The startup ecosystem is vibrant, dynamic and sometimes, cutthroat. We don’t need to highlight recent examples of failures to be clear that joining a new venture like a startup can be a risky business. From having a great idea to turning it into a viable business, there are so many pitfalls along the way to avoid.
Three startup founders or co-founders, Tan Ban Eu of Offpeak, Fadzarudin Anuar of Fashion Valet and Clarence Leong of EasyParcel share some of their insights on the startup ecosystem and common mistakes they’ve observed startups making, which can be avoided.
All three companies have secured funding before, with Offpeak being one of the most recent, receiving an undisclosed amount from Yahoo Japan. FashionValet probably needs no introduction as one of the largest fashion sites in Southeast Asia. Clarence was also recently a top 10 finalist for the JCI Creative Young Entrepreneur Award.
For anyone who seeks to emulate them, here’s their advice.
What sort of startup would you like to see join the ecosystem and why?
Fadzarudin: I would like to see more startups address issues from old industries rather than building new products for the new internet and mobile economy. Industries such as manufacturing, logistics, administration, etc. are still using legacy systems and manual processes to do repetitive work.
These are not sexy businesses but they need people to address them and because they are not sexy, less people are interested in the space.
Clarence: On my side, I would like to see more startups that are here to solve real world problems instead of ‘syok’ sendiri or ‘me too’ solutions.
What sort of advice would you give to anyone looking for a mentor to help grow their startup?
Ban Eu: All sorts of startups should participate in this ecosystem from all types of industries and verticals. However, if you are in any mentoring sessions or pitch sessions, you should try to find relevant people to speak to if you want the best advice.
For example, I’ve been approached after my session in MaGIC a few times from people who are in more traditional businesses such as Finance/Accounts/Manufacturing or even in FinTech, but with my almost non-existent knowledge on those sectors, I would probably have no value or advice for them.
Vice versa if the session is not relevant to them, the startups might not extract maximum value from the pitches or presentation.
What one mistake have you seen startups make that could be avoided?
Clarence: Failing to delegate. Rather than give up control and trust others to take the reins, most startup founders try to do everything—and eventually fail.
Ban Eu: I believe many startups nowadays have the mentality that they should explore all avenues of options and network with all sorts of various industries. Too much of a good thing, can sometimes be bad.
There is also a peer-pressure to have a need to attend all types of sessions & talk to all types of people as when you’re starting up you should “maximise” your exposure and network.
However, contrary to previous years where “opportunities” like these rarely exist (networking sessions/talks/presentations, events), nowadays I feel startups are too heavily influenced by availability of all these networking activities, following articles on best practices and meetups, to the point that they fail to truly focus on what they started their journey on and also to truly focus on their business.
They are more interested in the hype of being in the startup. They also find it difficult to shy away from participation because they want to “capture em’ all” for opportunities. Startups should really focus, choose, and learn to say NO to the non-relevant events. There will always be the right event, and the right time for you.
Fadzarudin: I suggest startups to stop focusing most of their effort and resources on marketing and customer acquisition. Instead they should focus on their product, build a community of people who love their product and are willingly giving their opinions for improvement.
A great product suited for a niche market is a great foundation to expand. So focus on building a product for a niche customer base first.
If you found their advice illuminating and wish to hear more from these startup founders and other international speakers, sign up for the MaGIC Academy 2016 (#MA2016) for talks, workshops and one-on-one mentoring.
Keynote speakers include Girls in Tech CEO Adriana Gascoigne, Tinder Head of International Growth Sriram Krishnan, Uber Director of Business Development Senthil Balan and 500 Startups Partner Vishal Harnal.
Feature Image Credit compiled from MaGIC Academy & Clarence Leong Facebook.