that is unique but the way you implement it”.For e.g. you’ve been working out at the gym for quite some time but haven’t been able to get the expected physique. Hmm!!! Now that’s a pain, isn’t it?…maybe you didn’t follow a proper diet plan or might have been cheating on your workouts. Anyways the end result is that you wasted your time, energy and money hoping for something which went wrong.

The fact is, people spend way lot of time and money on their product and the launch without getting proper guidance from experts. I mean, what’s the use of having a Ferrari, if you don’t know how to drive or create an impression? In my opinion following are the points which every startup should keep in mind:

1. Market Research

2. Identify your competitors

3. Who will be the end user?

4. Launch timings

5. What makes you different from your competitors?

6. Proper marketing

Eventually, everyone wants to be inspired by the success stories of entrepreneurs who have overcome the obstacles and built a successful business. Recently, I came across an article by Ben Fox Rubin on the Wall Street journal. He mentions the story of Dan Cheung, founder of Spork, who couldn’t match up with its rival app Foodspotting (acquired by Open Table Inc for $10 million). Now here’s an interesting aftermath by Ben Yoskovitz on his company Standout Jobs. He emphasizes on the value of Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Having a feature rich product takes much more time and money to build. However, MVP allows the idea to get into the market as rapidly as possible and maximize the value of finances.

After all every fortune 500 company was once a startup 😉

Xminds Infotech Pvt. Ltd. | www.xminds.com |Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

RISE 2015 – Hong Kong

RISE 2015

RISE 2015

The 2015 RISE event kick started on July 31st, 2015 in Hong Kong. The event was for two days and it was amazing to be around some cool startups and some great speakers too. Hats off to the CEO of RISE, Paddy & team for organising such a great event and it will be SURGE in Bangalore in India by early next year and more to follow from the awesome team. Check out some of the cool startups that exhibited in RISE 2015.

  1. Chatrify – A live chat software helps you to create meaningful, real time customer engagement that helps businesses increase conversions and provide effective customer support. Each visitor comes with a unique problem and Chatrify give you the opportunity to be there to address his or her concerns instantly in the most effective way.
  2. Player.me  –  is the social discovery platform for the gaming community. Discover, Share and Collaborate with other Players, Groups and Companies. Created by Players, for Players.
  3. Upbeatz –  Is an initiative which aims to give Indians the opportunity to break some rules and create new trends by giving them access to style from across the globe. Upbeatz gives Indian access to global brands at affordable prices with just a click of a button.
  4. Gone Adventurin – Connects corporate organisations with local communities and/or consumers to create social and/or environmental impact. Through an epic adventure or a meaningful immersion experience, we then execute the strategies and collaborations to create systemic impact on the ground.
  5. Wanderlust – The worlds biggest travel tribe. Welcome to a world where technology brings us together, even when kilometers might put us apart. Where the wanderers aren’t lost, but in constant search of the next great adventure. And great adventures begin with meeting great people.
  6. Makanluar –  A leading, reliable Free Online Restaurant Bookings service in Indonesia. Earn Points each time you book to get cash-back, write reviews to double up on those points! You will most likely get free dishes/drinks or discounts at the restaurant too ONLY when you book with MakanLuar.com. Snap & Share your food & restaurant photos to let others know how the restaurants are. Currently available for restaurants in Jakarta, Bali & Bandung.
Makanluar Team

Makanluar Team

Upbeatz

Upbeatz

 

Post Penguin SEO – Don’t hunt for links, instead plant and grow them naturally!

It has been a while since we are dealing with the Google panda and penguin update and the minor refresh after that. The Internet is abuzz with news that this is probably the end of SEO marketing. To all those doomsday predictors… this one’s for you!

I agree that Google hates unnatural link building to the same degree as it hates spammy links. But if you were to implement strategies that get natural links, I think you’re in safe zone. I know what you are thinking right now “everyone says natural links, but how to obtain them?” Here’s how to:

The days when you hunted for links are over! Now you have to plant them, water them and grow them “Naturally!”

Before the Google penguin update was made on 24th April,  SEO mainly focused on getting the maximum number oflinks as quick as possible to gain the love of the search engines. It didn’t matter where you get the links or how you get them. All it mattered was if the links were from anchor text keywords. After the penguin update, all these still matter but with on rule: The number of links should be increasing naturally and the nature of the links should not be overly anchor texts. Here are few tips to do that:

Planting the links in the right spots

In order to grow the links naturally, you have to plant them in the right spots. This is where diversification of content comes into play. Diversification of content helps in expanding the spots where you can obtain links. For example, if you are just producing quality articles and including links in them, your reach is limited to a bunch of article directories. On the other hand, produce well written articles, blogs, press releases, great infographics, video content etc and you have an opportunity to spread your links across various platforms. The main advantage of spreading links across various platforms is that your link profile would be organic. Your website would never get penalized for over optimization of anchor text links.

Just publishing different types of content in various spots doesn’t grow the number of links by itself. You need to provide a little support to these published contents to grow naturally. For example, social bookmarking is one popular SEO strategy that can be used to gain extra exposure to any type of published content. You could also share them in the social media sites such as facebook, twitter and Google plus to grab the attention of the social media crowd. Here is a short clip from a video QnA session by Matt Cutts (The distinguished Google Engineer) on this extra promotion Once the extra SEO done to these published content takes its effect, all you have to do is to sit back and watch the links grow naturally.

Natural growth of the links

Now you have great content which is presented to a huge audience. Depending on the quality and catchiness, the content would spread virally into the social media and gets syndicated naturally by other surfers. Each and every share or syndication of your content is equal to a natural link that is generated to your website.

So here is the key to grow links naturally:

Seed = Great, diversified content

Plantation spots = SEO spots where you publish different types of content

Watering the plants = SEO and social media marketing for the published content

Natural growth = Viral social shares and natural syndication

“Facebook Like” brought to life

When Xminds participated in Demo Asia 2012, we wanted to show-case the company in the start-up world in a creative manner. Our idea was to create something simple letting the world know our area of expertise which prompted the team to think SOCIAL and what better than FB in that space.

Our idea was to create something which should standout from other participants at the same time giving the startup world clear idea as to what we do.

This prompted the team to think ‘SOCIAL” and what better than FB in that space. But how could we bring FB to the physical word?

A facebook wall was built and ‘Like’ cards were made which carried the number of people ‘Liked’ us during demoasia and behind the card had a brief of what we do and our contact address.

Please watch the video below which would give you better idea.

And yes we received plenty Likes

Startup success: Forget the recipe, focus on the ingredients.

Build it and they will come. Ever wondered the truth of that statement? Read on.

You’re sat in a swanky coffeehouse with your mates on Sunday afternoon. Three espressos later and all present reach the conclusion that the idea is going to work. You’ve even worked out the reasons why it will work, just in case the question comes up at the next family gathering on why you quit your corner office corporate job to work in a startup.

The stark reality is that the rate of failure is high. Here’s why: startups can’t exist by themselves. The ecosystem for their success requires other ingredients. It involves mixing that initial idea with mentors who’ve had the experience to ease that painful but necessary learning curve, a healthy financial reserve to weather that incubation period of any idea coming to life as well as the all important ability to test that idea as a product with the target audience.

The importance of testing and getting feedback with a minimum viable product (MVP) has proven vital in successful start-ups. Remember the early days of Dropbox? They moved quickly to launch the minimum viable product with the key features for testing with their target audience. Dropbox certainly built it and people came but they allowed their customers to build it with them and success came knocking. For more information on Dropbox’s minimum viable product days read TechCrunch’s post.

To build your own minimum viable product and success story contact us @ Xminds.

Productivity tools for the Entrepreneur

Today, I would like to talk regarding the Productivity tools available for Entrepreneurs. Most of them are free. However, some of them are paid ones.

Please find below different Productivity tools as per classification:

1. Office Tools:

The following Office tools will definitely increase productivity & save time of the Entrepreneur:

• Password Manager: KeePass, RoboForm, KeyWallet
• Time Tracking: LazyMeter, Focus booster
• Accounting: Expensify, TradeShift
• Human Resources: Odesk, Freelancer
• CRM : Sales Force, Zoho

2. Web Tools:

Now, check various Web tools available:

• Survey Builder: Survey Monkey, Kwiksurveys
• Bug Tracking Tool: 16 Bugs
• Enquiry Form Builder: Wufoo, Formsite
• Data Storage: Dropbox, Box
• Create Landing Pages: InstaPage, Unbounce
• Spell Checker for Websites: CheckDog, TextTrust
• Live Chat: Chatango, BoldChat
• Webinars : GoToMeeting, Webex
• Video Conferencing: Skype, Freeconference, GoToMeeting
• Social Book Marking Button: Add This, ShareThis
• Resize Images: PicResize, ResizeYourImage
• Customer Support Tool: ZenDesk, UserVoice
• Project Management Tool: Basecamp, Jira
• Web Analytics: Google Analytics, Clicky
• Online Reputation Management: Radian6, Simplify360
• Language Translation Tools: Google Translation, Yahoo ! Babel Fish
• Share Images and videos: Jing
• URL Shortener: goo.gl , bit.ly

3. Document Management:

Read some tools available for managing your documents:

• PDF to Word Converter: PDFtoWord, PDFonline
• Word to PDF Converter: Doc2PDF, WordtoPDF
• Online Document Collaboration : Live Documents , Google Docs, Confluence, SlideShare
• Plagiarism Checker : Plagium

4. Social Networking:

Please find some tools for Social Networking below:

• Build your Social Network: Ning, Grouply
• Enterprise Social Community: Yammer
• Tweet Scheduler: Social Oomph, Future Tweets

5. Email Manager: Manage your Emails

• Mass Mailer : Mail Chimp, Constant Contact
• Send Future mail: Fumes.me
Google Apps for Business

6. SEO: Useful tools for SEO
SEOCentro
SEOMoz
Tynt

7. Hardware:
• Smart Phones
• IP Phone

Startups, Incubation, Acceleration. Are you Lost too ?

Facebook, Zynga, Foursquare have become house hold names today. There’s a certain excitement in running one’s own business, the charm of being an entrepreneur, the thrill of managing a team; but with every startup comes a set of hurdles and challenges.

Before getting all thrilled about running a startup, it’s essential to understand the naked truth and prepare yourself to avoid the unforeseen. The graph below clearly shows the proportion of new businesses founded in 1992 still alive by 2002.



A study by Brian Headd and Bruce Kirchhoff found that only 28 percent of businesses with employees have any employment growth from one year to the next.

If you start a business, odds are that your company will fail. Data from the U.S. Small Business Administration shows that regardless of the year when they are founded, the majority of start-ups go out of business within five years, and two-thirds are no longer operating ten years after being formed.

So why do most startups fail?

To cut the chase, failure rates are high because a large number of inexperienced entrepreneurs start businesses that shouldn’t be founded in industries that are unfavorable to new companies. Most entrepreneurs pick unfavorable industries because low entry barriers attract them. Census data show that the rate at which entrepreneurs start businesses in different industries correlates 0.77 with the rate at which businesses fail in those industries. That is, entrepreneurs favor the very industries in which businesses are most likely to go under.

Interestingly, most entrepreneurs start companies that don’t even have a competitive edge. Data from the Panel Study of Entrepreneurial Dynamics reveals that this figure is nearly 40%.

Most entrepreneurs don’t have sufficient experience or exposure in the industries they are diving into. Research shows that working in an industry for several years before starting a business enhances the survival prospects of a start-up.

Other failure factors include lack of careful financial controls, marketing plans or even a basic business plan.

True, some start-ups fail because of factors beyond their founders’ control. But responsibility for much of the high failure rate of new businesses lies with the entrepreneurs themselves.

How does one overcome these challenges and how can one seek help?

Startup incubators are a brilliant way to stride through these challenges as the support that you get during the initial phases can make the difference between success and failure. These incubators provide office space, office furniture, phone systems, and clerical staffing as well as mentoring, access to capital, and other assistance to those companies who are accepted.  They also play a large role in assisting a business with getting funding. Incubators are responsible for assisting in the start of thousands of companies each year. Their objective is to accelerate the time it takes to get a company’s products or services to market, many times in less than 6 months, and often in no more than 90 days. And of course, make the incubator a tidy profit. Venture capital companies, entrepreneurs, and corporations have founded private Incubators.

Incubators will charge a fee or more likely take some kind of equity in the business for their services. The great thing though is incubators are very selective. As you would imagine they receive way more applications then they can take, but if you get accepted you are in an elite group. That selection process is what puts you in an environment with many great companies and ideas.

An advantage of the incubator is that often member companies can take advantage of professionals, such as attorneys, accounting firms, marketing firms and others who are willing to either provide their services at a discount rate or, more likely, for an equity share.

Every incubator has an application process and usually deadlines for how many they will take in a given period. So you need to be on top of your game to get in and meet all the deadlines.

Should one join an incubator or a startup accelerator?

The main difference between an incubator and accelerator is that an accelerator is usually more time-sensitive, sort of like a “startup boot camp” for a few months to help you figure out whether your company has legs or if you should “fail fast” and move onto the next opportunity.

What you get from an incubator are:

  • An ecosystem of entrepreneurs
  • Mentorship
  • Experienced leaders to guide your business
  • A head start to fundraising

The decision?

It’s personal. If you’ve sold a few companies, you may feel that an incubator/ accelerator is not for you. At the same time, the constant mentorship, connection making across industries, and co-working with like-minded entrepreneurs who are willing to stop and give you a hand, make it hard not to want it.

If you are new to entrepreneurship, there’s definitely no looking back. Quoting the words of Steve Jobs, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”, there’s never a better time than now to start your business; just do it smart.

Are you ready to start a new business ?

One of the common mistakes made by entrepreneurs is assuming they have just come up with a unique idea that is going to save the world from a common problem. They get so passionate about the idea that they often forget to validate this with their target audience. This results in them building something that already exists or offering something that doesn’t have a value proposition. And as expected most of those businesses end-up in the cold shelf and the entrepreneurs after burning what little they had will get back to work trying to get over the sour episode of their life.

So If you have just been hit with a great idea and before you get on the surfing board, do a self-assessment by answering the questions below.

1. Why should I spend my hard-earned money on a product without validating it first?
2. Should I build all the fancy features before I launch?
3. What’s my user acquisition strategy? Can social media help me here?
4. How am I going to earn money to pay for my resources? Do I have a good revenue model?

I will touch very briefly on the above and will tell you why they are important.

Why should I spend my hard-earned money without validating my idea?

You have to be passionate about what you are building but at the same time you have ensure that there are others around you who are also having this same problem as you.

So does your solution solve it and how big is your target market?

Once you have answered these questions honestly then go to the validation part.

So how do I validate my business idea?

There are several ways you can do this and I am going to list a few that worked well for us.

  • Talk to your friends and tell them what you are going to build and then be a patient listener.
  • Create a survey with very few questions (5 or less would be my safe bet) and invite your friends and relatives to answer it.
  • Create a facebook advertising campaign and specify the target audience and send them to the survey page.
  • Create a homepage for your product and mention what you are going to build (don’t reveal everything) and put an email box asking visitors to share their email address so that you can notify them when you launch the service.

Collect the feedback and compare them with your own answers. Are you convinced there is a need?

Should I build all the fancy features before I launch?

This is where most of the businesses fail as they wait to put the ‘bells and whistles’ and misses the feedback from early-adopters. A rule of thumb for startups is to enter the market as quickly as possible and then integrate the fancy stuff by doing quick time-boxed iterations.

Imagine where Mark Zuckerberg would have got to if he waited 7 years to launch facebook with all the fancy features it has now.

So the idea is to build a Minimum Viable Product that lets you get to the market rather quickly and then fit yourself before you run out of money.

If I were to build facebook, my MVP user stories would be

  • As a user I should be able to create an account so that I use the service.
  • As a user I should be able to login so that I can see my friends activities.
  • As a user I should be able to post my updates on the wall so that I can share it with my friends.
  • As a user I should be able to invite my friends so that I can build a network.
  • As an administrator I should be able to pull up user reports so that I can do some analytics.

And I could get someone to build this MVP in 8 weeks for less than 8000$. And If my business doesn’t get the expected traction and even if I quit, I loose only a few thousand dollars and can still survive the trauma. So build an MVP to further validate the concept and enter the market before you run out of money.

What’s my user acquisition strategy? Can social media help me?

It’s such a broad question but you should have some answers before you start. If you are planning to rely on facebook and twitter to send traffic to your website, then I suggest you revisit your decision as social media markets are very crowded and you might even go unnoticed.

So what else can you do to bring customers to your website?

Again facebook advertising campaigns can bring users to your website but that alone should not be your primary marketing technique.

I suggest you checkout the presentation ‘From Zero to a Million Users’ by Adam Smith who is the founder of Xobni. He passionately talks about lot of techniques that applies to all the market segments. So be sure to adopt a few of those.

How am I going to earn money to pay for my resources? Do I have a good revenue model?

This is definitely the most significant question that decides the fate of your business. If you have a financial model that largely depends on advertising revenue then your chances of raising investment is 1 in 100. There are a few exceptions like Quora that raised $14 million and valued at $90 million and their revenue model is still a mystery. But don’t be over-joyed; we don’t get to hear too many stories like that every year.

Fundamentally you need to understand your target market and then realign your business model to plan for growth, investment and revenue. This is easier said than done but that’s why you chose to be an entrepreneur.

My advice to startup entrepreneurs – Startups are never cheap or easier to build and don’t trust people who say so because they have never built one. To succeed, you need a good idea, excellent planning, awesome implementation, right timing, perseverance and lot of passion.