Latest posts by Kimani Patrick (see all)
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- The Ultimate Guide To Building Your Own Startup - December 4, 2017
If you have been following my updates closely for the past one year you must be familiar with the journey of Inversk Magazine; a tough one. From developing the idea at the University of Nairobi hostels to building it into a fully-fledged authoritative magazine for the business elite, which has been quite a hustle.
I’d like to share with you how exactly you can develop your own product and walk all the way to the launching pad. The exact steps I’ve followed in building Inversk.
- Come Up With An Idea Within Your Area of Passion.
Since childhood I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, could be mainly because the richest people I knew ran businesses in my neighborhood. This however materialized when I realized that entrepreneurship comes with one being their own boss, managing their own time and having the freedom and privilege to make the world a better place.
I did a lot of mind maps between 2012 and 2015 in order to discover the area that I’d venture into. In this season, I discovered my passion for human potential and helping them to be their best version and thereby improve the world.
I tried public speaking which did not turn out to be as fulfilling as I desired. It is upon this realization and thorough soul searching that I ventured into the business magazine in 2014, which materialized in 2016. Turns out it was the best decision I ever made.
- Set Up a Vision and Goals in Line With That Idea.
When I started Inversk, my vision was to empower people to do what they want to do. That vision has since been streamlined and now my focus is on being the world’s most authoritative and definitive magazine for the business elite.
A goal is a dream with a timeline. Divide your vision into small, time-based actionable goals that you will aim to achieve in a particular season to build up on your vision. These goals ensure consistency in achieving your vision.
- Set up a team that you will work with
Just like any other entrepreneur, when I started Inversk, I had 3 core people: me, myself and I. These three people are very essential to your business. It is of key to note that, no one will care as much, work as hard, or invest so much of their own blood, sweat and tears as you will.
Reminding yourself that not everyone will do things the same way you would, doesn’t mean it won’t get done. It is however up to you to paint that picture for those you lead. You not only must believe in your business but it is imperative that you believe in yourself.
At the beginning, I didn’t have enough money and all I could afford was a few friends who sacrificed their time to work with me on a part time basis. Most of them were not good at what they did and this slowed our progress for 10 months. In December last year, I took the risk and hired people who are good at what they do, a decision that has yielded good results.
- Make a Prototype and Show It To 1000 People.
A prototype is the first version of your product. Most of your thoughts, even the best ones, will never see the light of day sadly. You will forget them into oblivion even if you write them down. The only exceptions are those thoughts you prototype. Make them physical if they can be – program them, design them; then do anything that makes them more than just thoughts. If you do this, you get ahead and off the imaginary curve.
The first three Issues of Inversk were free. We gave out the download link on social media and got more than 1000 subscribers who later shared their thoughts about the magazine. Reason being, we needed a breadth of perspective and hopefully a pattern to recognize from all the feedback. The feedback helped improve our magazine and also allowed me the chance to perform research to determine the existence of market for my product and their preference.
Now that you have a team, product and its market, it’s time to Launch Your Product.
I have developed my idea into a product, set up a team and established the market for the magazine.
If you’re busy jamming on your startup, you obviously know that the thought of marketing beforehand is the most daunting thing you don’t want to think about. But, it should be one of the most important items on your prelaunch to-do list.
a). Get Active on Social Media.
Since our inception, Social media has been of great help to us. We developed a presence of 20,000 following on both Facebook at twitter within our first 8 months.
We invited our friends to “like” our pages where we posted all of our daily content to. We also liked our competitors, influencers, and any press outlets that we wanted to eventually cover our launch.
On twitter, we have constantly sponsored trending hashtags and followed our competition, and any press related to our industry, influencers, and consultants.
Most importantly, make daily announcements as a countdown for your progress towards your launch date. I recently announced that we shall give FREE gifts for anyone who shares our content on Facebook to their timelines. This has helped us reach more people with our small budget as well as make our community feel involved in the process.
b). Start Your Email marketing
Despite the popularity of social media, content marketing and other forms of online marketing, email marketing remains highly effective. In fact, there are studies that show email marketing is a more powerful marketing tool than social media. This is something we have taken seriously at Inversk. We have taken it a bit further by including the launch details in our email signature.
Research shows that email is most likely the first thing people check in the morning and the last thing they read at night. In between, many people would check their inboxes three to four more times.
Thus, with email marketing we are sure that our content is been read.
We gathered all our contacts in our database and personal contact lists and sent an email inviting them to be on the early-access list. We’ve already told them what’s been going on with us at Inversk and invited them to our launch.
c). Drink One More Cup of Coffee
I don’t mean this in the fuel-your-all-nighters sense (much as every successful entrepreneur has pulled a few of these). You should be ready and willing to meet investors, entrepreneurs, industry experts, and virtually anyone more experienced in your industry for coffee five times a day in the early days.
Before you plan your launch, you also need to know as much about your industry as you possibly can. This is something that I’ve constantly engaged in for the past 11 months. Many founders vastly underestimate how much they don’t know.
The secret to uncovering new information is by talking with people who have more experience than you do. Simply reach out to someone you respect in your industry, and ask them if you can buy them a cup of coffee and get to pick their brain. You’ll be surprised at the many positive responses you get.
d). Second-guess Your Idea
It shouldn’t be so bad that founding the startup is a bad idea, but you need to get teardowns from the people you meet with, too. Don’t be shy; let them poke holes in your ideas. The more they do, the better you can make your venture. If everyone tells you it’s a great idea right away, you should be concerned. It is important to find out the holes early, so you can iterate and improve upon them. If your idea sucks early on, you’ll make it better faster by giving people a chance to share constructive criticism. Every business has holes and pitfalls, but the more attentive you are to them in the early days the better.
Funding the Start-up
This will be our next step at Inversk after the launch. Whereas there are many ways to get your business funded, equity financing through venture capitalists and angel investors is the most popular
Throughout 2016, I interviewed a lot of entrepreneurs, watched business programs and read through financial books and one factor that cut across all entrepreneurs was and still remains the issue of funding: Only 5 percent of all entrepreneurs get funded. Could it be that only 5% of the ideas generated are good enough to succeed? How come this “magic” number never seems to change?
Whereas starting a business is easy, acquiring funding is not a walk in the park. When you’re ready to start talking to investors, one of the most challenging parts remains to be: talking to the investors.
With programs such as KCB Lion’s Den, Optiven EHub, Blaze BYOB from Safaricom and many others, it is now a bit easy for startup founders in Kenya to get capital.
However brilliant your business idea sounds, that will not make banks and investors fall over themselves to lend you millions of shillings. You should however be able to convince a few forward-thinking people to invest in your business and make your entrepreneurial dreams come true.
If your dream is to build the next big “thing” and are wondering what it takes to get people on board with their checkbooks in hand, here are a few tips:
- Build an Angel List Profile
Angel List is a great way to both learn about investors and let them learn about you. Creating a profile—including specific info about your company, product, and team members—makes it easy for people who are interested in your space to find you.
Once you’ve filled everything out, share your profile with your friends and professional acquaintances and seek for references. When people follow your company, it will show up to others they know and hopefully arouse interests.
- Create a Strategic List of Investors You’d Like to Meet With
Given the odds of any individual meeting resulting in an investment, it’s easy to want to cast as wide a net as possible. You can save yourself a lot of time and hassle if you focus your initial efforts on the 30-50 investors who are most likely to be a good fit for your company.
Once you have a list of investors you’d like to meet with, go through it person-by-person and see if you have any mutual acquaintances. If so, great! But before you ask your contacts for an introduction, get together with them first so you can show them how awesome your company is. Ideally, your common connection should feel like he or she is doing a favor for both you and the investor as they make the intro.
- Can people “buy” you as the leader of your business?
In a recent event organized by Centonomy Limited, Kriss Senanu highlighted that he looks at the entrepreneur first before considering their business or idea. Your personality should fit your business. If you are confident and passionate about your idea, your investors would look at you and think of you as the expert on what you are doing.
- Have a thorough business plan and Keep all financial projections conservative.
Whatever business model you want to use, make sure you do a lot of research on your community to determine the viability of operating such a business, and develop a solid local marketing strategy as well as a management model with policies and procedures.
Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver. A lot of people worry about getting the quick win, convincing investors to hand over cash because they’ll make a killing. Desire to create healthy, long-term relationships with your investors and keep their expectations realistic. This will enhance your reliability and make you a good person to work with.
- Comb Your Networks
The best way to get meetings with VCs is through introductions from other entrepreneurs or investors. This means that if you’ve decided to solicit VC money, it’s time to leverage your contacts to see who you can talk to.
While cold-calling a venture capitalist may not be the easiest feat, it’s somewhere to start.
- Create a solid exit strategy.
A solid exit strategy will give your investors a lot of comfort. That you have carefully planned out what would happen should the business fail or when you eventually sold the businesses. By taking care of all the “what if” questions you automatically set your investors’ minds at ease.
Founding and building a successful startup encompasses a lot of areas of focus. I have just tackled a few of them. Finding capital remains to be the hardest part to getting your business off the ground, but is also the most rewarding. Once you’ve found other people to invest in your business, you can get back to starting your dream job! Though it can be a long road to success, finding allies along the way, whether it is friends, angel investors, or venture capitalists to help keep your business afloat, can make all the difference in the world. Good luck!
Additional research for this article was done at Forbes, The Muse and Bplans