Convert your 2 cents to $20m with almost zilch – by Ashhar Farhan

I attended a talk by Ashhar Farhan on “Boot Strapping Strategies for Early Stage Companies” organized by TiE Chennai. If the flier indicated web2.0 anywhere I would have just skipped it. Fortunately it didn’t and I am glad I attended it and got some valuable authentic tips. I was tempted to blog it immediately after attending it – then I thought I will contemplate on it and blog about it over the weekend.

The tips go like this:

1.Keep the burn low, be quick and dirty to hit revenue as soon as possible.

2.Give VC, angels a miss. You will not need the Word and MS Project. Let the lean mean minimalism be the guiding you every step. More importantly VC, Angels tend to distract the focus with there( rather conventional) world view.

3.Then you can work off your laptop. With just mail, IM and friends.

4.Hire a well connected web server – don’t go for the limited web space. Bcoz this is your on the fly office, biz everything period.

5.Work on your idea. No big spec’ing, design discussions and such. Just cut cut cut and see what remains.

6.Signup( not hire!) a team – Just a coder, a tech2market translator kind of person, a CEO( referred as sweeper who will do the paper work, regulatory work, PR work etc) It is good idea to sign up a women in the team. Startup work tends to get too male thing – not good. More importantly time management is regularized – no odd hours and wasted productivity, etc.

7.Work with global partners, address global customers. One follows the other I guess.

8.Focus, focus, focus, and focus, focus, focus. Then revenue focus.

9.No customer support – customer support means there is something wrong with the system/software/interface – fix it.

10.Big punch of them all: BUILD TO KEEP: build something that is worthwhile for you rather than some gig to make some quick cash.

The most counter intuitive suggestion was to conduct meetings in a Cafe – it is a limited time, on public meeting – guarantees topic focus and decency 🙂

Ashhar illustrated these citing the wikipedia, and flickr. I would have been glad if he mentioned his experience with his startups. Yet not mentioning his businesses was a very refreshing style.

I was impressed by the indescribable sincerity in what he was saying. The fact that he is a avid radio builder to some extent explains it: Radio builders do quick and dirty things elegantly and get spectacular results – all very frugally!

In the networking session, I met some interesting, cool people. I was talking about my paper File Tracking system, and how it can be produced using craftsmen and such. Many were very excited to hear about it. I am planning to invite them to the BarCampChennai to see it in action.


About labsji

I blog, Therefore I exist ! Funny things are funny to me. Cool things are cool to me. Innovations tick me. I attempt spirituality religiously :)
This entry was posted in angel funding, bootstraping biz, Startup, technology, TiE Chennai, VC, Web 2.0. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Convert your 2 cents to $20m with almost zilch – by Ashhar Farhan

  1. poojap says:

    real neat..
    i and a friend are forming to start up bu ourselves here in mumbai..
    needed some guidance to work out legalities,,
    any clue?

  2. S Gopal says:

    Give Angles/VC a miss – neat.
    Build to keep! – Uber cool.

  3. labsji says:

    Few more tips that came up during the talk are:
    1) Use quick and dirty easy ways that get things done: Use paypal even if the commissions are considerable.
    2) Let the Sweeper CEO do all the networking, stupid talk delivery etc. Here marketing came up. He was indicating word of mouth or viral marketing. I am not sure if he is very clear. May be he is not giving out all the tricks.
    3) Code everyday, release everyday. For non-tech biz, make one change and test it on live customers everyday. Listen to them. And Loop on it.

    PS: To get the ‘Zilch’ to get started here is a tip on how to get it:
    Seed Funding by TIFAC/DSIR

  4. Hi,

    …… “He was indicating word of mouth or viral marketing. I am not sure if he is very clear. May be he is not giving out all the tricks.”

    This is probably one of the most valuable piece of advice you will ever get. A deeper analysis of plain words :

    Q : What will sell through word of mouth ?

    A1 : A product / service which is really useful and does not have an alternative in the market.

    A2 : The customer is really excited by the offering.

    If these fundamental factors are true, then you would not need any advertisement, promotion and rest of the stuff….

    Suggestion : If you haven’t read it yet, read “The Tipping Point”. A small and extraordinary book.


  5. Many people wanted a list of VCs doing early stage investments in India and I guess some capital infusion might go a long way in transforming these ideas to successful businesses.

    Anyways, as indicated in the talks there is a dearth of early stage financing in the country, here are some options for companies who are planning to raise 100k -2M $
    ( I have ranked the funds in ascending order of their typical investment size)

    i) TIE -EAP : this is a new initiative from TIE to promote early stage investment in the country. They have invested around 100k into a web based early stage startup.

    ii) Mentor Partners: As the name suggests, they do mentoring apart from funding. Really good team of ex-entrepreneurs who have been there, done that.

    iii) Nadathur Holdings: It is a fund established by Mr.N.S.Raghavan, co-founder Infosys, and is managed by his son Anand.

    iv) Erasmic incubation fund: They started out being incubators but have done funding in recent times,

    v) Seed Fund: A fund specifically created to tap into the market opportunity in early stage investing (or the lack of it)

    vi) SIDBI Vetures:

    vii) Helion VC: A recently launched fund, would be scouting for deals pretty soon

    viii) Sequoia India (formerly Westbridge capital partners) :

    They invested 2 M $ in TutorVista a couple of days ago:

    Hope this helps. This could be a starting point for folks who are looking at funding. But as always, I would strongly suggest you to figure out if you could do without it. Fund raising is a time consuming and painful process, better to avoid it (but sometimes this might not be possible!)

    It is pretty disheartening to note that, there are no networking events after the barcamp. So instead of merely complaining about this, I plan to take this up for discussions with the local TIE chapter. At an informal level, I think we could do something ourselves (similar to barcamp). Do let me know your views on this,especially the kind of people you would like to meet (VCs, successful entrepreneurs, technologists etc.). Let me see if I can get them here, if you guys think that would be a good idea. Also with enterprising people like Kiruba, Ganesh, Narain et al, I guess it won’t be that tough!

    Lets keep the momentum going,

    Best Regards,

    Karthikeyan S
    Venture Intelligence India
    (TSJ Media Pvt. Ltd.)
    Tel: +91-44-45534303

  6. labsji says:

    Interpid of Everyday Entrepreneur has an interesting post on how to get started in Rs 2 Lakhs. Not much of a recipie, yet the fact that someone has done it merits attention.
    Startup with Rs 2 Lakhs”

  7. Edwin Cooke says:

    I have to say that this is a very direct and worthwhile piece of advice. I have set up about five companies in the last twenty years. The last two have been successful, perhaps the other three would have been if I had followed this advice? However the failure of them taught me what I needed to succeed with the others. I have to agree with all the points, great post!

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