Just Another Startup Lesson
This lesson will introduce you to some key elements of entrepreneurship from my perspective. We will discuss what I have learned first hand by being a marketer, an entrepreneur and working with 35 odd companies that Seedfund has invested so far. 
by Mahesh Murthy
2 years, 2 months ago
I didn’t quite like studying engineering. Then sold vacuum cleaners from door to slammed-in-face door. Eventually landed up running a business, after having been an employee for more than a dozen years in random multinationals.

What made it happen? What makes one give up the cushy life and pick the spiky-pointed one? I don’t think it’s any romantic love for risk. Entrepreneurs aren’t wild risk-lovers. I think we’re calculated risk-takers. In a perverse sort of a way, it might be in the genes.

I do believe all humans are different, DNA-wise at least, at the core. (If not, then forensic sciences are in bit of a jam.) And I believe that for every individual mental make-up, there’s a particular job that’s particularly perfectly suited. Some people are just born to be Bank Officer, Grade 4. Some others to be one-down right-handed batsman. And if these people are lucky, they get the jobs that are right for them. They don’t ever have to go through the trouble of being an entrepreneur.

The rest of us just can’t find a job that suits us. And we really don’t like ‘adjusting’. So we make a job for ourselves. Where we like our bosses; ourselves, the business; our own, the working hours; whenever we feel like, and the location; wherever we are. We don’t do it to take a risk – we do it to be safe. And the world calls us entrepreneurs, heroes of some sort. But really, we’re just folks who didn’t find a job that suited us well enough.

Now watch the resource video my rule book for startups 

This was presented by Mahesh Murthy during one of the mini-keynotes at the 2011 Nasscom ...
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Look at some of the world’s biggest brands. Google, Amazon, Ferrari, Starbucks, Ikea, eBay, Zara, Yahoo, Apple, Harley Davidson, Reuters and Goldman Sachs are a dozen among the hundred top brands in the world as per a recent study by brand management firm Interbrand, each with a “brand value” that averages $10 billion. Word of mouth played a major role in building those brands. We await the Apple iPad with no ads released yet, we talk of Google Buzz without having ever seen a Google ad and we throng to a Zara outlet without seeing its commercials on TV.

Today, the best way to establish your brand among big-hitter rivals is to make it remark-worthy and generate conversations free of charge. See how Red Bull took on big-ad-buying Coke and Pepsi with a product that sold at a higher price for a smaller pack size and built it to a billion-dollar brand with little advertising? The new axiom, call it Mahesh’s Law, is this: your marketing IQ is inversely proportional to your marketing budget. Here is your to do list for zero budget marketing:

  1. Start on your brand by answering a simple question: Are you remark-worthy? When someone talks about your offering, is there a 10-second sound bite that is “re-tweetable” on Twitter? If not, go back to basics and craft a simple, clear hook that that sets you apart. Like: Google helps you find stuff better, Harley owners are a cult, Starbucks is a great place to be, Red Bull lets you party harder.
  2. Now apply a single test: Do a Google search on your brand to see whether every element of the resulting page can support this position. Among the results will be your Web site, news items about you, other Web users who mention you, blogs about you, tweets about you, videos starring you and such. Now work to own the presence in each of these elements.
  3. Start with the Web site. If it’s got corporate gobbledygook and you don’t go back a second time, users won’t either. Make it something worth talking about and worth returning to. Find a Web firm that understands your brand, and not a tech firm. Or do it yourself if you’re starting out.
  4. Then audit every mention of you. Google alerts alone won’t do it, but it’s a start. See who’s saying what. Then intervene in conversations and respond to complaints, visibly, with your own Twitter account or some other way of interacting. It’s important that on-lookers see your response to a complaint in the open so they know that you can take care of theirs too, if they ever have one. This is where your real brand is built.
  5. Are you seen as the one to talk to in your industry? What will make it so? Issue white papers or surveys, or give out fun statistics. Do the things regularly that give you thought leadership in your niche.
  6. Are there fun or educational videos you’re part of? Put them up, even if they’re shot on your phone. Are there competitors being talked about? Intervene, and respectfully make your presence felt.
  7. Journalists today take more stories from what’s blogged and tweeted about than they take from publicists. Connect with them directly. They’ll respect you for it. Become a “source.”

You’re not burdened with the necessity of paying a big ad firm to do cookie-cutter work. You have the advantage of not having any money. So you’ll probably end up ahead.

Attached video I discuss changing marketing landscape and how it’s creating a level playing field for big and small alike.

Mahesh Murthy, founder and CEO, Pinstorm has 24 years of marketing and communications experience; of ...
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Be patient: Innovation on its own does not guarantee success. Only after it has been sold to customers and stakeholders can it be called successful. Taking an innovation past the inevitable roadblocks is an inexact science, but the following tips may help to do so: We all resist change. Innovators should understand that changing mindsets to give the new product or service a try is not going to be easy. They should be ready for the long haul.

But change is necessary. And it does occur. The Church told Galileo to be reasonable and let the world continue to believe that the sun went around the earth. He refused to be reasonable, and that is why today man is able to fly into space and plant flags on the moon.

Is it an aspirin or a vitamin? Innovation leads to progress, and innovation comes from being unreasonable. The initial response to an innovation often depends on its nature. Does your innovation solve problems or give pleasure?  Usually people are more ready to pay for a new kind of aspirin than for a new vitamin, even though in the long term a well-marketed vitamin could make more money than an aspirin. Solve a real problem with your innovation, and people will be more than willing to buy it. 

Thus, the marketing of an innovation should seek to project it as an aspirin rather than a vitamin. Let's say your innovation is a catalyst that enables you to get more horsepower out of every drop of fuel. The 'vitamin' way to position it would be to claim it gets you "more power from your fuel". The 'aspirin' way would be to say, "spend much less to get the same power". The second pitch is more likely to gain traction earlier.

Look for early adopters; Market leaders rarely welcome innovation. Search out instead the aggressive fifth biggest player - this company will usually be more willing to take risks. If your innovation is a better way to hire people online, do not go to the largest employers; they have way too much invested in their current systems.

Go to a company, which aspires to becoming big without spending too much money. Or investing in the system the numero uno already has. It is more likely to listen to you. Sell the steak not the sizzle. Present the actual benefits of your innovation, cutting out the hype.

Keep it simple: Underplay the novelty, tone down the grandiosity, and present it as the simple, next logical step in your industry. Let others say how great your innovation was. Charge up your team. Your team is the one that is doing the research. You are the one trying to sell the innovation. Make sure your company gets excited about new inventions and discoveries when they are announced. Celebrate them internally.

Present a relatively deadpan face to the world. But do all you can to make your own workplace a dream place to work at. Make it a people magnet.

Now that we have discussed entrepreneurship, marketing and selling the great idea; lets examine the options we have to fund our startup.   

National Convention Entrepreneur India 2012 event focused on the entrepreneurial growth and new business opportunities ...
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1. Why be an entrepreneur?
2. Building a Brand on Zero Dollars
3. How to sell innovation?
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