Learning through reflection on doing
As an entrepreneur, years ago, when Narendra Patil worked on his first startup, he first hand experienced the difficulties which an entrepreneur faces when raising capital and creating an eco-system of mentors, advisors who could play a pivotal role in the company’s success.
The young entrepreneurs are not in a position to attract talent, investors and create the essential eco-system for making progress due to which most of the ideas fail before they even take shape of a scalable business model. Astonishingly, as per the Forbes post, nine out of ten startups fail.
In such a situation, these young entrepreneurs tend to flock towards a very small number of wealthy angel investors or VCs. However, the real problem happens when these investors and VCs shift their focus toward more experienced entrepreneurs and in turn are unable to give enough attention to young ones. As a result, entrepreneurs end up working on wrong or non-scalable problems and struggle to get market validation.
Narendra realized that just providing access to capital is not sufficient to foster successful entrepreneurship. In addition to access to capital, the entrepreneurs also need access to the eco-system that allows them to attract mentors/advisors, co-founders, team members and get faster customer validation in a low touch manner.
Founded by Narendra Patil, StartUpWind is an Entrepreneur’s Social Network that helps young entrepreneurs realize their dreams and bring their raw ideas to life by connecting them with like-minded peers, successful alumni, mentors and their capital.
StartUpWind and the Industry
StartUpWind provides young entrepreneurs with a guided Social Ideation framework that helps them create ideas, get market validation and collaboratively work with their network to transform raw ideas into more refined, funding-ready ideas. Additionally, it will also enable Social Crowd funding platform for young entrepreneurs to get access to capital from their school alumni as well as community feedback to help them steer their venture in the right direction.
The equity crowd funding market in North America is the initial addressable market for StartUpWind. The equity crowd funding market is $2.5B (source: Forbes) in 2015 and is expected to grow to $36B in next 5 years that would exceed the annual global VC investment in a year. This market is still in infancy with single digit penetration rate and over 150% year over year growth.
Unlike other equity crowd funding companies, StartUpWind allows entrepreneurs from 95%+ companies, who fail to secure any funding traction, to get feedback from the social network, find co-founders, engineers and mentors, and get market validation quickly so that they can refine/pivot their business to increase their chances of funding.
StartUpWind has an experienced management and founding team with proven track record in growing business to hundreds of millions of dollars. The team possesses direct experience in building social platforms. StartUpWind has a well-rounded executive team across all key functions including marketing, strategy, engineering, design and finance. The team represents premier business and engineering talent from marquee institutes such as Northwestern/Kellogg, Carnegie Mellon University, USC, and Indian Institute of Technology. StartUpWind’s advisors include top entrepreneurship professors, VC’s, and successful Silicon Valley executives.
The journey of Challenges and Learning
“We recently launched a restricted beta program with students and alumni from Northwestern/Kellogg, UC Berkeley, USC, Carnegie Mellon, University of Virgiania among others. In spite of launching an “invitation only” beta the interest in our platform grew quickly to over 500 sign ups and growing. We have received great testimonials from our early beta users” says Narendra. A testimonial:
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“StartupWind allows you to collaborate with gifted entrepreneurs and engineers to refine and validate your ideas before prototyping. The potential that stems from creating a community of startup-minded individuals is incredible. Once StartupWind reaches a critical mass I can see it being a game-changing platform for innovation and startup development.” — James L, student, Kellogg/Northwestern
[/padding]Talking about challenges, Narendra says that their challenges are no different from any other startup that is trying to bootstrap a company and get it to the level of market validation that would allow up to close the first institutional funding round quickly and drive business growth.
However, instead of spending long cycles with investors, their focus is on building a great product that will make access to capital and entrepreneurial eco system easier for entrepreneurs and build a strong affinity network of students and alumni of premier schools. The team believes that their focus and market validation would eventually help them keep the funding cycle lot shorter.
He adds that it is challenge based learning and opportunities to discover are plenty. He shares some of his greatest learning with us:
- Build a great cross functional team with great pedigree and credible advisory board
- Validate with end users early and often – show them wire frames, prototypes and dig deeper in understanding their needs and wants
- Don’t ignore “design” function – put it at the front and center, hand in hand with products
- Carve out an MVP and release it to real users as fast as you can and get their feedback
- Avoid “sunk cost” effect. If the user behavior is telling you something different, make adjustments quickly and do it fast.
- Assume that not every early team member can sustain the rigor of entrepreneurship and factor in some attrition and be resilient
- Focus on executing on your business plan while you are gearing for funding round. There is no substitute to continued progress.
Towards Scaling-up the Business Operations
StartupWind is targeting broader launch for one school in January 2016 and expand to few select school during Q1 2016. Based on the early validation, it expects user base to grow quickly and build a vibrant community of entrepreneurs, advisors, investors and builders. It will also be launching mobile app for iOS platform in Q1 2016 and it would allow entrepreneurs, investors and others to stay connected with their network anytime, anywhere.
StartupWind is bootstrapping and currently focused on business, market validation and user growth. “We are not actively looking for funding at this stage. We are simply keeping a series of friendly VC’s and angel groups from Kellogg informed about our progress. However, at this stage, we would like to build a critical mass of users on the platform and drive business success” says Narendra.
Their initial focus will be to engage students and alumni from premier schools in the United States. However, StartupWind has participation from several alumni from Indian Institute of Technology and will be opening up to the students and alumni of IIT fairly soon.
StartupWind is focused on 3 top goals:
- Grow the user base on the network
- Drive the engagement of the user base
- Do everything in product to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life by transforming their raw ideas into more refined and funding ready ideas fairly quickly
“As long as we are taking care of these 3 goals, we are confident that we will see growth in all other business parameters” Narendra concludes.
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