sharing corner It's Fri-yay! This should be a perfect time for a bit of chit-chat. Not long ago, I was introduced into this robust world of startup ecosystem. I must admit, I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by its pace, its culture and its people. But, I love it. Which is why I am super excited to introduce the newest addition to the family of e27 articles, e27 Sharing Corner. The purpose of this corner is to be a safe zone where we can sit back and exchange real conversations on the struggles we have witnessed through the years of serving startup community, with hopes of giving back some useful takeaways for our beloved readers. Believe me when I say this, I am definitely no expert in the field. Yet, sharing is always caring. Norman Kuo and I, will be taking over this e27 Sharing Corner and we hope to see you join in on stimulating discussions and constructive feedback as we navigate through the startup journey together. Shall we call this our weekly ritual? Let’s spread the love!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

They say 9 out of 10 startups fail, which affirms the brutal nature of the startup world. So what are things you should look out for, to avoid bringing your young startup into this unfortunate path?  

1. Promising more than what you can deliver

Unless your last name is Musk, skip this temptation - especially when you are a young startup trying to make a stand in your own field. Naturally, you would want to prove that there are no limitations to your solutions, or simply persuade the person on the other line that their objectives align with what you can offer. Hence, you would agree with all the terms set by your clients to quickly seal the deal. As satisfying as it is, closing a deal is not the end, it’s merely the beginning, you now need to think about how you to manage the deliverables. I have seen many, and also experienced few, struggles with the lack of capacity of the startup, only to realise in the end that they were unable to satisfy all the previously agreed terms with their clients. Imagine how disappointing that must be for both parties. Not to mention the burn-out of your team members during the process. Let’s take a simple example. This is similar to how it feels when you sit at home waiting eagerly for a parcel due to arrive today, only to receive another message saying it wouldn’t be delivered until tomorrow. If only you had been notified sooner, you could have saved all that time waiting in vain. Also listen: [Podcast] Meet Saturday Kids, Singapore’s coding academy for children Under-delivering on your promises will bring you disappointment and distrust from your clients. For a young startup, creating a good brand image is a must, hence, you cannot afford any distrust at this early stage. So slow down, assess the capability of your team, the capacity of your solutions, and stay firm and clear about it when discussing with your potential clients. Trust me, everyone respects entrepreneurs who know what they’re doing. e27’s core value #1: Respect the ecosystem.  

2. Misdirection in the core vision

A common trait in failed startup entrepreneurs or founders is that what fuels them to start their business is their ambition for the role. They have the passion for the entrepreneurial journey, they have the skills to be good managers and they are ready to work relentlessly to make it happen. Then why did things go wrong? A few months ago, CB Insights has just released an interesting break-down on the top 20 reasons for startup failure. The findings are interesting because, the top reason is not the fierce competition or liquidity problem as some might think. The #1 reason for most failure cases, 42% to be exact, is the struggle of finding market demand for their product. This should be a convincing answer for the question I raised earlier. The core vision of a startup should be the desire of solving a real aching problem. Energy should be invested in developing solutions around that problem. Only then would the market realise the real value of your solutions and people will be willing to pay for it. Besides, crystallising your core vision will attract similarly interested talents and act as a glue between your team members to guide the company through tough times. This leads me to our core values #2: Team-work makes the dream work.  

3. Being too cautious

Please don’t get this wrong, caution is good. So don’t let that customer survey analysis go to waste and do proofread that article before publishing it. However, there is a fine line between being careful and being overly cautious. In the startup ecosystem, the competition is fierce, talents lie within every individual and we are all backed with technology innovation. Right timing is key. If you are working in sales team, you will understand that there are situations where snap decisions are required, or else you would lose the customer to another competitor because you wanted to discuss minor details with your team. Stay rational, trust in your logic and be bold enough to make the call when the time comes. Also read: Failures teach us way more than the successes, and other lessons I learned as an entrepreneur When I started my journey in the startup world, this was one of the work-culture shocks I got. As I came from a background of working for a large prestigious corporate, I developed a habit of sticking to clear step-by-step instructions and filtering my work through layers of assessments (and regulations) before making it official. To make the situation worse, I am the kind of person who refuses to let anyone see my work unless it is shiny perfect (can I see your hands, my fellow perfectionists?) I must say I have changed a lot ever since. I will include here an impactful sentence that has made a great impression on my mind since day 1 of my journey: “Don’t ask for permission. Ask for forgiveness". I lost count of how many times I have been asking for forgiveness from e27. But the good thing is, the sentence I just mentioned, is actually another core value of our company. :)  

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The list could go on and on as the startup world is a complex mess where things are never just black or white. Whether or not you have found any useful piece in this article, I hope it is a good read for a Friday afternoon nonetheless. My final recommendation is to not put all your focus on the end goal. If you have decided to get on this crazy ride and dedicate years of your life to it, might as well embrace every step of the journey. Shout it with me: Alright, let’s do this! Okay, I will let you get back to your work now. Make sure you get yourself fully recharged this weekend to get back into beast-mode for next week! TTYL!