Several days ago, I met with a founder of a new startup. We met because the founder needed help on online marketing*. The startup is still ramping up users count through a contest.
* I apologize for the shameless self-promoting :)
The idea is pretty chill and it definitely has potential to be big. It promises a value to users to get the stuffs that they want for cheaper (not a daily deal). And it also has latent potential to spot the latest trend.
Yes, I am about to raise a concern
So like usual, I dug around: I asked a few probing questions. The founder was very enthused with the startup so the beans just spilt left and right. Heh.
But it was a very positive session. I could feel a rush of emotions flowing and an exuberant excitement from the founder. I could tell the founder is putting everything into this baby. Just look at the following commitments the founder stated:
I am going to build this cool feature that can do this and that
I am going to provide this curation tool for the user
I am going to have all features done by next year
Now, I can relate to that. I used to feel all the excitement of building this cool feature and that awesome tool for the users. How the heck can I possibly fail when I give this much value to the users? No way, Jose. There’s just no way.
And fail I did.
The problem is I had a perception bias. I created this thing and I can see the value in it. I have problems that this thing can solve, so why not others too right?
Nope. I learned the hard way that my problem is my problem and their problem is their problem. They and I may have a common problem, but I should not have assumed. Imposing my problem unto others’ was not a wise move. David Hume would have laughed at me and said “I told you so”.
Value, like problem, is relative
The founder was about to go on an emotionally exhaustive journey without knowing for certain whether the ship that is being built is going to last. That is crazy! The founder’s intellectual capital was research of consumer behavior, research of similar startup in another country and research on potential market.
Those are good researches. Definitely, not the slightest doubt. The only problem is if you do not back it up by validating your idea in the real world. Research is largely about what has been, what the history suggests. But that does not entail that the sun is going to rise tomorrow for the founder.
If you have a startup, please start by formulating your value hypothesis: what is the problem that you are going to solve & how are you going to solve that problem. And then build a minimum viable product specifically to validate that hypothesis. No additional features. And test it on the market. Measure the feedback. Learn and iterate.
No features shall be built without knowing exactly the value it delivers and it has gone through validation period. Stop wasting your time accumulating wastes.
P.S. I can’t disclose the startup.
I’m not into insurance so I have not much to say here. What I understood was this is a startup that may redefine micro-insurance distribution. What I did not understand was why only micro? This could very well be a revolutionary way of people of getting insurance.
But then again, I’m not into insurance.
I really liked the founder. Very humble man.
Important caveat: the following remarks on Socentix may just be a by product of my ignorance of how it operates. And if that’s the case, the founder should do better on his next presentation :)
I have to be reminded again how exactly he wants to integrate doing social good with investing. Apart from being a trend internationally, I did not capture anything that intrigued me much.
I mean why? I’m a fan of doing good to society, but why should it be integrated with investing? I did not see a compelling argument why would this be a problem nor if it’s worth solving.
I can see that some for-profit organizations may use Socentix to do their social good, their CSR. But what interests me more is what happens to those who don’t? What are the reasons those for-profit orgs keep their abstinence from giving to the society given that now there’s Socentix?
I’m afraid that unless there’s a government regulation that is aligned with Socentix’s current promise, the startup will not gain meaningful traction.
Economical Desire does not usually fit with Being Social. It would be AWESOME if Socentix could disrupt current Economical Desire paradigm by giving a strong incentive to Be Social in which Being Social will, in return, give back in Economics term.
It’s a much tougher problem to solve. And a far more interesting one.
Now this, is one of my favorites. Not because I like it the most, but because I have a lot to offer (i.e. say) to this startup.
Some of you may know that I used to work at DealKeren/LivingSocial Indonesia. So I get to lecture them. Yes I do. In fact, why wasn’t I their mentor in the first place? Silly* Sanny.
* to be crystal clear, this is a joke ya
The idea of sharing to get price cut looks very promising. You like a what the merchant offers for a discount? *Share* Here’s an ice cream for 30% off for you.
Seems cool, right? Thousands of people will definitely flock in. How can it possible be wrong?
Except, when it is.
Simplifying Stilomo down to its essence, it works based on at least the following 2 features:
Which necessitate the following 2 premises:
I have problems on both premises:
1. merchant is able to and want to set up their own deals.
Some of you may have bought from DealKeren and used its vouchers. You must have gone through that experience of printing the voucher, bringing it to the venue, pulling it out from your wallet and seeing the facial expression of the disappointed waitress after seeing the same vouchers 10 thousand times (the last part of that sentence is not always true, but it does happen :) ).
Don’t you think there’s a more civilized way to deliver the voucher… like, SMS? (We’ve gone 10 years into the 21st centure, come on.) We’ve thought about it since the very beginning. So why it never happens?
To simplify things, basically it does not happen because that method requires merchant to use a special online software that DealKeren can provide to any merchant. The problem is not with the software, the problem is with the online part. They felt that it’s too much of a hassle. They do not necessarily have any internet connection in their store.
If the distribution model is D-I-Y, then it’s imperative that the majority, if not all, of the customers (i.e. merchants), is self-sufficient to do what it is expected to do. And my experience tells me otherwise.
2. merchant wants to know the audience who has snatched their deals.
This is certainly true. Not a slightest doubt about it. But what’s the catch?
Bouncity, a location based app, has been around for some time. I attended when they did a pre-launch presentation in fX once (it was a startup contest too, forgot what exactly). During that presentation, one of the feature that they offer was a dashboard for merchants to know the response of the activities that they’ve “posted” on their venue in Bouncity (and I assume, their demographics too). This is very similar to what Stilomo has to offer.
I don’t know how bouncity is doing right now. Searching for a specific query in google got me to user number 191651 (I assume that number corresponds to his ID in the database). So the userbase must be quite large. But if you search for bcty.me in twitter (which is their shortened URL denoting an activity done by a user), there’s not much daily bouncing going on*
* it can very well be the case that people do not tweet their activities. But I really.. really.. really doubt that.
I am drawing an inference here, and it could be a very bad inference but here goes: user activities correlates with merchants’ take on bouncity’s premise. Not many activities means they got bored with the rewards means not much interesting reward available means not enough merchants signing up on bouncity.
Now, the only ones who know exactly if the above inference is any good or just a pile of horse manure, are those in Bouncity. Maybe they care to clarify? :)
Some may think the price matters: I forgot how much bouncity’s tokens cost; Stilomo costs Rp. 300.000 (a month? forgot). In my opinion, price matter comes after an uptake value hypothesis. Will you pay for something whose value you don’t get? Even for cheap? I wouldn’t, And I doubt any business entity would either. Will I pay for something whose value I need but it costs good money? Of course. Otherwise, why would I take that Finance Course?
With that said, history does not equal the future; Stilomo could very well be wildly successful. But seeing how close their premise to bouncity’s, I won’t hold my breath.
On a more positive note, Stilomo’s founders claimed during their presentation that they have gathered 50 merchants or so who have agreed to be their partners once they launch. I’m not sure how they are going to go at it. Nevertheless, I strongly suggest for them to go back to as many merchants as possible, simulate the process and see if there’s any concern that arises.
EDIT: They’ve launched! *gasp*
which happens to be my personal favorite. It’s definitely a strong contender to be a disruptive force in Indonesia.
Wujudkan offers a barter: your money for my project. And you wonder, “why the hell will I want to give away money to some people to fund their project?”
In return, you can get prestigious and exclusive offers that are contingent on the success of the project.
For example: with their launch, Wujudkan will feature a project of an upcoming movie by Riri Riza and Mira Lesmana (Producers of Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? & Laskar Pelangi). They need funding help for the movie to happen. What do you get in return? If I recall correctly:
Those are privileges money can’t buy. Have a dinner with handsome actors & beautiful actresses and take a picture with them? Priceless. A successful movie with your name on it? Your life is now complete.
I can picture wujudkan democratizes creative industry in Indonesia. Imagine gathering enthusiasts and raising the fund to attract legendary band (Radiohead, maybe?) to Indonesia. Who needs promotor now? We can do it outselves.
Wujudkan is an enabler for a lot of upcoming Indonesian creative endeavors. You want “produk lokal berkualitas”? You want tangible nationalism? You want movement for justice? I say this is the tool, baby.
What I didn’t but would love to have seen is how they will manage the donation that comes in? Will they have the same amount? Or is it based on freewill? How will that impact the reward that they get?
I most definitely want to see (and if possible, help) this startup to be successful. Call me up, Mandy. Or I’ll be comin’ for you one of these days :D
I hope this 2 post series did not come off as demoralizing. I just wanted to challenge the fundamental proposition of the startups. I had the chance to see 13 of them came up to the front and presented on stage and that was an exhilarating experience. I thought, “that is really cool! I wish I was the one up front”. So it was definitely a humbling as well as a motivating experience for me. And I definitely hold the highest respect for all 13 founders.
They’ve got the guts, they took the step to materialize their ideas. Not everyone can be one of them. Just ask the other 130 that dropped off. I have never been on the stage, so I have nothing to offer but encouragement for them to take bolder steps.
I’ll close this post with a quote from a startup hero of mine, Eric Ries:
A startup’s runway is the number of pivots it can still make.
All startups have runways. Some have longer runways, some shorter. So launch fast, launch faster. Test, learn, iterate. Test, learn, iterate or pivot while you still have the resources. They won’t last forever.
Give the very best of you to others. Never trade your ideal for money. Have a strong principle in ethics and moral. And don’t forget to give back to your country (pay your taxes :) )
I was very enthused coming to this startup event. But with an opening like that.. man, I fell in love.
It’s important to note that this event did not feel like any other startup meetup I’ve attended so far. The speakers and founders absorbed the audience’s attention. If you’re interested in starting up a business, you should come to one of their events.
It’s a shame there was no Q&A session because I’m sure it wasn’t just me who would love to ask some questions whether to the founders, to the directors, or to the mentors.
So I’m going to give my comments to the startups here
This is an insane app. I like it a lot. And the value very apparent. I’m really glad there’s a startup that wants to tackle disabilities. It’s going to be launched this 24th and the price is really great.
What I wanted to ask to them is:
has a great mission to improve parents’ knowledge about education and help them to put their kids’ in the right place for education.
My only concern is that I don’t see how the startup has delivered their promised value. Eductory wants to provide informations on education for parents so they can wisely decide where their kids should go to school.
Based on the prototype I saw on the screen as well as founders’ explanation, it was just a mashup of user generated content from users who know about education: either parents, teachers, or other peers. It looks much like a portal, a directory (appropriate name, I suppose).
But how exactly a directory can facilitate parents to make a wise decision for their children’s education, I can’t see. Eductory seems to just be a pool of information instead of a personalized suggestion.
This is a great startup with a very sweet promise in which it wants to give something different. I can picture myself taking my girlfriend to a cooking class using fokado.
I have nothing to say in terms of business model. It seems promising and lucrative.
The only remaining question is market adoption: can it grow? How fast?
I checked today there’s no special campaign for valentine. Why Taufan? :( (Val’s deal does not count as a special campaign to me :D)
I betcha she likes me.
Dating is always a hot field. There are a lot of #galau people in Indonesia too.
The only thing that I did not agree in their presentation is the claim that there’s no online dating service in Indonesia. IndonesiaCupid.com has been around for sometime.
But other than that, the startup is cool. What I really like about the app is clever. It’s a location based but it plays with digital flirts. I can’t picture a chick in a cafe taking a call or having a sudden chat with a random dude across the street. It’s just not typical Indonesian (or Asian for that matter). But I definitely can picture them flirting with ‘pokes’, ‘tickles’, ‘<3’, etc. The chick with from-above-angled profile picture, and the dude showing off some serious abs. Instagram’ed of course.
Oh not to mention the virtual gifts.. Very naughty.
Similar question remains as with fokado: how fast can the market grow?
I’ll stop here. 4 remaining startups in the next post. Dinner time.