I had an interesting and varied work life spanning consulting, advertising and digital implementation across the world. The experiences had stimulated me and I was looking to do more, go beyond the job description, to create, to disrupt. At the time of developing the concept for Unmarketeer, an experiential and creative digital firm, I was working with the Leo Burnett group as a business head. While there are a number of digital agencies offering the run of mill social marketing solutions, we wanted to solve a more fundamental problem. Creating next gen connected experiences using the new media. The motivation to create something transformational, something new, to take complete onus of my creativity was a strong impetus to turn an entrepreneur.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
The adrenaline rush that comes from making the next breakthrough be it roll out of the next product version, converting the next big client or making an impact at the next funding pitch. Also, the fact that you can ignite the dreams of others and create employment opportunities, makes you a direct stakeholder in the progress of the nation.
How do you ensure that you bring in the right people for your team?
As a startup building a team which is as passionate about your vision is a key challenge. You are not looking for a skill match alone. You are looking for a match of attitude, of temperaments, of values, of DNA. In our first year we have had some interesting experiences with bringing in new people. On one hand you had people looking for quick profits and instant fame. These are the kind that you should run from. Look for people who believe in a common purpose, whose value systems match, who share the entrepreneurial bend of mind. We have long, honest conversations with potential partners or hires. We explore synergies and long term matches. Individual brilliance is very important for us so we have partnered with leading B schools such as IIM and SP Jain to identify the right talent.
How do you generate new ideas?
Serendipity! A lot of our ideas are born out of brain waves that come from random observations. We believe in keeping our minds open. Also as a startup we are very democratic. So anyone can come with an idea and the whole team will be at it to take the idea and turn it into something concrete we can offer our customers.
How bright is the future for technology startups in India?
While the IT revolution happened in India we have not really been known for original products. All this is now changing with original research and innovation happening in India. At Unmarketeer we are working on next gen customer experiences using augmented reality and gamification, still niche fields in India. We meet several startups working on tech products or tech driven platform. It is really inspiring to be among so many bright minds which are turning India into a viable product nation. Who knows the next Google may actually be created in India.
Could you share some experiences on raising funds for startups.
As a startup, getting the right funding is important from 2 aspects. A. It solves your cash flow problem and adds muscle to the budget helping you expand and grow. B. It gives you a certain amount of credibility, having been vetted by the right VCs. It is important that you spend a lot of time figuring out your funding strategy. We have for example bypassed accelerator rounds and are looking straight at pre series A funding. Our initial funding came from our own savings, family and friends. Plus we also generated a decent amount of revenue in the first year. So right now we want to partner with the right VCs to help us expand our product portfolio and enter new markets. We are therefore looking at synergy in vision and not just the funding amount.
What are the most critical challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
Cash flow is the main one i.e. keeping the morale up as you spend days without the certainty of a regular monthly income. Also putting together the right team is a huge challenge.
What has been your greatest failure or mistakes?
Think we made some hiring mistakes early on. We focused on the expansion velocity and made some rapid fire hiring which proved to be costly mistakes. The lesson learnt was that it is important to balance velocity with sustenance. Another important lesson we learnt is payments can often be dicey. We have started reworking our contracts to ensure advance payments and also built in default penalties accordingly.
What are the 3 greatest qualities of an entrepreneur?
Creativity, grit & persistence.