Startup Journey – ‘The Elevator Pitch’

elevator_pitch

Continuing from push or pull, you need to know which camp your idea belongs to.

Do you create gain ?

Do you eliminate pain ?

The popular sentiment is that pain relievers are better than Vitamins. I have my personal disagreement with that view, but I shall not place that here. I shall reserve it for a later stage.

A fine compilation of the Gain Creator Trigger Questions can be found here

A fine compilation of the Pain Reliever Trigger Questions can be found here

Both of this comes from the fine people who created the business model canvas and value proposition design. You can read more about the work they do here

Am I getting too ahead of myself ?

If you have noticed, I could be getting too ahead of myself.

I have been deliberately missing one person till now and that is the person who shall make or break you.

Who is that ?

THE CUSTOMER

Begin here.

Who is the Customer ?

I may be stating the obvious, but you would be surprised that this simple question does not evoke an objective response and that sometimes can be a sure sign of trouble.

A simple rider to the above question and at times can knock off the best of people

Who is your paying Customer ?

Now, repeat this at least one hundred times everyday.

Who is my paying Customer ?

At times, I do hear this argument that we will have a user base of X million and there would be  Y ways to monetize on that X million. Somehow I do not find that a digestible argument. I am not saying it is a wrong model, but somehow if we are not able to quantify the model of monetization, then I am afraid that we are on a sticky wicket.

By the above logic who is facebook’s customer ?

What is the size of whatsapp customer base ?

What was whatsapp revenue when facebook bought it for a whooping $19 billion ?

What is the difference between an user and a customer ?

I think you should kind of ponder over this, but I would like to keep this argument simple.

Anyone who pays you money for your idea is your customer.

The customer sees value in your idea.

I think we have covered some ground here.

You have a why .

You have an Idea and the forms that the idea can be represented in (pull, push, gain, pain).

You have a reasonable view on who the customer is or rather who the paying customer is.

To follow a textbook approach and also to get some clarity in your mind, now is possibly the time to craft your elevator pitch.

Elevator pitch means you should be able to explain , convince or sell your idea in under ten twenty seconds to anyone who matters. Otherwise, you are gone in sixty seconds!  This is seemingly difficult but has its merits. It helps you to breakdown your complex abstract thought process into simple English that could be understood by anyone.

Let me dissect our own Amuz’s Elevator Pitch

For Passengers (Whom)

who want to get entertained/educated on the move, (Why)

Amuz (Idea)

is a in vehicle entertainment and education system, (What)

that allows Passengers to watch movies, listen to audio, video using their mobile connecting to the wireless hotspot within the specific transport(Bus/Train/Corporate Coaches) . (How)

Unlike where passengers consume content only on their phone or Internet (Status Quo)

Amuz allows to consume relevant content that is hosted within the transport system without having the need to connect to Internet (How is it different)

The Bracketed items in Read tell the complete story.

  • Passengers – Customers
  • Entertained/Educated – Gain/Pain (What do you think ?)
  • Amuz – Name of the idea?
  • Passengers to watch movies – What does it do and how ?
  • Current State – Status Quo
  • New State – How is it different ?

As you notice, the elevator pitch does not answer many questions but probably paves the path for many more questions and possibly should leave the listener with a  little bit more curiosity.

An elevator pitch can be deemed successful if it manages to achieve that.

I am not sure if you would call Amuz has an successful elevator pitch, but I think you would now get the ingredients of an elevator pitch.

I would like you to craft some elevator pitches in the template given above and let me know if it was a easy or difficult process.

Congratulations. Now you are armed with something.

Is this sufficient enough to assume that your idea will be a great success.

Absolutely no.

The most crucial and important phase begins now.

You have just seen one side of the coin now.

All you have is a hypothesis. Nothing more.

How will you validate that hypothesis ?

As Steve Blank, famously says

Get out of the building.

Next couple of weeks, we shall see about this in detail.

Till then, keep having fun with your creation.

Have fun. (Enjoy Maadi).

Zunder

Will you stop at the Red Light ?

red_stop

I am a resident expert in arm chair philosophy.

I preach to my children about

  • Following traffic rules
  • Wearing helmet during cycle rides
  • Avoid binge eating
  • Not to sit in front of TV for many hours
  • Go to bed early
  • Go to bed with a book
  • Being courteous to everyone
  • Respect elders
  • Spend money on things that are necessary
  • Keep yourself fit

These are simple things, right ?

But if I have to score myself on the above, I will get a miserable 2 out of 10.

Well, I have my reasons.

Why will I stop at a red light at 4 AM in the morning when I am sure there is no traffic and you are possibly certain that if I stop, the person coming behind me is going to be equally surprises and make a eerie stop !

Should not common sense and context prevail over blind following of rules ?

In the same way, I can present a counter argument and justify myself on each of the above points in an extremely benign way and convince you that my intentions are extremely honest, but only when coming to implementation that I have operational difficulties that are outside my locus of control.

Well, that is the lie I tell myself and go to sleep every day.

This hit me hard one day, when I was going in scooter with my kids and one of them remarked, “Appa – Wear your helmet. I see a policeman there”.

That is what I would call as a knockout punch.

No wonder everyone says children are more perceptive. They do not care what you say, but they watch what you do and what a lousy example I have been.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are. John Wooden”

I seem to be taking a hit on both character and reputation !

What would be your score ?

Will you stop at the red light ?

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun).

Zunder

Hope for the flowers

hope_for_the_flowers

Couple of years back, I reluctantly went to Kungfu Panda along with my son. I became a fan of Kungfu panda after that and whenever I get a chance, I watch that movie and it has had a lasting impact on me.

That is the case with this book as well.

This is a very easy read, and you are sure to complete the book in thirty minutes. But I can guarantee that this simple book will leave a profound impact on you , as it did for me. I keep going back to the book, whenever I can.

This is a book, you should read aloud to yourself, your kids, and possibly with all  your family.

I got introduced to the book by Professor Ramnath Narayanswamy of IIMB when I had taken the Creativity, Reinvention and Self Development.

The author brilliantly captures the struggle of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly and subtly bring out similarities in our day to day life.

Find below an interesting conversation from the book

“How does one become a butterfly” she asked pensively.

“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar”

“You mean to die?”, asked yellow, remembering the three who fell out of the sky.

“Yes and No”, he answered.

“What looks like you will die but what’s really you will still live. Life is changed, not taken away.

Isn’t it different from those who die without ever becoming butterflies”

So if you want to know what it takes to be a butterfly or possibly what it takes you to fly,  just give thirty minutes of your undivided attention to this book.

It is  impossible that you will not be influenced by it.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Startup Journey – Push or Pull ?

push-pull

You know the “Why”

You seem to have something of an “Idea”

What next ?

I have kind of evolved to believe that there are two schools of taking an Idea to a market.

When you are productizing, you need to figure out which camp you are in, because that is going to determine what happens when you hit some roadblocks. Some is an understatement and you shall many roadblocks.

So you can belong to the Steve Jobs, Elon Musk camp or the Steve Blank, Eric Ries camp.

Let me attempt to simplify the way idea is taken to market.

Push – You will push it down with consumer’s throat with such intensity and somehow you will be made to feel that how could you have lived without this in your life up-to now. You are a genius in understanding the consumer insights and you have the personal charisma or can create the awe surrounding your product. Apple’s iphone is the most repeated example of this.

Closer home and if you kind of go back in time, Reliance launched 500 rupees phone and that changed the dynamics of the Industry. It was pushed with some intensity and helped Reliance gain significant Market Share.

Pull – You get out a bare minimum first version , famously called as Minimum Viable Product (MVP) in the Lean approach to product development, to see if you can get traction, and iterate rapidly on the feedback that you get. This process has been institutionalized as the Lean Approach to Product Development and currently occupies the dominant mindshare towards getting something out in the market.

The story of freshdesk is a good story of this model.

There might be someone who could possibly have a combination of push and pull.

I would cover some aspects of the push model, but mostly this series will cover the pull model and the science behind it.

In my view, the art and science of contemporary practices behind pull model, gives a very rationale framework for entrepreneurship and reasonably succeeds in making a science out of it.

I shall deconstruct AMUZ in the pull model and hopefully it shall help you understand the nuances in the pull model and how you can possibly construct your idea in the pull model.

Before I start, I would like to confess one thing. I like people behind the push model. They are the folks who create the dent in the universe and the universe needs them a lot. I am reminded of the quote from George Bernard Shaw

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

The Jobs, Musks, Tatas and Ambanis belong to the unreasonable category.

However there can be a life for an idea without making a dent in the universe and they need to be respected as well.

Not everything we do should or need attract mainstream attention.

Not everything needs to be an unicorn, though there is no harm in having a vision like that.

Moonshots are not a bad thing, but not everything need to be a moonshot.

There is merit and purpose in an idea like Ramraj Cotton who took a loan of Rupees 17000 and created a multi million dollar brand.

It really boils down to you deciding on which camp you belief yourself to be in and though belief can be double edged sword, you need to have that inside of yourself to kickstart your idea.

So now,

You have a “Why”

You have an “Idea”

You know your “camp”

What next ?

To borrow from the wonderful folks who created the business model canvas and value proposition design methodologies, you need to know

Are you a Gain Creator ?

Are you a Pain Eliminator ?

When I say “You” here, it mostly would mean it is your idea, product or yourself.

As an entrepreneur you cannot be separated from your product. You are the product. I am going to come back to this in a different way at a later time, but at this time please remember that you are the product .

And one final thing, when you have decided to take the leap and any time in that journey, remember this one line

“The Buck Stops Here”

In the next week, we shall see more about Gain Creation, Pain Elimination and some other fundamental aspects.

It could be that I am drifting and dragging, but when I end this , I would like to give you a usable model like I did for the “Why”, that you can use to validate your journey and to make things simple, I have to set the necessary context.

Luckily when I was struggling for words, the daily blog from Seth Godin articulated it better and I have mercilessly pasted it below. The original link is here

“You have two choices when you want to move forward (grow a business, sell an idea, get a ‘yes’):

  1. Have such an insight and deliver such innovation that people will choose to make a new decision, adopt a new habit or otherwise get smarter.
  2. Provide an option that matches a decision they’ve already made. No new decisions, merely new information.

Ms. Investor, you already invested in companies A, B, and C. We match that pattern.

Movie executive, you made a lot of money on three comedies for the young adult audience. We match that pattern.

Hey kid, you love to buy new flavors of chocolate bars, here’s a new flavor.

You’re used to taking pharmaceuticals, and this placebo looks just like one. 

Most of the time, we look for patterns that match our habits. When we find a pattern match, we can embrace it without re-evaluating our beliefs.

On the other hand, moving all your data to the cloud, or staying at an Airbnb, these are new decisions, new ways of being in the world. Trying to get a book publisher to fund your magazine or your web app might make sense to you, but without the benefit of a pattern to match, the publisher who has built a career around one pattern might get cold feet.

Human beings are pattern-matching machines. Changing our beliefs, though, is something we rarely do. It’s far easier to sell someone on a new kind of fruit than it is to get them to eat crickets, regardless of the data you bring to the table.

It’s tempting (and important) to improve the world by creating new beliefs. But it’s far more reliable to match them.”

It is possibly worth while to start with pattern matching rather than creating new beliefs.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

The Marshmallow Test

marshmellow

Everyone of you had possibly heard about the Marshmallow test. You can have a peek at video of the test here or Google it yourself to read the science behind it.

In short what research says is that subjects who cleared the marshmallow test in early stages of their life, grew up to be more successful in their later stages of life.

The science behind it is called as Delayed Gratification. I also imbibed this into one of my good friend, Syed, when we did the Oxfam hundred KM walk. We were in the last  stretch and were resting before starting for the finishing line. Volunteers were giving away noodles and Syed went ahead , grabbed one and before he could put in a spoon of noodles into his mouth, the cup slipped his hand and he could not taste even one noodle.

That is when I gave him my infamous lecture about the Marshmallow test and the beauty of Delayed Gratification.

He looked at me with a vengeance in the eye and he told me two things.

  • I shall never forget the “Marshmallow test’ and “Delayed Gratification”.
  • I shall never forgive you for choosing the timing of this lecture

Sometimes I do wonder how would I have fared in “The Marshmallow Test”

Let me think. Place before me any of these items

  • A bowl of crushed curd rice or Bagala Bath with Kerela Vadu Manga (Tender Mangoes) (Though I am detached from this now!!)
  • Steaming Hot Filter Coffee
  • Garam Masala Chai with the flavor of Ginger
  • Roasted Peanuts
  • Mangoes Alphonso especially
  • Masala Puri on the way back from office or now from any place I go
  • Boiled peanuts
  • Cut raw mangoes with slice of chilli powder
  • A true Mumbai vada pav
  • Steaming hot button idlis in boiling sambar
  • Pepper Rasam
  • A slice of lime pickle especially in the forefinger along with Chilli Vada
  • And the list can go on and on ….

and I would happily give Marshmallow Test a flying kiss.

If I have to forgo the above and be considered successful in any stage of my life, I would be rather deemed unsuccessful.

I have had this test of telling myself, especially in the evenings , when I am taking a walk, do not give into the temptation of eating roadside Masala puris and every single time I have ended up befriending the Masala puri person. Every Masala Puri  person within a radius of two kilometres of my house is my friend. When I go he will give me a warm smile, (one of those rare breeds of people who actually smile at me) and when I finish he will give me an extra puri filled with pani to show case his affection for me!

So, between succeeding in the Marshmallow Test and Affection, I chose affection.

Delayed Gratification can be delayed. Let me deal with the small little pleasures of life.

Well,  does that make me a hypocrite ?

I shall allow my good friend Syed to judge me on that.

The little things in life are what really do count
Without them around to what good does life amount?
I will tell you now what God simply will not forgive
Grovelling on knees before Him when you could have lived. – James Harris

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun).

Zunder

 

 

Leading

leading

Sir Alex Ferguson managed Manchester United from 1986 to 2013 and helped them win 38 trophies.

Sir Michael Moritz is a renowned Venture Capitalist with Sequoia Capital .

Theodore Roosevelt said

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I can related this quote to many leaders whom I have worked with.

They generally work relentlessly towards something that has possessed them disregarding absolutely everything .

This book traces the journey of Sir Alex as an Individual, Coach, Manager and Leader through his own eyes. Sir Michael Moritz takes the journey and aptly summarizes how the critical elements of that journey is no different for building great organizations.

I can easily put this book in the category of a leadership classic. It clearly articulates on how individual can bring in an element of sustained excellence to the environment he commands.

What surprises me is that it makes you feel that leadership is not something you are born with, but kind of something you evolve into and if you make up your mind, you can be a leader who can bring in that element of sustained excellence towards the teams you are leading.

If you want an twitter equivalent of what goes into the leadership style of Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir Michael Moritz eloquently puts it as follows

Press Sir Alex to choose three words to summarise his approach to leadership and he would pick three that begin with the same letter – preparation, perseverance and patience. Compel him to select one word and he would fasten on – consistency.

Can you take a guess on what possibly is the most repeated word in the book ?

“Discipline”.

Anyone who is interested in leadership, leadership development, or evaluating their own style of leadership, this book is an invaluable companion and is an engaging read.

“Great leaders are competing – not with others – but with the idea of perfection itself”

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun)

Zunder

Startup Journey – Roots of an Idea

idea_images

An idea

How do you define it ?

Is it something that possesses you ?

Is it something that keeps you awake at night ?

Where does it originate ?

Is there an eureka moment ?

I can go on and on like this. I also wish to confess that I am not in the Newtonian line of thinkers.

If the apple had fallen, when I was under the tree , I would have eaten it and waited for one more to fall

I am terrible at deriving causal relations

I think I have to blame the folks at raspberry foundation for needlessly kindling my curiosity.

I assembled a raspberry pi based media server in my home. I consolidated all my music, movies and photos into one big NAS storage , ran a DLNA server on the raspberry pi and made it accessible to everyone in my home any time, without writing a single line of code.

I still have this running without any issues and that should be obvious to you from the above sentence. “I did not write a single line of code”

Also at the time I was taking a lot of MOOC courses, was learning some elementary physics from Khan Academy, because I just wanted to understand why I never understood anything of that when I was young.

Unfortunately, it was one of those days I sat thinking and wondered I have good Internet connectivity and am able to watch all this wonderful stuff, what happens to people who do not have any kind of connectivity. Despite the best efforts from everyone in the world to connect the unconnected , more than half of the world remains unconnected. That got me thinking about bumblebee . Though it got  many excited and everyone did their best in evolving it, it still has not reached the scale it possibly could reach. However, I have not yet given up on it and for some strange reason, anything related to education , remains close to my heart.

If you had read my article on the different type of walkers, you would have observed, that I am good at doing everything except what I am supposed to do. In a similar vein , when I hopped on a back to back journey in a bus to Chennai from Bangalore and back it kind of hit me many people where consumed with their smart phones in some form or the other. I shall classify them as I did for the walkers in a later article, but somehow I felt here was yet another application I found for the raspberry PI.

That was the seed for the birth of AMUZ which stands for ‘A to Z’ of movies and music. I did not christen it AMUZ and I called the first version as ‘OurTV’. I wanted to call it as ‘Namma TV’, but then changed my mind. Yet again, for the initial version there was no line of code written.

I had sounded this idea to everyone in my office for a year or so and yet again, everyone said it was good, but since it had no relation to the domain that we were primarily focusing on , it had no takers or sponsors.

Day to Day pressures and inertia kept me away from thinking about it and this idea went into dormancy.

Over a period of time, as my ‘Why’ became increasingly dominant and I decided to move out, I thought , the idea of  AMUZ could be taken from being dormant to dominant.

So if I could summarize , the following were the reasons for my idea

  1. Blame it on the raspberry pi folks
  2. Blame it on my taking MOOC and Khan Academy courses
  3. Blame it on my travel to Chennai and my peskiness in watching what others do
  4. Blame it on my ‘Why’
  5. Blame it on me believing that I needed something for my ‘Why’

Scientifically I would not know how to put the origination of this idea , but this is how it happened for me. If “Blame” sounds “negative” substitute it with “Credit”

I would like to reiterate that  the Idea did not give rise to the ‘Why’  and the idea was just one application of the ‘Why’.

I think this possibly sets the context for the articles that shall come in the next three weeks

Can an Idea be a product ?

Can a product be an enterprise ?

What is the journey from idea to product to enterprise ?

What did I do right ?

What did I do wrong ?

What could I have done better ?

Where I stand in my journey and what are my possible next steps ?

If you do manage to stay with me in this journey, you will definitely be amazed at how I broke every one of my sacred rule of getting the rubber on the road and how I had one standard for evaluating my idea and different standard for evaluating other’s idea.

This last nine months, I am having a rude awakening about my own self (not all of is bad) and I have this faint hope that me sharing this with you shall somehow help you to understand your own selves a trifle better or a context to examine your own style of thinking.

Like I ended the Why, you could expect an actionable framework about evaluating your idea and jumping ahead with it , in this series.

Enjoy Maadi (Have Fun).

Zunder