While some of us prefer a well-paying job and the security of a monthly paycheck, some others would like to build something of their own. But that’s not an easy decision to make or execute. Leading personal finance app Fisdom‘s co-founder and CEO Subramanya SV (Subu) has journeyed from being a venture capitalist to an entrepreneur. These are his seven key tips for being a successful entrepreneur.
I didn’t always want to be an entrepreneur. Venture capitalism is what I started off with, a term I learnt about in 2006, when I joined KMPG as an analyst — private equity and venture capital were used interchangeably [in India] back then. In 2007, I joined Bessemer, global venture capital firm, and by 2010 I had become a partner and moved to Bengaluru to set up a Bessemer office here. The consumer internet market had matured by then and we heavily invested in firms like Snapdeal, Bharat Matrimony, Taxi for Sure, Big Basket, and more.
In 2015, when I had spent eight odd years in Bessemer, I realised a job that trumps venture capitalism is entrepreneurship. Starting a business is 5-10 year journey, sometimes even 15. I was already stimulated by intelligent ideas and wanted to create something meaningful for customers. Being 35 then, I asked myself if not now then when?
We have witnessed technology disrupting a variety of industries–e-commerce, transportation, food to name a few. In my mind what was waiting to be disrupted was financial services, healthcare, and (in hindsight) education. Financial services also have a large market size, and being in the field as an investor earlier and a software developer before business school, I felt connected to it. And when we looked at anecdotal data about what is consumed in the personal finance space, we realised the market is screaming for help.
I was surprised to find fairly sophisticated people with a huge amount lying in their banks, not reaping profits. Being unaware, many consumers also bought moneyback policies from LIC, paid credit card interest, or took loans when not needed. We felt that money management should be customised. Hence, we chose to attack that market, specifically with the investment product in 2016 with Fisdom.
The journey, of course, has taught me a lot. Through the many ups and downs, I have realised that there are some key things to keep in mind to be a successful entrepreneur.
Tips to become a successful entrepreneur –
Construct your product
Think about what your product will be and what form it will take. You have to figure out if you need a brick and mortar store, device or a mobile app, or online platform. An entrepreneur is the first product manager, so this is an important step.
How will consumers find it?
The next step is to ascertain how consumers would find your product and consume it. You will have to figure out if marketing, investing in sales enablement, and brand positioning is necessary.
Build a reliable team
The first few people in your team define the culture, ethics, and product journey. Based on the kind of product, you may typically need engineers, product managers, a marketing team, and sales team [for a tech-based product].
Calculating how much capital would be required for a minimum viable product to hit the market, is next. You will also have to analyse if you need a round of funding from friends and family, or from an angel investor or venture capitalist.
Support via co-founder and family
Entrepreneurship can become an extremely lonely job. Initially, there are more bad things than good things happening in the business. It is helpful to have a co-founder and, of course, support from family and friends is pivotal.
What you must also do…
Data can only take you so far. It is pivotal to speak to other entrepreneurs and interview consumers. My personal suggestion is to opt for businesses with a large market size, so you have the room to make initial mistakes.
Know that there is no uniform way to measure success
For some, it may be creating a company worth a million dollars, brand value, quick profitability or just doing what they like. I would look at it from the purview of stakeholders — customers, employees, and shareholders and what success would mean in each aspect. If our net promoter score with consumes remains high and let’s say we have a million people swearing by Fisdom for financial services, I would count that as a success.
In terms of employees, it would be imperative to create an environment to induce curiosity and motivate and attract impeccable talent. Generating returns and delivering value to our shareholders, which includes my co-founder and me, and the VC firms would be a measure of success as well. Once we have this in place, profitability and valuation of the business would increase as an outcome.
All images: Courtesy Getty