CB Insights reports that 42% of startups fail because there was no market need.
This statistic explains the assumptions founders make about their idea, market need and product/market fit.
As Laura Klein mentions in her book UX for Lean Startups:
Now that you’ve picked your specific market, find five people who are in it. If you can’t do this fairly easily, either you’ve picked too small a market, your market is too hard to reach, or you’re just not trying hard enough.
When you are building something new passionately, you make assumptions. A lot of them. Sometimes, these assumptions are about the need for your product in the market, or about the purchasing power of your customer and sometimes even about the production and vendors as well. These assumptions can go wrong when you get your hands dirty and that’s when you realize that you are not going to be in the business very long.
That’s not uncommon.
Entrepreneurs all over the world build amazing products that work flawlessly but still, nobody buys it. If you ask entrepreneurs who have been through a journey of a failed startup, they will tell you how they miscalculated a lot of things.
What you can learn from it is to know those expected miscalculations at the right time and validate it. So, if you are headed down the wrong path, you know if you have to take a u-turn and pivot.
Let’s learn the core philosophy of idea validation and the ways you can validate it.
What are you validating?
Mainly, the overall idea. But, you validate multiple things throughout. Such as:
- Customer Need Validation
- Market Demand and Size Validation
- Product Validation or Product/Market fit
1. Validating Customer Need or Pain Point
Does the need exist?
Are my customers ready to pay to solve it?
Customer need can only be validated by talking to customers. At this step, you will find out if your idea is solving a ‘real problem’ and if your customers face it just at the intensity of what you assumed.
Many times, the need exists but when you ask someone if they are ready to pay for it, they say No. Why? Because it may not be a really big problem for them.
Customer need validation will also help you find out if your customer is ready to pay extra for convenience and comfort.
Do customers like the idea of calling a cab at the convenience of their smartphones right at their doorstep? Yes.
Do they prefer to pay extra for it? No.
Do they prefer to pay extra when they get cashback on it? Yes.
This will help you revisit your business model in ways you may not have imagined before.
How do you do it?
Go where your target customers exist, observe their behavior, purchase patterns and talk to them. In the digital world, you can start a discussion on forums, communities and social media to collect their opinions.
Another way to do it is to do paid research, incentive-based surveys or focus groups to collect opinions and feedback. Ask them open-ended questions about the problem they are facing. Give them a chance to explain the pain point first-hand and how desperately they want it to be fixed.
2. Validating Market Demand and Size
Does the demand exist?
Is this market profitable enough?
Validating market demand is the first step to know if you are being realistic with the demand projections. If you are building a product for a very small market with very less demand, you may be in trouble.
At this step, you have to collect evidence that assures you that market is big enough with your target customers are ready to pay for your product. During this process, you will have a clear picture of the industry size, your projected profits and as well as areas where you can expand in the future.
Some times, a small market doesn’t mean fewer profits. Your market size may be small but the problem you are solving matters a lot to them.
In contrast, saturated markets with no specific focus should also be tested. If you are doing what everyone is doing, it’s tough to take the market share.
For example, ‘movie lovers’ is too broad; ‘senior citizens who love classical movies’ is better.
How do you do it?
Market demand can be validated by being out there in the market and gathering relevant data about the industry.
Here are two interesting ways to do it in the digital world:
- Is there any competitor? If yes, go and check their site traffic. For example, if your competitor’s site has more than 1 million visitors, it means the market is big enough for you to attract and the demand is high.
- Are people searching for it? Check Google’s searches about the relevant keywords and you will get the estimated number of people worldwide interested in your offering. If the number is big enough, the demand exists.
3. Validating and Iterating the Product
In some cases, the problem exists, customers want to solve it and the market is profitable as well. But, the way you are solving the problem is wrong or difficult to use.
During this process, you continuously ask yourself this question: Does the product I am building solve the problem? If it does, am I doing it the right way?
According to David Britton, CEO of Prodrocket,
“There are two degrees stress-testing your product: the first is offer validation (the ‘what’); the second, prototype validation (the ‘how’ or product UI/UX).
The offer should test whether your value proposition and key delighters resonate with your target audience. You can do this by pre-selling your product (e.g. B2B pitch deck, a B2C landing page) or pitching a Beta test.
Once your offer is proven, build and validate a codeless prototype. Is the actual product delivering on the value proposition (time-saving, efficiency, joy, etc.)? Is there too much UX friction that is negating the product’s value? This comes down to raw design execution, which requires deep empathy for user needs and existing alternatives.”
How do you do it?
Create prototypes and show it to your customers. Prototypes are not an actual product but they give a teaser of how your final product is going to be. You can show prototypes to your actual customers and ask them what they think.
Another way to validate your idea through A/B testing digitally. Design two ways your product can work and A/B test to know which one works better is easy to use and has the potential to scale faster.
Another smart way to do is to find out the loopholes in your competitors’ product and evidently yet smartly fill those loopholes in your initial product.
Product validation is a process. You release, learn, change and release again. This iteration cycle continues until you end up with a validated prototype. The same cycle would then have to be done for the end product you are building as well.
Validating your idea is a continual phase. It helps you learn from your industry and customers and allows you to adapt until you find a way to your product/market fit. At every step of your startup journey, you will learn from your customers, from the industry trends and most importantly from your past mistakes. It doesn’t end.What’s important is to make learning a habit so you take a calculated risk and do not dive all head in. After all, as Eric Ries said, “The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.”
Ever since the convenient eCommerce model created a teeming market of armchair shoppers, it has become harder to return to the old ways of doing business. There are fewer reasons to travel to the store, except for perishable or necessary items like food, but even the grocery segment is being ‘technified’. Thanks to a growing number of applications that allow one to have their shopping list delivered directly to the front door. The retail industry is forever on a mission to evolve, and blockchain, one of the latest advancements in technology, will likely bring about its next sea change. How? This post will discuss it briefly.
Blockchain stumbled into retail as it did virtually in every other industry except finance, for which it was designed originally, as the backbone to bitcoin. The first idea for blockchain in retail came by virtue of bitcoin’s fiat value—that one could simply buy goods and services using bitcoin. However, issues with the speed and cost of using cryptocurrency over fiat money quickly erased this idea, and startups began using blockchain to benefit retail infrastructure instead, as they have in healthcare, social media, and countless other markets. Incorporating blockchain into any industry is fraught with obstacles, both regulatory and technical, but companies that succeed will benefit merchants and shoppers alike.
Better Retail Discounts
It’s true that brick and mortar stores are feeling the heat from their online peers, but one way that they can compete is by using the internet as a portal to reach locals. With the onset of the eCommerce trend, companies like Groupon helped physical locations target potential customers in the area, and lure them into the store with a guaranteed discount. Groupon’s model is good at creating one-time customers because those who buy the coupons online are already invested, but it can’t guarantee retention.
With a scarcity of online-to-offline marketing channels, Groupon has dominated the niche despite its low-sustainability model and the difficulty that merchants have when it comes to optimizing their campaigns. However, businesses have caught on to the risk they’re taking when they offer a GroupOn, and are seeking out other options. Thankfully, blockchain is giving them something to hope for, with innovators like HotNow in Thailand illustrating how similar platforms built on a decentralized network are more equitable for everyone. The company uses the HoToKeN cryptocurrency to boost social awareness via mini-games, missions, and bounties, that customers earn tokens for completing. With it, they will eventually be able to purchase discounted goods in their favorite stores, essentially allowing them to be paid for their advocacy.
Easier Cryptocurrency payment
The oldest idea behind cryptocurrency is that is can one day become a form a digital cash. This is the ultimate ambition behind bitcoin, but as it gained more users, the congestion they caused on the network quickly showed that it’s more of a pipe dream than anything else. Slow transactions and exorbitant fees make using bitcoin infrastructure a frustrating experience, especially if volatility and network lag cause users to lose money.
Unfortunately, with governance rights in the hands of a small, insular, and divided community, cryptocurrency will not untangle its mess anytime soon. Blockchain, on the other hand, can be used in leaner, proprietary solutions that better close the gap. Companies like TenX have merged their own settlement layers built on blockchain with traditional finance tools like plastic credit cards and card readers, to give merchants and customers a familiar interface for transacting with cryptocurrency.
While it’s not a perfect solution—many purists would argue that it’s simply a band-aid fix—these companies are doing their part to introduce foreign concepts into an older industry and prepare it for the future. Nevertheless, they’re successfully making their mark on retail already, an encouraging sign for others entering the space.
The missing link for many retail companies is the speed at which the cryptocurrencies they accept can be converted into the kind of money they prefer. Right now, anyone can accept bitcoin at their store and have people send it to their store’s wallet via their own, or an exchange, but it’s an immature process that has inherent cash flow risks. Even with cryptocurrency debit tools like TenX or Monaco, settlement and exchange in the back-end is anything but instant.
If this problem could be solved, businesses would be much more willing to accept cryptocurrency because they’d be able to control their level of exposure to volatility. Business adoption would easily deliver the critical mass necessary to make cryptocurrency a household presence, yet there is still a lot of unclaimed, valuable territory in the blockchain B2B and B2C space. Currently, companies like Request Network are some of the pioneers likeliest to succeed. Request Network lets individuals or businesses send Requests to others via the blockchain, and recipients can pay the ‘invoice’ sent to them with any fiat currency or cryptocurrency that they prefer. Smart contracts handle all the underlying exchange mechanisms autonomously and quickly, and the decentralized ledger provides proof that a transaction in the correct, proportional amount took place.
With tools like this, businesses don’t even need to use cryptocurrency to feel the benefits of the blockchain. A relatively basic need that Request Network address is a less burdensome payment solution for companies that operate across borders.
The retail sector was one of the first to be impacted by the dot-com revolution, and it will be among the first to take advantage of blockchain as well. With hundreds, if not thousands of companies already working on products that could change the relationship surrounding our retail experience, the future certainly looks bright.
I have always been an advocate of innovation, be it tech or non-tech. But there is no doubt that tech startups these days are giving much-needed fuel to keep the innovation bar high.
Recently, I had a chance to meet one team which is solving a huge problem all the drivers face on and off. No, I am not talking about honking horns, that’s incurable. I am discussing the need for on-demand roadside assistance when your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere.
We all know that vehicles and transportation industry in U.S is huge. According to Statista.com, there are more than 263 million cars and trucks running on U.S roads with an average age of 11.4 years. With this big figure, the need for roadside assistance comes into the play. After all, none of us wants to be stuck in the middle of the road with a flat tire, failed battery, dead engine or even with a locked-out car.
The startup name is Jrop.com. Jrop (pronounced Drop) is an on-demand roadside assistance platform that comes handy whenever your car breaks down at any place and you need immediate help. It sends towing service to take your car to the desired mechanic and also sends professionals for your help to fix it right away.
Here’s a copy of my discussion with Carl Redding, CEO of Jrop which will definitely give you the bigger and better picture of Jrop.com.
Hira: I love the name of your Startup, Jrop. So tell me what does it do?
Carl: Jrop (pronounced Drop) is an on-demand towing & roadside assistance platform.
Hira: How old is your startup and how many team members and co-founders are there?
Carl: We had a soft launch in March of this year only servicing the metro Detroit area. Currently, there are two co-founders and two employees. We’re a small but very effective team.
Hira: So roadside assistance has been there already or you are the first-mover?
Carl: Towing & Roadside assistance is a very fragmented industry with AAA being the largest competitor. What makes our platform unique is that it is set up to streamline the entire process. You can literally request help and have a truck dispatched in under 60 seconds. No waiting on hold while you call your insurance company. No lengthy phone calls with tons of questions. No need to locate mile markers or cross streets. You can even request help and track the driver directly from the website without downloading the app.
Hira: Most of the cars in U.S are insured, how is your service different than services offered by car insurance companies?
Carl: To name a few there is no membership required to use Jrop, we have flat rate pricing no hidden fees or charges, we have a 30 minute average response time, you can track the driver directly from the app or you can send a link to family or friends to track them as well.
Hira: Who are your “professionals”? The outside technicians or you’ve hired them as employees?
Carl: All of our service providers contract with us and are fully insured and have all the required state and federal licenses
Hira: Can anyone with the required skills sign up to Jrop.com as a vendor or partner?
Carl: We have pretty strict requirements for becoming a partner which is primarily to ensure great service to our users. More about signing up to become a driver here.
Hira: What are your expansion plans? What is the future of Jrop?
Carl: We plan to offer additional services and to continue to expand throughout the entire United States and we would love for Jrop to eventually be available in other countries.
Hira: Have you guys raised any funding so far? Any highlighted partnerships?
Carl: Besides an initial loan from family and friends, there has been no outside funding. We’ve been focused on creating a great product and are very proud of what we’ve accomplished without the need to accept any VC funding.
People often give mixed vibes when they are asked about Virtual Reality; saying it is an entertainment platform that gives you a whole new experience. But, on the question of ‘What is the future of this entertainment platform?’ The answer is usually silence.
In my opinion, the future of VR has a very distant place to go. VR is going to play a major role in the field of education, medical and other fields which were unimaginable. From experiencing a huge waterfall while just sitting at our tables to enjoying on a see-saw having butterflies in our stomach to surfing in the roughest of the seas while moving in a deserted land, it is all possible through this amaze-balls technology, VR.
What is also possible in VR is the experience of report released by ‘New York times’ showing the “Fight for Falluja” documentary which was the first ever documentary shot in 360 VR staying in the war zone which really can take you to the scene of firefight and have a glimpse of life at the war affected zones. Watch the video here.
Another company called ‘Scopic’ did a documentary shoot in 360 of the plight of Syrian refugees. One can watch this in the news, read an article and probably see a picture or two but the real experience which has been shared in the documentary gives the reality of their plight which we couldn’t have imagined otherwise.
Well, there are things that VR can’t do…
VR can’t let you have the experience of travel you get when you are actually visiting the place. The people, the interaction, their food, the experience you’ll have cannot be achieved by wearing a VR headset. Come on now, we all know that one can’t do everything sitting at home. What it can really do is taking you to their world, their culture, their architecture, their rituals etc. Educating about ones’ culture and traditions can be best served by using VR technology. One has to pay much less in order to learn about the culture just by visiting the place. This is a well-served purpose. No?
Interaction of VR with blockchain technology
Someone has rightly said,
“Someday, you’ll end up having a job not by what you know but by how you use your imagination.”
Never had we thought that the power of imagination could end up with so much strength that it can change the way we view the world. VR has been there in the world since almost 20 to 30 years or way beyond it when people used panoramic pictures to show images to people. Blockchain since 2011 is pacing up in the tech world with all eyes on it. The main concept of blockchain is having a decentralized platform and peer to peer exchange policies which maintain an encrypted platform for any kind of exchange, be it monetary or data.
One such innovation is ‘Gaze Coin’ (GZE) which is taking the whole VR experience using blockchain onto a whole new level. It is trying to bring the virtual interaction with the real world by also monetizing the market. The ad-tech in this VR industry was unimaginable up until now; with the introduction of Gaze Coin, developers are trying to imagine the monetization techniques using VR. It generally depends on the user ‘gaze’ count and charges the advertiser, monetizes the content creators. It can thus curate the content and send similar contents to the users using VR platform. Gaze Coin is definitely eyeing the imaginative power and getting the best out of it possible to the common people so that the world can further become a better place to live in.
Gaze Control, Ad-tech, and Blockchain
Gazecoin is trying to incentivize the users, content creators and the advertisers. It charges on the basis of the amount of time a user gazes at the advertisements. The unit of this coin is ‘Gaze’. It is opening up a totally new and different market segment for the people who are developers into the VR/AR segment and also to the advertisers to market their product in the platform and in return pay in the form of ‘GazeCoin’. It has been built in blockchain Ethereum platform which enables the users to pay in either Ethereum coins or platform’s own token. The GazeCoin is going live on 28th Nov 2017 for the crowd sale.
The Future of VR with GazeCoin
GazeCoin’s CEO, Jonny Peters has above 20 years of experience in the VR industry and his work has also been nominated to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival 2017 in the VR category. Jonny Peters has a vision of creating a niche market which would open up new channels of online and digital marketing in a whole new virtual world.
During my recent interaction with him, he expressed his feelings about the company’s vision in words like,
“For too long, VR/AR monetization has been constrained by last-century models that work for web and mobile, but miss the mark terribly in VR/AR, where literally everything you see or touch can be monetized. We designed Gaze Coin to bridge the gap between the promise of virtual worlds and the ability for brands and content owners to capitalize on it, at the heart of how the medium is actually consumed.”
AR/VR products are being very rapidly being developed by Apple and Google. Innovations crippling up every now and then by different companies of creating a niche product which would enable the VR products to be robust and available at a much cheaper price which is affordable to the consumer. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said recently that he has put his R&D on creating a cheaper and much more better version of VR/AR devices for the mass acceptance.
Having said all these, if the market will not grow in VR era; nobody will talk about the monetization benefits and the new market channel for advertisers, innovators, programmers, content creators etc. We need more platforms like GazeCoin to bridge the gap between the world of AR/VR content the content owners to capitalize on it.
In the fast-forward world of a growth-oriented business, your whole team needs to focus like a laser on the prime objective – bringing in the dollars. This can be grueling, especially for startups that are racing against time to achieve liftoff. That’s why having a solid company culture and a shared mission is vital to keeping your team engaged and performing well.
Increasingly, business leaders are tuning in to the importance of culture. New job opportunities are everywhere, and your best talent won’t be as compelled to stick around as they might have been a decade ago. For many, it’s a strong corporate culture of engagement that attracts – and keeps – team members sticking around for long.
But culture is hard to pin down. It’s a mix of shared values, vision and mythology. You can’t mandate it; you have to live it. And many startup founders who think their culture is solid are just deceiving themselves.
The data shows that employee engagement remains a critical, elusive challenge for business. Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report shows that in recent years, only one-third of the US’s full-time employees are engaged at work. In the rest of the world, the average is about half of that.
Companies that succeed in hacking employee engagement are companies that succeed. Engaged employees are more productive, less likely to quit, more willing to contribute new ideas, and more creative. But it doesn’t take a top-to-bottom makeover of your org chart to improve employee engagement. In fact, you may already have some of the tools you need.
The app market has exploded for businesses, with some highly specific and wildly creative ways to improve workflow and meet goals. And many of them – like the nine gems below – have an added bonus. Using them consistently can help improve employee engagement and strengthen your corporate culture.
Start employing a few of these apps in strategic ways, and watch the culture change organically.
Get your team sharing and caring
According to Hinge Research’s 2016 report, 85% of employees in firms that have an employee advocacy program in place report that it’s helped their career. Smarp is a leading employee advocacy platform that makes it easy for employees to participate in your company’s social media marketing, and it does so by creating a kind of “social intranet.”
Users can browse posts according to topic-dedicated tabbed feeds, so it’s easy to discuss initiatives on the fly and gain a sense of what’s happening across departments. Posts can include content curated by leadership for sharing with the general public – or “for internal reading only” discussions, like the one below, to help people feel invested in their company’s culture and objectives. As recently pointed out on Smarp’s blog, the best cultures are those that are built collaboratively.
Scrum-style performance reviews
Formalized annual performance reviews are, thankfully, falling out of vogue, while immediate and constant feedback is on the rise. A culture of continuous feedback, instead of a formal yearly review, can open the door to more productive and more engaged employees. And it’s lighter on management, too.
Impraise is an app that allows your team to drive continuous feedback and immediate reviews. Adopting this kind of feedback into your company culture will keep employees engaged year-round, instead of keeping the focus on those times of year when scrutiny is known to spike.
Get transparent with goals
Transparency can be a game changer for any team, which is why business dashboard app Cyfe offers a “TV mode” version, perfect for displaying KPIs in real time on office walls. This helps everyone on your team get the information they need to understand company goals and see how their own work is moving the needle. Even Pied Piper uses Cyfe.
Cyfe lets you use pre-fab widgets to easily display data from dozens of platforms, including leading apps for tracking your company’s finances, project deliverables, email and social media traction, sales pipeline and website engagement. You can also build your own custom widgets to help display whatever metrics are most important to the specifics of your startup’s culture.
Play likes it’s your day job
According to the folks behind The Go Game, traditional team building is often forced and mind-rollingly boring. This app aims to change that, helping team members uncover new skills. This can help to reveal the true creative potential of your teams.
At its core, The Go Game is a new kind of team building exercise that combines tech, exploration, and creativity. When you know your team members better, collaboration is more fluid and relaxed. And a little friendly competition never hurts.
Build a safety net of success the office
Leaders at companies with strong corporate cultures understand the importance of making work feel “safe” for all team members. For example, Google’s Project Aristotle has spent years researching and defining the things that truly build a feeling of teamwork and the associated productivity and performance results that flow from it. They call it “psychological safety,” and they believe that teams with higher than average social sensitivity perform better.
Jobvibe offers an app that helps enforce this culture point via morale tracking, helping team members stay in touch, uncover issues, and work together to solve them. It’s all done via quick survey clicks, too, so no one will get bogged down with cumbersome data entry. Think of it as a “net promoter score” collector for team functioning.
You’re in This Together
You don’t have to spend a ton of money or invest a lot of time to improve your startup’s culture and create a more engaged team. Some of the simplest approaches are also the most effective. Listen to your employees, take their concerns and issues seriously, and do what you can to improve the situation.
By using apps like these that improve communication, make goals more transparent, and foster personal engagement, your corporate culture can thrive – before you run out of runway.
Flexible working is increasingly becoming famous and widely used, with leading corporate firms adopting it. This goes a long way in the optimization of the value employees add to the organization or business.
In the United States of America today, 73% of adults say those flexible hours is one of the most important factors they consider when looking for a new job. Most big firms brag a lot about their successful implementation of flexible working hours. However, this is not a big deal to small start-ups, because they find it very easy to achieve.
One thing that I must point out is the fact that most entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance flexibility and productivity. For instance, 30% of consumer internet space say that this is a like a difficult juggling. Some of the biggest challenges are in:
- Determining whether your workers conduct themselves as required while working at home.
- Ensuring that the employees earn each cent in their salary, not by loitering around, chatting or engaging in other time wasting activities.
- Ensuring that even the best employees do not start the culture of coming to work late, despite the fact that they always get their job perfectly done.
Big corporations are on the move to fully adapt flexible work environments because it stirs one’s innovativeness, productivity, and creativity. Most new and established entrepreneurs are afraid of adopting this approach, as they are afraid that it might affect their businesses negatively.
It is, however, possible to successfully blend flexible working hours with your business, if you follow the following 3 simple rules:
1. Use of Time Trackers
There are softwares that help organizations and businesses to keep an eye on how employees use their time. This is a big challenge to employers, considering that time is very important in any business and the manner in which it is spent might contribute to business success or failure.
A manager can use the software from anywhere, be it at home, in a coffee shop or on a train. You can track the time of your recently hired freelancer or your in-house team through team time tracking. They make billing and preparing payrolls very easy, as they keep records of jobs done by each and every employee.
A time tracker is a vital tool for businesses and organizations who intend to perfectly monitor how their employees spend their time, whether inside or outside the office. Therefore, it is worth investing in, especially for flexible-hours employees.
“Automatic Time Tracking is the easiest way to accurately track all your time because sometimes you might forget to switch your time on, whereas this one starts automatically when you launch a task,” says Amy Watanabe, the Head of Customer Success at Timely.
2. Terms of Hire and Role Models
One of the things highly valued by startup workers is flexibility, not handsome salary perks and other benefits as provided by the big corporations, so doing away with it is unimaginable. As an employer, it is important that you single out the individual needs and preferred working plans of each employee.
For instance, someone might be comfortable coming to the office only once in a week and still produce excellent results. On the other hand, another person might need the company of colleagues in the office, playing some table tennis for some time during the day, in order for them to post satisfactory results.
In any business, you will have an employee or two who always stands with you through thick and thin. Probably, their performance is not always atop, but they bring in a lot of passion and positive energy into the business. You need to adopt such people as your role models.
This is a very effective approach, which makes formal rules unnecessary, as other employees tend to follow suit when they realize you commend the zeal, commitment, and passion of those you’ve picked as pacesetters. Young people are the most likely to deal with using this technique, as they are ambitious and want to have successful careers.
3. Creating Ownership and Defining Accountability
Injecting a sense of responsibility into your employees might take more than just a bonus and a fat salary perk. They are not likely to be self-motivated as you are, and may misuse the privilege of flexibility by failing to complete the assigned tasks.
A mission, vision and practicing equity may come in handy, as the workers will be motivated to know that they play an important role in the business. This sets an institutional culture and belief that the organization has a purpose that is bigger than any individual, hence creating a general sense of direction.
You will need to provide guidance for your team, as you set clear responsibilities for each person, in each task. Some entrepreneurs fail in this the moment they give collective instructions to teams. The early stages of a startup require strict observation of this rule, to avoid duplication of duties and overlapping of responsibilities.
The benefits a business accrues from adopting flexible working hours for its employees are invaluable, but failure to apply it correctly apply it might hurt the business in equal measure. The discussed rules will help your business do it right, and keep up with the dynamic working environments for businesses across the world.
Most us have plans for our lives. Career plans, vacation plans, family plans, retirement plans, etc.
Life, however, often has a funny way of shifting priorities and changing major life intentions altogether.
That’s what happened to Tamsen Horton.
Tamsen was in search of a career that would provide more income for her and her family. Opting to go a more traditional route, she enrolled in law school and started her career after graduating. Much to her dismay, she quickly found that it wasn’t the field for her.
Pregnant and seeking something less volatile and cumbersome, Tamsen decided that working for the IRS would be more agreeable for her lifestyle.
Tamsen had a plan: Give birth to her child, take the summer to care for her newborn, and go to work for the IRS once things settled.
When she gave birth, however, everything changed:
“I remember being in the hospital and having Kip. . . And I looked at [my husband] and said, ‘I don’t know what we’re doing, but I’m never leaving this baby.’”
In lieu of the IRS, Tamsen figured out how to live life on her terms. Today, she’s a stay-at-home mom who makes a living selling online courses.
That’s a big transition. To find out more about how Tamsen went from a tax attorney to figure out what online courses are, to turning her online existence into a full-time gig, Tamsen’s story is universally appealing.
If you’re interested in learning how you too can make the same leap as this motivated mom, read on and prepare to get inspired.
From a Tax Attorney to an online Course Queen
After leaving the field she had gone to school for, through conversations with many friends, Tamsen began to realize that many of these parents didn’t have wills or any of the necessary legal documents needed in case a tragedy would befall them and the kids were left alone.
Through this realization and her experience as an attorney, Tamsen identified a need among her friends that she could fill.
Knowing all too well how impersonal, inconvenient, and insensitive law offices could be (not to mention difficult to bring kids to), Tamsen wanted to provide parents with a more compassionate and respectful alternative:
“I found this beautiful niche that no lawyers were serving, which was talking to parents at home via the computer when the kids are in bed. . . I quickly saw that my audience, families with children, who needed help with their estate planning was very receptive to my approach of talking with them while bouncing my son on my lap.”
Tamsen ended up coaching moms via Skype where it wouldn’t matter if kids were present, crying, or running around in the background.
“After a few months, I realized that I could take the common content that I was talking about every single family and put that into a course so that I could better leverage my time and help make the price as affordable for these loving families as possible.”
Through this realization, she ended up creating a WordPress website and her first online course, My Kid, My Plan.
While this was a step in the right direction for Tamsen, she had a much bigger vision than her WordPress website would enable her to fulfill. She wanted to provide her clients with more resources and tried to do so with various plugins and add-ons.
But the extras she added to her site never worked properly and proved to be nothing more than “. . . very expensive digital duct tape.”
Choosing the Right Platform for Her Business
Frustrated with her current WordPress setup and uber pregnant, a friend who was already using Kajabi introduced her to the platform via a video.
After watching the video, she was thrilled to get started as building courses and an online store was as easy as “playing with Legos.” As Tamsen put it:
“If the heavens could open and angels could sing… It’s like [Kajabi] got in my head and built what I never could have said; this is what I needed.”
Understanding how simple the course creation process was, and knowing that the platform also provided powerful features like email marketing systems, analytics features, upselling elements, and an assortment of other beneficial components, Tamsen quickly got herself signed up and began producing and selling courses.
“As I began to see results in terms of time saved, money earned, and enjoyment maximized – I knew 100% that online courses were exactly what I needed to do to help families and myself all at the same time – it was the craziest win-win I’d ever personally seen. . . I felt like I had hit a secret lottery. . . Now six years later – I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
Today, Tamsen provides her audience with an array of courses, books, and other materials that support parents in preparing for the future of their families. She also has courses to help anyone get started using online course creation tools.
How Others Can Get Inspired by This Story
For a lot of moms out there, staying at home doesn’t seem feasible. Just like college isn’t the ideal next step for every high school graduate. The burst of online companies has provided priceless new opportunities to people who are called to walk a different path.
Tamsen has a passionate message for anyone who is looking for a different way to make money:
“Everyone has something in them and they can get it out there. . . You can be free; you can do this. You don’t need to get stuck. You don’t need to be miserable. . . Life is way too short.”
Everyone has knowledge and abilities from the various paths they have walked in life. Everyone has learned valuable information from skills they learned on the job, life experiences, hobbies, and other adventures; everyone has something to offer.
Tamsen’s Advice for Getting Started
Tamsen isn’t one to guard her secrets to success; she is eager to share this tremendous gift with anyone who is interested in following a similar path.
Her advice for getting started is super simple, too.
She recommends starting off by giving yourself permission to dream (and believe) that you are far beyond what your current job or profession tells you that you are.
Then, read Tamsen’s book Easy As PB&J as it walks through every step that goes into becoming an online course creator.
Finally, “Become part of the Kajabi family. Plain and simple I can’t recommend anything else. To have your system become part of your team and your family is an event that I’ve not seen happen with any other company on the market servicing online business. . . Kajabi is helping me protect what matters most to me and that makes my mamattorney heart so incredibly happy.”
As Tamsen has clearly shown, you can take the knowledge you already have and start teaching others those same lessons. Putting yourself out there can be scary, but this “mamattorney” is living proof that a dose of self-belief, crafty usage of user-friendly but powerful tools, and a dedication to hard work can manifest not only a dream job but a dream life. It’s all within your reach.
This is a guest blog post by Hira Saeed, Community Leader, Startup Weekend Karachi who writes about startups, AI, Chatbots and Big data.
Currently, the majority of people think that lean startup refers to setting up a business with little capital from outside. However, it is not right to some extent. A lean startup is a business approach that startups use to fasten their products cycle and effectively increase customer satisfaction continuously.
Steve Blank and Eric Ries have tried to advance this line of thought, which has been emphasized by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup, which he wrote in 2011. This business approach involves product prototypes that are produced consequently with the aim of doing experiments based on market hypotheses.
The feedback obtained from consumers is used to assist product evolution, within a shorter duration of time when compared to the methodologies used in the past to develop products. It can be summarized in a build-measure-learn loop that is characterized by validated learning and repetitively releasing improved products.
Why do we need Business Plans anyway?
A good business plan is useful for various reasons. The major importance is that it helps reduce uncertainty by predicting future occurrences, and for thinking and determining the best possible courses of action in case of either adverse or favorable events occurring in future.
It also is necessary for acquiring business loans from banks and other financial institutions and gives a sense of purpose and direction to both owners and employees. A business plan helps an enterprise to act objectively and consistently. Deadlines are provided by the plan, ensuring that the business does not derail and is able to achieve important milestones.
The belief that a business plan predicts future events and situations is a myth, but the truth is that it allows entrepreneurs a chance to do course corrections based on existing assumptions and expectations. This is being proactive, which gives a business an upper hand compared to reactive businesses. Here’s a telling paragraph from Ries’s book:
“The first problem is the allure of a good plan, a solid strategy, and thorough market research. In earlier eras, these things were indicators of likely success. The overwhelming temptation is to apply them to startups too, but this doesn’t work because startups operate with too much uncertainty.”
Contemporary Business Environment
In the contemporary business world, however, a plan needs not necessarily be a formal document on paper, but it could be a list, table or bullet points of goals and targets of a business. In fact, having a plan that is summarized in this manner helps the business to stay on track in a better manner than pages of a business plan in a printed document. This is because it is agiler than the formal one, which is a big advantage considering the agility of today’s business world.
Today, an entrepreneur does not need to wait for a perfect opportunity in order to venture into a promising business opportunity. What one needs to do is come up with strategies as they proceed with their investment activities that they are capable of conducting at a particular point in time. This approach is similar to how an avocado grows, from the seed outwards. Strategizing needs to be done in a dynamic manner.
Agility of today’s business world calls for agile planning, failure to which a business may not survive in the future. Good planning is cyclic in nature. One needs to go back to the original plan and make various reviews and revisions, but while ensuring that the greater goal(s) is or are not altered. The planning needs to be simple and saved where key team members can reach for it make any necessary revisions and put it back.
Do we need a formal business planning for that?
The core challenge presented by formal planning is the lengthy period of time required to write it up. Its content will be probably outdated by the time the document is completed. It does not present one with the possibility of making quick and random changes whose need arises within short intervals of time. Targeted readers will rarely read the document word by word. Most people will simply scan the document.
However, despite all the flaws of a formal business plan, the planning process is still vital for the success of any business. Either you do it yourself or hire a business plan consultant, but making it happen is a must and this is a proven fact. A business plan gives an enterprise an approximate roadmap of the routes they need to take in order to reach the purpose destination, with all possible alternative routes also spelled out in detail.
Lean planning involves a four step procedure:
- Creation of a plan
- Testing the plan
- Reviewing the results
- Revising the plan (this takes the business back to the first step).
This approach works for both established and start-up businesses.
It is not a formal business plan, and it is exclusively meant for use from within an organization. In case a business needs a formal plan, all it needs to do is add information about outsiders in their lean business plan. A lean plan shows how the business is going to make money; with a clear outline of tactics, strategies, and schedules. It also briefly describes the sales channels, target market, competitors, and marketing channels.
For startups, one can easily see whether their ideas are viable or not with ease, and either make any necessary changes or drop the whole idea. For established businesses, it assists an entrepreneur in manipulating strategies and determines the stages of progress in business.
Yes, Lean Startups Also Need Business Plans!
Therefore, an entrepreneur needs to accept the fact that the business world is evolving, and the relevance of a business plan is responding to the development. New approaches that meet the needs of the newest business environments are still going to pop up with time. In order to do well in business, one may need to combine the strengths of the old and new approaches such as a formal business plan and lean startup respectively.
Every business must, therefore, emphasized and embrace the strengths of developing a business plan even if it is a lean startup.
This is a guest blog post by Hira Saeed, Community Leader, Startup Weekend Karachi who writes about startups, AI, Chatbots and Big data.
Successful women are often stereotypically viewed as aggressive, masculine, unemotional, angry and Ice maidens that will tread on anyone to get what they want.
These outdated and slanderous opinions are definitely on the way out as the rise of female entrepreneurs continues. This success is further elevated by the mutual respect amongst successful women and the desire to see each other succeed.
As much as we are moving in the right direction to close the gender gap and remove the bias that was so accepted even just 10 years ago, the “the old boys club” ethos is still prevalent in many sectors of the business world. Whilst in some environments this can no doubt be a hindrance to women, it can also act as a driving force that generates collaboration, unity, and opportunity.
London acts like a magnet to talent across the UK and beyond. The enterprise and energy of the capital for business, new ideas, and professional ambition know few other cities with which to compare. With the trend of innovation hubs and collaborative working spaces, there are many companies that have jumped in this ship to sail it smoothly. These companies offer business support services featuring accelerator & innovation programs, entrepreneur training, and community events as well. This shows that there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur in the London.
As a center of new methods and new trends, it is natural that the city boasts a dynamic assortment of women propelling their industries forward. The success of many acts as an inspiration to women across London and the UK as a whole. Breaking molds, as well as glass ceilings, they are reinventing the story of women in British business.
Here are just a few of London’s great culture of empowered female business leaders.
Carolyn McCall heads one of the most recognizable airlines in Europe from a large, open-plan office in an orange hanger outside London. Despite having no aviation experience previously, having been more involved in marketing and media as CEO of Guardian Newspapers, she has nevertheless managed to revamp EasyJet during 5 years of record profits. She heads a company very friendly to female positions, with one-third of EasyJet’s management being women and more than one-half of the executive team.
Phoebe Hugh is a young up-and-comer in London’s tech scene. Having co-founded the start-up Brolly, she is carrying the flag of female leadership into the field of artificial intelligence. Starting work on the project in 2015, Hugh met her co-founder at Entrepreneur First’s 2016 cohort and work accelerated on the personal insurance concierge application. Brolly aims to optimize insurance coverage for users by determining what insurance they need and informing them whether they are over or under-insured for their needs.
Nafisa Bakkar is a London Muslim woman that recognized the difficulty Muslim women face of searching for clothes that are fashionable but remain modestly Islamic. Founding the website with her sister after studying at UCL, Amaliah aims to help amplify the voices of Muslim women for fashion, beauty and lifestyle. In doing so, the website has also become a platform for the voices and opinions of Muslim women in the UK.
Jessi Baker is yet another innovative young woman in the capital making waves in the tech space as it spreads into new opportunities and dimensions. She received one million pounds to create her start-up service Provenance which allows shoppers to find out exactly where their food and clothing come from to put them in an ethical context. Baker advocates a combination of technology and transparency that allows consumers to make an impact on our damage to the environment through informed purchases.
Alex Brownsell and her partner took their love of unconventional and rebellious style in the 90s from bands like TCL and No Doubt and channeled their passion into a salon for multi-colored hair-dos that have been adding vibrancy to the capital’s streets since 2010. The business has grown since then with 3 shops and a permanent installation in Topshop Oxford Circus. Bleach London has also launched a product line and counts celebrities among its many clients.
Rosie Davies is a young Londoner that heads PR agency The London Fashion Agency, which has a unique mission. Instead of charging costly monthly retainers, the agency is attempting to disrupt the often stacked press system within the fashion agency by charging affordable monthly subscriptions instead to small creative. The goal is to give quality designers of more modest means the space they deserve on Britain’s leading fashion publications. The London Fashion Agency works exclusively with independent brands and has received good reviews for its work.
This is a guest blog post by Hira Saeed, Community Leader, Startup Weekend Karachi who writes about startups, AI, Chatbots and Big data.
For the past two years, IoT and specifically smart home companies have been grappling with a lot of innovation and refinements when it comes to their devices. Work is being done to upgrade and add extensions to create more value and accessibility for users. It won’t be a big surprise now if smart home product turns into a household brand.
Well, it’s no more a surprise anyway. Xchime, a Smart video doorbell with motion detection was recently found making waves over the internet. It is a video doorbell that lets you monitor who is at your door and allows you to speak to your guests from your smartphone, tablet, or PC.
I had a chance to briefly speak with Gary Bi, CEO of Xchime regarding his innovative product and its future plans. The copy of the interview is pasted below.
Hira: Brief a little about Xchime doorbell. I am hearing about it all over the internet.
Gary: The Xchime doorbell is the next evolution of the video doorbell made popular by companies like Ring. It takes the features that have made video doorbells so useful and extends them into the smart home to give even more convenience to homeowners.
Hira: What features have you implemented in this doorbell? Any highlighted ones?
Gary: The main differences between the Xchime and others are in two categories. The first is in new features. Xchime can be connected to smart light bulbs for added security around the perimeter of the home. It helps deter unwanted visitors by automatically turning on when motion is detected. Another cool feature is remote garage door control via our app that makes it simple to check if the garage door is closed and if not to close it with one simple tap.
Beyond these features, Xchime has dramatically improved on the video doorbell in terms of technology. For instance, anyone who’s used existing video doorbells knows how annoying the lag can be. From the time someone rings the doorbell to when you can connect, see and speak with them currently takes about five to seven seconds. That sort of defeats the purpose of live video doorbells. Xchime virtually eliminates that lag. Our team of experienced engineers hail from companies like Motorola and Qualcomm, and have worked hard to improve the user experience.
Another improvement comes in the much wider operating temperature range of Xchime compared to others. It has a far greater temperature tolerance both on the low and high ends, making it more realistic for parts of the country that face extreme weather.
Finally, the price is unbeatable. Right now on Indiegogo we’re giving early backers the ability to get a unit for only $129. Compare that to others that cost $199 to $249.
Hira: Is it already launched?
Gary: Xchime is currently finishing up a successful Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and so far we’ve blown our fundraising goals out of the water. Even better, we will be shipping units to backers around August. Right on the heels of the crowdfunding campaign, we’ll be gearing up production to get Xchime into the retail and e-tail channels.
Hira: That’s great! So how do you see your target market? Are they accepting smart home products?
Gary: Companies like Nest and Ring have paved the way for smart home adoption. Big players like Google and Amazon have ratcheted up the stakes with voice command ability. Video doorbells are a key part of the security setup for any home. It’s the first line of defense. Integrating the Xchime with things such as smart lightbulbs and garage doors is the next natural step in bringing together the various parts of the home into one ecosystem. Eventually, the term “smart home” will be redundant, and it will just be accepted as part of the home.
Hira: Have you already received any seed funding for its production?
Gary: Xchime is different from most other crowdfunding projects in that we were backed early on with seed funding from Ufrate and other angel investors to the tune of $420,000. This should give anyone checking us out the confidence to go ahead with contributing to the Indiegogo campaign. As I mentioned, we’ll be getting units shipped extraordinarily fast after the conclusion of the campaign.
Hira: Are you planning to launch more products under the Xchime umbrella?
Gary: Nothing we can talk about now, but keep your eyes peeled at xchime.com.
Hira: What are your views on current IoT trends and on industry progress overall?
Gary: Internet of things and smart home technology are converging to make life easier and safer for consumers. The quickest adoption will be in products that work naturally without a lot of training. Following the curve for any technology adoption, we’re seeing progress along the curve toward rapid mass adoption. Whether it’s new smart home standalone products or integrating the smart home into existing consumer appliances, the future is bright for the industry. Keeping the focus on the customer need and a simple experience will be key to widespread adoption.