Boodopt Start-up Diary #1: The story of a bunch of friends and crazy ideas
In December of 2014, I was having an overnight chat with a longtime friend after an intense game of DOTA 2. It was 3 AM, yet we had shown no signs of sleeping from the excitement of the previous game.
The conversation began on a lighthearted note with discussion on how the game would have gone better if we took on the new strategy, but it soon went to a more serious topic on what most college students have on their minds: our future careers. After a few exchanges, we both agreed that we didn’t want to work in a boring 9–5 job and be constraint by typical corporate hierarchies. We wanted to work on something potentially world-changing and that we can love and claim ownership of.
First idea, first mistake: Arrogance
A tall order, right? After all, we’re freshmen with almost ZERO working experiences (unless you count part-time at an ice cream parlor). What can we possibly do that others can’t do better?
“Hey, don’t you think that the exchange students are a lonely bunch? Always eating alone and hanging out with their own kind?”
“Yeah, that’s kind of true. Wonder if the school assigns them “buddies” to bring them around Singapore…”
“Yeah…Dude, tell you what, why not create a global network of students who can host one another in various countries? Then once we are more established, let’s establish chapters in other countries.”
Excited by the prospects of our grand strategy, we leapt out of our beds and started making a checklist of relevant skills to build our platform and key people to contact. To hell with market research and validation! Those were mainstream corporate stuffs that only served to inhibit our creative energy. The logic was that since we were students ourselves, and we thought that we were decently “smart”, we should know the best.
As you have expected, after one whole week of development, we came to realize that our school, National University of Singapore has had an extensive buddy program for exchange students called “SG KAKIs” all along. Damn it. Something that would have been discovered after a mere afternoon’s online research was blindsided by our own hubris. Needless to say, the very first lesson I learnt in entrepreneurship was you think you know, but you actually know nothing. Put down your ego and start relearning what you always thought you knew.
Second idea, many mistakes: Self-delusion and complacency
Even though our first idea fizzled out, we were convinced that this was only the start of our entrepreneurial journey. We continued on seeking for new ideas and soon also roped in another friend who would be working on IT and web design.
Three-man strong now, we held weekly team discussions on our next step in public libraries, in schools, in Mcdonald’s. Then, it finally came during a usual weekly meeting in Burger King-we saw that the newly introduced coke floats were selling like hotcakes and saw an opportunity for us to make a brand out of selling floats. Floatilla was born. All of us immediately bought into the idea-it was an easy sell, we were all foodies and loved desserts immensely.
Cutting a long story short, we convinced the school authorities to let us test our idea in one of the most crowded junctions in NUS. The first day, second day, third day…passed with modest sales figures, but it was getting better and better. Gradually over the next few weeks, we lowered our unit cost rapidly by establishing partnerships with key suppliers. We improved our marketing-beautifying our crude posters, crafting a clearer marketing message and saw a marked increase in the traffic flow to our social media sites. Things were looking up every week and we became more sure that we were onto something big.
Even though the sales figures remained modest and we were effectively operating without any rent and utilities bills, we forgot all of that. We started to rest on our laurels even if there were none to begin with. And for our biggest blunder, we stopped our clumsy yet necessary “R&D” for new drink flavours and started obsessing over minute operating details that were less important in hindsight. Fortunately, one of our co-founders was an accountant by training and showed us our turnover over the period-It was decent, but that was only because we did not have to pay rent and utilities(courtesy of NUS). It would not have been a viable business otherwise, especially considering the exorbitant cost of setting up a traditional business in Singapore.
Third idea, ???
On the heels of two failed ventures, it was clear that something wasn’t quite working out. As our graduations drew closer, we decided that if we were to continue in our entrepreneurial journeys, we would have to stop churning out half-assed school-project level business plans and have to take our pre-venture market research a lot more seriously.
This time, we did really take it seriously-in fact we took 3 months to research and validate our idea. As our validation draws to a close, we sat down and tried to make sense of the data we got. One thing stood out in particular: we took 3 months to validate our idea, but if only there was a way for new entrepreneurs to validate their ideas, or even concepts quickly.
Enter Boodopt, where consumers can discover new and interesting early-stage ideas and concepts, and shape the development cycle of the product or services through giving real-time feedback.
The idea was that consumers can get exclusive access to premature ideas and concepts and work together with the creators to flesh them out, while the creators can rapidly speed up the validation-development cycle by getting constant quality feedback.
For now, Boodopt is still in its early stage and how it will eventually turn-out is anyone’s guess. (Do follow our website Boodopt.floatillashop.com or facebook page www.facebook.com/Boodopt to track our progress)
One thing is for sure: In the world of start-ups, there are more things to be learnt from actual failures than pseudo-successes.