What it takes for a non-tech person to start-up a technology enabled business?
There are hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs with non-tech background who would like to start up a tech-enabled business. After meeting a few of them over the last many months, and seeing the problems they face, making this attempt to share some of my insights. While the reverse of this topic is also true, will address that in a future post.
Let me start by asking few fundamental questions.
What is the role of technology in a consumer Internet business?
It is the fabric on which the consumers conduct business. Their needs are met through products or services on this fabric.
Is there an analogy with the offline world? — Yes.
The place where consumer needs are met in offline world is the physical store. The place where they see the goods, the place where they get their pre and post sale queries addressed. The place where they are left with an impression of the retail or the product brand. Yes tech. has elements of the store, fixtures (hardware, architecture) and interactions (software).
Would you ever outsource a physical store equivalent– the digital hardware?
Yes, today anyone can get on demand hardware and storage. This is the fundamental reason that everyone is enabled to scale business in the digital space without the need of high capital expenditure.
Would you ever hire a design agency to support your store design?
Yes. We will have an internal designer who would liaise with that agency and get things done. If the store design changes or need to change frequently, will this work? May be not. In the digital world, with the user experience changes being responsive to consumer interactions in the evolutionary process, the once-a-while way of change model used in offline, may not work. Hence, having an in house team handling UX and UI makes a lot of sense.
Would you hire a part time store manager who is not available real-time?
Never. In the digital business too, the tech team, which comprises the product managers (who design the customer experience), the architects (who design the building blocks) and engineers (who execute the experience), are required real time 24/7 for the consumers. A part time, freelance model can only go so far as a prototype. Startups are exploratory in nature, needing a quick-response organization.
How much time should the founder devote on the start-up?
There is nothing better than 100%. Full focus of the founder is imperative. Many founders have multiple priorities and it impacts on the focus and traction of the initiative.
How should the founder prioritise?
Most founders focus on getting their idea on the ground by building their prototype using third party help, freelancers, and start to get to the trenches for building their traction. While prototype is fine, too much focus here impairs the responsiveness and learning ability of the organization. This learning ability is far more important than starting.
My suggestion here is to prioritize the search of a technology co-founder in the early stages. If that needs a concept to be proven, so be it. If that means, getting influencing through network, so be it. That is the only way to scale a tech enabled business. It is certainly not easy.
Any good technology person today, who is willing to give up a high paying job, is good enough and aspires to do something on his/her own. Aligning the vision and passion of the founder with a tech co-founder can take many weeks.
Does this impact prospective funding?
Yes. Funding is a leap of faith by investors particularly in early stages of a start-up. The priority of variables for any investor would be
a) Founding team
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Originally published at retail.economictimes.indiatimes.com.