Category Archives: Youth Entrepreneur

Sell Your Product Before Building it!

Sell Your Product Before Building it!

One of the lean ways to start a company is to sell your products or services before you build them. I know some of you might be thinking, “Are you NUT?! How can I sell something that doesn’t exist?” Well, that’s exactly what I suggest you to do. Selling your products or services before building them brings many advantages.

Let me give you a case study. I run a financial education program for youth called Young Money Master. We train young adults to be financially smart though a creative marketplace simulation. If I were to follow the common startup process when I first conceived the idea, I would do a market research to see whether there is a need for financial education for youth. Let’s say the research result indicates a demand for my idea, I’d invest money and resources to design and build my program. Two months later, I finally get the program ready to sell. After a few months of selling, I might get a few sales but could still be losing money due to other operating costs. Perhaps the poor result could be owing to selling to the wrong market, or wrong value propositions that fail to appeal to the intended market. After identifying the root of the problem, I decide to pivot on my existing business model. I might change the target market, the value propositions, sales materials, the website, program materials, or the marketing channels. And it costs a great amount of money, again.

YMM

All of this unnecessary loss and wastage could have been avoided if we had validated the business assumptions before we committed time, money, and resources to design and build it. Certainly, we could validate our business assumptions by selling the products or services before building them. Back to the case study, what I really did was as soon as my co-founder and I agreed on the concept and objectives of the program, we started to sell. At this juncture, no solid program modules and materials were produced yet. We went to talk to the prospects to understand their needs and eventually sell them. We tested the price point, value propositions, and the effectiveness of each marketing channel. We measured the result and learnt from our feedback. We made numerous changes on our sales material and program after gathering enough intelligence. Only two weeks before the workshop then we began to produce the program material. As a result, we saved a great deal of time, money, and effort. The program turned out to be a huge success too!
The strategy above works especially in service businesses. If your business requires a physical transaction of goods at the time of purchase, you may invest a little money to produce a minimum viable product (MVP). MVP is the version of products that comes with essential features only. It serves to enable you validate your business assumptions. Your goal is to sell the MVP to your potential clients and gauge their reaction. You will then learn a tremendous amount of information about your market and product. To learn how to create a MVP in details, I’d recommend you to read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries.

In brief, there are three primary benefits of selling before building:
Firstly, it helps you design better services and products. You get to know who will buy it, and who will not. You will learn what is working, and what is not. You get to know your clients’ preference in terms of design, marketing, how the products should be sold, etc. More importantly, you get to learn whether there is really a market for your idea or it is just an idea that gets you excited. It is common for people to get fired up by their own idea and start to design and build the products before validating whether there is ACTUALLY a market for it.

Some of you might ask, “Why do I need to pre-sell if I could just do a market research to ask people whether they will be interested to buy my product and service? If I find it enough interest, then I would just create it and sell it.”

This is a common misconception. Your respondents will most likely tell you they are interested in the products or services, but it is not until they commit their money and resources to make the purchasing decision. There is a real difference between asking people if they would buy and actually buying. I have personally done market research twice, but the inputs I obtained were not as valuable and precise as when I went out to the market and sold it. Thus, selling before building will give you so much invaluable information and understanding about the real consumer behaviour.

Secondly, it helps reduce the risk, pressure and wastage. You will not have much financial commitment initially to build your products and services. You will only incur the least expense until you actually sell your products. It will always be much less expensive to change the final design before it is even designed. It helps you save money. You will not so tensed because you didn’t commit so much investment in your startup. You reduce wastage by saving time, effort, and resources to run your startup in a lean manner.
Thirdly, it brings in positive cash flow from day 1. You let your customers fund your working capital. In other words, you can bootstrap on your startup with limited capital. Truth to be told, my partner and I started Young Money Master with ZERO capital because we had sold before we built it.

To sum up, by selling before you build it, you will learn a tremendous amount about how to market your products or services, what the final design should be, who will buy it, and whether you can actually be successful selling it.

Learning to Build & Learning to Sell: The 2 Concepts You Ought to Learn If You Are Running A Startup

 [This article was originally published at www.BobbyOng.com. Bobby is a UCL Economics graduate and self-taught web developer. He is a keen follower of technology and is passionate about entrepreneurship, education and the pursuit of happiness. Read more about him at bobbyong.com and follow him on Twitter @bobbyong]

I wished someone had let me read Dan Shipper’s article on Why Are You In a Rush when I was starting out on my first website as a 17-year-old high-school boy. Many young entrepreneurs, according to Dan’s observations, seem to be in a rush because they believe their idea is The Next Big Thing and become so focused on their artificially set time-constraints that they “ignore doing the one thing that will help them the most: building tangible skills”.

My friend, Alan from Startup Chile once told me the following: There are only 2 things to focus on in a startup, Building and Selling – Everything else is peripheral.

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Why Learning is So Important

I wished I had taught myself the different parts of building and selling on the Internet more aggressively earlier on. It took me several unsuccessful attempts to finally realise that themost important investment I can make is an investment on myself.

Warren Buffett did say that knowledge is like compound interest; it builds up from reading 500 pages every day. In my interpretation, knowledge learned is cumulative and will build upon what you already know. If you believe that you are in the online entrepreneurship game for the long-term, the best investment you ought to give yourself is learning how to build and learning how to sell successfully online.

Learning How to Build

The first step in launching any online project is to build the website, web app or mobile app. If you are a non-technical person, the first instinct is usually to find a technical person to partner up to build the online product.

I would strongly suggest that instead of finding a technical co-founder, you learn how to code and prototype your idea out. It will not be an instant process nor will your prototype look fabulous, but the process of learning how to code will build a very strong foundation for you in understanding how to build for the web.

You may simply discard this advice of learning how to code and just hustle your way to finding a technical guy. Unless your good friend happens to be a good coder, I would tell you that the journey of finding a technical co-founder is a long and tough road.

A lot of non-technical guys will also dream of raising millions of dollars of VC money because they read about all the awesome startups on TechCrunch raising so much money. I usually tell everyone to STOP reading TechCrunch because TechCrunch emphasises the wrong points in a startup by glorifying the act of raising millions of dollars as an end-goal. Besides, TechCrunch is focused on Silicon Valley and you are most likely not based there. Read HackerNews instead and all of Paul Graham’s essays especially this piece where he defines a startup.

Read deeper into the blogs of Silicon Valley founders and you will soon realise that without a prototype built, it is very hard to raise any funding as a first-time founder. Traction is the key to raising funding as a first-time founder and this is what you should be working on before you even consider going to VCs or angel investors for money.

Learning How to Sell

The next thing you need to learn after the ability to code, is to learn how to sell what you created. I used to naively believe that once you build something, people will flock to your product like hot cakes. Turns out that more likely than not, most people won’t care about your product. This comes to the question: is the product you build what other people want?

If you are thinking of launching a startup, it is imperative that you read The Lean Startup. Instead of writing a 30-page business plan, do it with a Business Model Canvas. Experiment with what your customers want and learn how to reach them and sell to them.

You will soon realise that selling online is pretty much a marketing funnel and there are many things that you need to do to optimise that funnel. Some startups might choose content marketing as a start to their marketing funnel. Some might then use gamification to increase engagement level. Either way, you ought to know about cohort analysis and A/B testing to see what works best in optimising your funnel.

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What Will You Learn Today?

There are tonnes of things that you need to learn if you would like to stand a chance of succeeding with your startup idea. Nobody said the journey will be an easy ride. The point is to start learning every day because your lessons will accumulate over time.

Oh, and not forgetting, if you are impatient and can’t wait to launch your startup with your friend right now, do read up about shareholder vesting. Investing in your learning is the single best thing that you can do for the long run. Start investing in your education. Good luck with your learning.

 

Teenagers who are leveraging on Technology to developed great products

A Cheap self-driving cars, charging your smartphone in 20-seconds? These under-20s are changing the world.

Can you still remember what you were doing back when you were 17, or 18-year-old? Doubt it will be anything groundbreaking or world changing, at least for the majority of us.

In the past week, there were 3 young bright minds, all under the age of 20, that made the news with their scientific breakthroughs and engineering project, that could potentially change how we drive our cars, charge our smartphones and even travel underwater!

Here’s a look at these 3  young innovators:

1)  Ionut Budisteanu: cheap, self-driving cars

This 19-year old Romanian high school student developed a technology for self-driving cars. He was awarded the Gordon E.Moore Award and took home $75,000 at Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a huge international science competition to highlight scientific creation by high school students from around the world.

How’s this different from Google’s self-driving car technology? Significantly cheaper. Google’s system would cost approximately $75,000 while Ionut’s system would cost around $4,000. As people are warming up to the idea that their cars can drive itself, the next concern is how much would such system cost to be integrated with their cars. If Ionut’s technology is viable without compromising quality and safety at this price, consumers will be more willing to pay the additional premium for self-driving option car. But issues like insurance liabilities and regulation will make it a while longer before we will see cars driving itself around us even if the cost of the technology is low.

Read more at: http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/students-self-driving-car-tech-wins-intel-science-fair-1C9977186

2)  Esha Khare: supercharger to charge devices in 20-seconds

It takes hours to charge anything that is battery-powered (ie. your smartphone). Despite all the innovation we see with smartphones and electric car, battery technology always has been lagging. Esha, an 18-year old Californian teen has created a super-fast charging device that can potentially charge phone in 20-seconds. She has only used it to charge a light -emitting diode(LED) so far but she envisions her technology for wider application. She won herself $50,000 from Intel’s event.

Esha’s technology will have a strong positive implication for the transportation industry. Battery-powered electric car is the best alternative currently to replace fuel-combustion engines to combat climate change. Besides the cost of battery vehicles, ‘range anxiety’ or the fear of running out of power is a concern for car owners. Even with many charging stations around, it takes significantly longer than the time it takes to pumping fuel into your current car to juice up your electric vehicle.

Slash that time down to 20-30 seconds and we will see a greener future with more electric cars on the street. Bye bye fog. Oh, and there’s no more need to lug around a portable charger anymore.

Read more at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2327021/Esha-Khare-Teens-invention-charge-cellphone-20-seconds.html

3)  Justin Beckerman: homemade submarine

Unlike the first 2, Justin, 18 from New Jersey did not participate in Intel’s fair. Nonetheless, his feat is worth mentioning.

Still a high school student, Justin is building his one functioning submarine. Not so world changing, as far as I can see. But it is only a matter of time with his engineering talent and passion Justin will come up with some high-impact technology. 

Read more at: http://www.businessinsider.com/high-schooler-justin-beckerman-homemade-submarine-2013-5?op=1

 

After coming across these 3 individuals over the past week, I reflected on our Malaysian education system. Our version of education was to memorise and pass exams, not so much of learning. Application of knowledge wasn’t an important part of the syllabus. Sad to say (and unfortunate for me), the usefulness of what I learnt back in school only started revealing itself when I grew older, in my 20s. Imagine what could be achieved if we were exposed to greater application of knowledge and encouraged to explore creative ways to apply this knowledge as soon as we pick this new knowledge up. Young minds, with their unbounded creativity will surprise us with interesting, potential use of the knowledge they learnt. Little or none was done in our curriculum to allow our young minds to explore our creative side.

Rarely we see primary or high school students achieving feats like the 3 mentioned here. My experience tells me that anything that did not contribute to improving our academic results is deemed useless and irrelevant with exception to the standard sports and musical activities. Anything out of this, your parents and teachers will be really skeptical of it , advise you to quit doing what you are doing and go focus on your studies or attend tuitions. Our current form of education has a narrow scope. In reality, education can encompass many things so long it is adding to the knowledge that students gain.

In my opinion, I think this behaviour comes down to the risk-averse nature of our society. We study, sit for exams, obtain certificates and repeat the cycle. This path is structured and widely accepted and the outcome is predictable which is gaining more academic qualifications. What you put in, you know what you might get out of it. When pursuing something else with uncertain or unknown outcomes, it’s our nature to avoid and discourage such pursuits. Invest all your time and resources but risk getting back nothing is a path that we avoid. Inventions, creation, development and taking our human civilization to the next frontier requires us to explore uncertainties, to take the path not taken. Without it, we stay stagnant. The future of generations after us is determined by how we treat this not-so-structured form of education and the true meaning of learning.

By the way, did you guys learn anything out of Moral Education? I still ain’t sure what I went through this subject.

 

14 Successful Malay Entrepreneurs in Malaysia

Malaysia holds a strong Malay population of 70% and that certainly contributes a large pool of malay entrepreneurs throughout the years even before she gained independence. With the destitute of entrepreneurial references or lessons, the Malay entrepreneurs very quickly studied and learnt trading from various global traders that landed on the shores of Malaya. The list below is non-bias and not in any particular order.

Continue reading 14 Successful Malay Entrepreneurs in Malaysia

How Nick D’Aloisio made his $30 Million

What’s he doing with $30 million? As Nick D’Aloisio says, “I can’t even buy a car because I don’t have a licence yet.” So he’s going to buy a new bag. Why? “Mine is broken; it’s old and the strap’s not working.”

Recently, Yahoo bought 17 year old Nick D’Aloisio’s iPhone app, Summly, for $30 million. When Yahoo was founded in 1994, Nick wasn’t even born yet.

Nick D'Aloisio
Photo Credit: Kmeron


3 STEPS ON HOW NICK D’ALOISIO GET TO $30 MILLION

Nick’s app has delivered over 90 million news summaries in the four short months since he launched it on his 17th birthday in November. But Nick isn’t even old enough to be a Director of his company, so his mum is the Director while he sits in as Company Secretary.

What has gotten Nick D’Aloisio to success so quickly in 15 months when so many of us are still struggling after 15 years? Here’s 3 steps his journey has in common with most super-success stories:

 

PROBLEM + PASSION = $300K SOLUTION

Nick’s Summly App was the solution to a real world problem that no one else was solving well. As Nick relates, “I was 15 years old and I was revising for some kind of history exam. The problem was I was trying to find information that was useful to me.”

Searching Google on his phone didn’t give him enough detail to know what was or wasn’t a useful link. So he put his own iPhone app together. The app quickly rose up the download ranks and Apple featured it in their store.

Then came a fateful email: “About a month later, the private fund of the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka Shing cold emailed me and expressed an interest to invest, but they didn’t realize I was 15…It turned out that they actually liked my age because it demonstrated I was net-native, so I’d only grown up with the Internet. They flew to London about a month later and invested $300,000. That kick-started this whole journey.”

 

$300K FUNDING + EXPERTISE = $1.3M REPUTATION

Nick D’Aloisio used the money to bring in world experts to help relaunch the app. At 16 years old, he teamed up with the leaders in Natural Language Processing, Stanford Research Institute (Who create Apple’s SIRI – named after the company’s initials, SRI).

In between high school classes in London, Nick worked with SRI in the US by phone and text messages to build the new app. SRI’s solid reputation and Nick’s focus on approaching well known celebrities to help him attracted high profile investors Stephen Fry, Ashton Kutcher and Yoko Ono who invested $1.3 million. Nick made the most of his investors, with Stephen Fry starring in the launch video for Summly.

 

$1.3M REPUTATION + SINGLE-MINDED FOCUS = $30M STORY

With world class partners and world class investors, Nick D’Aloisio gave up full-time school at the end of 2011, with his parent’s blessing: ““I talked about it with them and my headmaster and we decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it would be silly not to run with it. Now, looking back, I can say it was a massive gamble. But it was a good gamble.”

From a standing start to $30 million, Nick has taken the age old 1-2-3 formula of solving a problem in a smart way, then using the resources he attracts to bring in the best talent, and leveraging that to attract the most influential partners.

What made him think he could just go and knock on the door of the best companies and most well known people in the world? As he says “I was naive. I didn’t know I couldn’t.”

Nick D’Aloisio is now reflecting on this week’s news: “Numbing is probably the best word to describe it. It’s a shock to be honest. The only thing I can take from this is that I’m genuinely kind of proud that I’ve been getting a lot of tweets where young people are commenting and saying, “This is really inspirational, I want to go and start my own thing.”

How many of these 3 steps in the 1-2-3 formula have you taken in your business? What can you do to upgrade your product, your talent or your partners?

Or maybe it’s time to be a kid again, be naive again, when you didn’t know you couldn’t. And start something entirely new.

Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia to Benefit from new Silicon Valley’s BootstrapLabs Launch

Silicon Valley-based BootstrapLabs, and Malaysia-based MAD Incubator today announce the formation of BootstrapAccelerator Asia. This will form the first Southeast Asia-focused Tech Startup Accelerator with a Silicon Valley Fast Track™ for promising Startups in Malaysia, with opportunities to gain access to incubation opportunities, funding and networking for business growth. Continue reading Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia to Benefit from new Silicon Valley’s BootstrapLabs Launch