Wednesday, 22 January 2014

4 Questions to ask before you QUIT YOUR JOB to do a startup

Yep I did it finally !!

It was a Friday afternoon & after maybe 6-7 months for the first time I logged on to my bank accounts & checked my cash position. I moved to the next part and checked the investments I had made and how much was tied up in stocks & fixed deposits.

After 15 minutes or so, I had a figure with me. I was content if not happy. I will survive.

I had just left my job few hours back & I had taken my first small step towards Entrepreneurship. I was still not an Entrepreneur, the journey becoming one was going to be a long & bumpy road trip. But this time like many times I was not in doubt & all energies in my body told me that I was ready. Yes, I was ready.

That night I did something that I wanted to do from a long time the day I decided to leave my job. I tried to answer few questions I had picked up at two places - one during my journey at the startup I was working & twp at the prestigious SLP program I was attending.

The premise was - my Education Technology product startup.

Questions I asked & my answers: 

1. Am I as an entrepreneur attacking an existing problem;      ( Pragmatism & Need identification)

Bringing technology in higher education both in skill & processes - as a value based model rather a commoditized based product model is a definite need.
It has impact on two most imp ROI for institutes viz. Admissions & Placements.

2. Have I zoomed in on the right target group and know them as I know myself; ( Early Adopters & Customer Dev )

Lot of Universities & Educational groups are looking for bespoke solutions to their growing needs. A performance report card for colleges in the wake of dropping student numbers gives us a headstart to pitch our solutions to these Educational groups. Teaching classes in colleges, taking seminars, counseling students & talking to faculty & admins over these 6-7 months brought us closer to their problems. We had a persona.

3. Have I made enquiries that the target group is willing to pay for a solution; ( Business Model viability)

Educational institutes are already investing lots of money on technology & customised ERP solutions. They do not work due to lack of participation, proper evangelising, badly designed products, no consulting & poor problem-solution fit.
After 20+ interviews we are sure there are institutes ready to invest.

4. That I am bloody sure that I can make a profiting company and keep it that way ( Belief in product )

Any value based product delivery model in a scene where problem is clearly evident & recognised, can be scaled & a repeatable delivery mechanism can be established.

It took me a year to figure out these questions & an answer that is based on data we gathered while we spoke to our users & customers. Our survival in the next few months would depend on focusing our energies on the right priorities.

Prioritising saves lives. Prioritising is difficult for many people, but its survival & we have to nail it. It depends on whether we are aware of what we’re doing. And that again depends on the phase of startup lifecycle we are in.

It won't be easy especially in Education Technology business. Folks from Wikispaces have aptly put it.

They say most of today's education technology startups are doomed to fail.
"But wait!" you say. "It's 2013 and ed-tech startups are sprouting up everywhere, pushing real innovation into a slow-moving yet vitally important market, gaining traction, getting funded!"

True. Yet they are still doomed to fail. While any young company faces risk, most of today's ed-tech companies will fail:
  • because they're chasing a trendy space without true, lasting passion for education.
  • because they lack a business model that works in education and are afraid to charge their customers.
  • because their investors have consumer Internet expectations in a market with completely different dynamics.
  • because it's easier to build novel technology than to deeply engage with students and teachers to understand their fundamental needs.
That's the bad news. The good news is that some of today's ed-tech startups will be wildly successful. They will change the face of education. But we don't think they will look much like their successful consumer Internet counterparts.

That's the mission - to build a sustainable & repeatable product model in Educational Technology business to establish efficient processes in institutions, empower faculty & increase student outcomes.

I have taken my first step & I am happy.

Godspeed !!

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