Tag - startup

2016: Don’t Look Back in Anger

The one area of agreement across today’s hyper-polarized society I’ve seen is around the sentiment that 2016 was / is an annus horribilis. Given what I witnessed politically, economically, socially (and personally) in both Turkey and the United States, just know that the angst surrounding this year is not isolated to one country, one company, or one individual. Today I want to look back on 2016, in an effort to find lessons from the pain.

Remember, you are not the ‘average’ person. Usually I say this in reference to product users, when doing testing: always remember that you are not the ‘average’ user. People from different geographies, age groups, interest areas, socioeconomic strata bring wildly disparate use cases, motivations, and capabilities to a product. This is certainly true of people outside of our Silicon Valley (or ITU Teknokent, or Bilkent IEEE, etc…) bubbles – i.e., in terms of how people behave with their money, their time, their vote – anything. Whether shipping a new product version, or simply being an informed citizen of your own country, we must not forget that even if (or, especially when) empathy between different groups is stretched thin because of a yawning gap distancing them, the ability to identify the need states of people different than yourself – and to identify a solution – is critical for long-term success.

Balance quantitative predictions with qualitative reasoning. In my rose-tinted glasses I truly did think that scientific prediction and high-tech survey algorithms, sliced and diced a thousand different ways, meant the death of drama in the political sphere. But from the UK “Brexit” to the US Presidential votes, I (and much of the poll-following world) was shocked at outcomes that veered so far away from pundits’ predictions. While overnight everyone seemed to become an expert on polls and conservative-this and liberal-that, the one certainty in my mind is that you can’t trust ‘just’ numbers. What were the exact reasons in these (and other cases) that Minority Report-like models and technology were incorrect, it’s not my place to say. But I can say that numbers are not enough – that understanding people’s motivations (for changing their minds, for not answering, for not voting) and the trends that may impact them is crucial. The robots still need the humans, at least for a little while longer.

Plan for chaos. Whether negotiating fundraising in the middle of a coup, or being sabotaged by a former business partner, or solving for a key hire’s abrupt departure, the most unpredictable forces tend to make the biggest impact on our companies – especially in startups. Being resilient, never sacrificing your integrity, having a support network of trusted advisors / partners / clients, and empowering your team to be nimble in its operations gives greater flexibility in finding solutions – or at least options – when at times it feels like you have none. Planning for chaos is not having a guidebook or practicing drills – it means building a team over an extended period of time that has not only operational excellence but also an inordinate amount of trust and respect for one another, so that when circumstances take a turn for the bizarre, you are already set up to work together to make the best of it.

The impact of a mentor, or a hero, is exponentially bigger than the person him/herself. We lost so many people who were loved and admired this year – celebrities, victims of war and terrorism, friends and more. But what gives me hope is that the reflection on each of those people shows a halo, a bright light that they have each extended through their impact on so many others that they either worked with or influenced from a distance. Being a mentor to someone, or a leader to a team, or a hero to a group, is not one-to-one, or even one-to-many; it’s truly exponential in its impact, because each person that they have apprenticed will likely carry and pass along the salient traits from that person to the next, and the next. Loss is permanent, but legacy is infinite.

Your “life KPI’s” should be different than your business KPI (Key Performance Indicator)s…. Many of us are armed with personal cell phones that access our work emails, and laptops we tote home to finish emails after dinner – increasingly blurring the line between business and personal life. But there is a stark need to keep that line intact. A clear focus on revenue, or customer retention, or cycle time, or whatever your business’s KPI’s are, is absolutely critical. However, bringing the activities home that contribute to those business KPIs often threatens the time and attention needed for your “life KPIs” – your health, your family’s happiness, your personal well-being. The relentless zeal with which you pursue the success of your business endeavor should not be your only pursuit.

… and remember that the Life goals matter more. Businesses come and go. They say 90% of startups fail, and that’s probably right. Even in large enterprises, companies fail or pivot or reorg and the job you signed up for might not be as expected. Your company will be the industry darling one day, and toxic the next (see exhibit: Theranos). People you trusted may try to steal your strategy, your team, your money – or perhaps most loathsome, may try to assassinate your character. At the end of the day, it’s all noise. Fantastic, exhilarating, challenging, heartbreaking, life-affirming noise, but noise nonetheless. It is a moment, it passes, it is transient. There are very few elements in life that are not transient – health, family, maybe your homeland, maybe your beliefs – that you are born with and spend the rest of your life fighting to protect, because there is no alternative. Remember to make sure you pick the right battles – for inner peace, for the health of your loved ones, for safety in your home – because those are the only battles you simply cannot afford to lose.

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I wish each of you a happy, healthy, and peaceful 2017 – and wish you the greatest success in fighting the battles that inspire you most.

Now or never? The value of not working in a start-up right away

I have a dear friend – a former colleague from many years ago – who I think of as one of the most savvy, insightful people in the booming “fashtech” (fashion + technology) space. She has some of the most killer, unparalleled insights in the sector, and if I had my long-awaited lottery winnings (still waiting every week…) I would put my money on her and her killer idea for a wearable tech data platform.

The funny thing is, she’s not an entrepreneur.

Don’t get me wrong, she has the “itch” and is keen to make the leap into entrepreneurship, but she has been taking her time, and for all the right reasons:

1. Problem-orientation. Many startups are based on a planned or fortuitous development of a piece of IP that is the core of a product, then scrambling to identify that holy grail of “product-market fit.” She turned that equation upside down – with her in-depth knowledge of consumers, retail, technology adoption rates, and more, she can clearly see gaps in the market, and build a solution oriented to that.

2. Credibility. Most investors say they’d rather put money on a B idea led by with an A team, instead of vice versa. What makes that A team? That depends – but usually it’s not your school or GPA, but rather your work experience. Successful startup backgrounds (especially with exits) are certainly a plus, but someone with a decade of operational experience who knows the industry, key influencers, and trends is another step ahead.

3. Potential strategic advisors. Related to the above, current or past employers are not just great for building operational expertise – they are also great for networking with the sector’s heavy hitters and innovators. More often than not these people will be the foundation – advisors, board members, investors – of a future endeavor with someone who was a rockstar employee and knows the industry.

4. “Free” training. I remember when I first tried “marketing.” Not consulting about it, or being an intern watching it, but really being responsible for how many new customers my company had. I was scared that I couldn’t deliver results – or at an even more basic level, that I don’t have “real” skills (to be fair – that’s still debatable ;)). I was given a budget and connected to advisors to help me along the way, but was still skittish until my CEO took me aside and said – “Peri. You’re the only one on this team who can at least try to do this. Take the budget, and just keep learning.” And with that I understood the value of a free education. From the rigorous training sessions I was lucky enough to have as a consultant – things like analysis, synthesis, and storytelling – to the tactical, street-smart training I received in mobile user acquisition, I realized that the best training is the one you can get on someone else’s dime. I don’t mean that in a crude or transactional way, but I mean that I had investors who were willing to take the risk as I learned with their capital over the course of successes and failures. It is much easier to do so, to get both book and hands-on training, when it is not your bootstrapped venture putting your ability to pay rent on the line. Indeed, one might even find themselves stepping into too risk averse-a role to really be able to flourish.

Some people have the itch and will take the leap into startups straight from college / high school / the crib – and that’s fantastic. My point here is that age, or operational experience should not be seen as a negative; quite the opposite, it can help create an even stronger product and a more engaging story.

Required Reading: Startup Rising

As my friends and family know, at the moment I’m painfully behind in most aspects of my personal life – my unread gmails recently hit 4 digits, my to-do list is embarrassingly outdated, even my blog posts here have been delayed (related: don’t expect time management-related posts from me anytime soon…) – but what troubles me most is how far behind I’ve fallen on my preferred reading list. I used to be a voracious reader, loving how a few pages can quickly transport you to a new place or spark excitement in heretofore sleeping neurons. Whether modern or classic, fact or fiction, books are the key to keeping the brain well-fed, creative, and curious.

I always wonder – “Why did you work in that company / sector / country? And how did you get there?” I recently huddled down with a book at the top of my list – Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East, by Christopher Schroeder. The book was published in 2011, but I had the opportunity to meet Chris in 2015, and since then learn more about his experiences that led him on his path from US-based entrepreneur to investor and mentor in the Middle East in what is truly an inspiring read.

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How can a ѕtаrtuр соmmunitу gеt ѕtrоngеr

Hоmе business startup оwnеrѕ аrе аll around you, еvеrуdау. Thе соmmunitу buѕinеѕѕ induѕtrу iѕ quite literally bооming аnd iѕ getting larger еxроnеntiаllу bу thе mоnth. соmmunitу business ѕtаrtuр аnd intеrnеt marketing iѕ a viable аnd рrоfitаblе еntеrрriѕе рrоviding you dо уоur due diligеnсе bеfоrе еmbаrking on уоur buѕinеѕѕ vеnturе. The firѕt thing thаt уоu will nееd tо contend with when you opt to inсоrроrаtе аffiliаtе marketing in your hоmе buѕinеѕѕ iѕ thаt some mеrсhаnt ѕitеѕ аrе rаthеr diffiсult to navigate. However thеѕе соmраniеѕ wоuld рrеfеr уоu contact them dirесtlу rather thаn ѕkiр оvеr the орроrtunitу to mаkе affiliate соmmiѕѕiоnѕ through thеm. Read More

Things you can do to grow your business

Is your business in a rut? Are you stuck on how to move forward and expand? Don’t worry – there are many ways in which you can grow your business exponentially. Many of them are simple in their initial idea, but may require some more work in execution.

Open more branches.

Opening more branches of your business may sound intimidating. It may also sound like a lot of money being spent. However, by opening more branches, or even just the one to start with, you can expand your geographical target customers.

Expansion of this kind expands the number of people that you can capture the attention of when selling your product or service.
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How to build loyal customer network

Getting customers is the easy part. Keeping them happy and loyal in a growing network can require a little more legwork than you think. But, it’s the easiest way to have a thriving business and grow it.

Your customers are possibly the most important part of running a business – if they aren’t happy, your business will struggle to stay afloat. Businesses thrive on their happy customers and their unhappy ones can hinder them severely. You should always endeavour to understand who your customers are – especially your best ones.

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Meeting with Investors – Before, During and After

It is important to be consistent throughout meetings with investors. As you meet with investors more and more, you will begin to develop your own way of working. To begin, here are some pointers I suggest when meeting with investors through the whole process.

Preparing for your meeting:

Carry out research on the person that you’re meeting with.  What makes the person you’re meeting with excited? What grabs their attention? In doing this, you are getting a feel of your investor before you’re on the spot with them. Read More

How to Form the Right Startup Team

Starting up a business on your own at times tends to be a recipe for disaster. It gets worse if you are on board with the wrong team and even worst when they do not share the same business goals as you. Having the right team is key for anyone venturing into the business world as a first timer.

But what constitutes to the right startup team?

Well, here are some of the things to consider when it comes to choosing the right startup team for your business. Read More

Failure – an Inevitable Part of Success

You must have heard this a trillion times, “the loftier the goal, the farther you fall.” But this is something that should not stop you from progressing. Taking failure as a learning experience isn’t an easy task, but in order to succeed, you must know what failure is.

Remember Thomas Edison? When asked about his feelings regarding facing failure a 1000 times, he replied that the light bulb was an invention with “a thousand steps.” Read More