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Matt  Fisher - It’s  a matter of timing

It’s a matter of timing

Matt Fisher | New Ventures Studio

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn

The one thing that we all have in common is time. How we use it to maximise the outcome is the determining factor in businesses that succeed or fail. This is known as timing. The same business idea that failed to get off the ground a few months ago has now become a great success and a leader in innovation. How does this happen?

Whether it’s about a company’s month end, acquiring new partners or playing a round of golf with a potential investor – perfect timing is the quintessential tonic for success.

Bill Gross, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Idealab, which has formed and operated more than a hundred and twenty-five companies over twenty years, ranks timing as the most important factor to start-up business success. He considers it so important that he lists it ahead of other key factors such as a team, idea, business model and even funding when getting a start-up off the ground.

Lean start-up

“Customers don’t care about your solution. They care about their problems.” – Dave McClure, 500 Startups.

The Lean Startup process is a methodology for start-up businesses, strategically made up of “search and execution”. Search focuses on customer and problem discovery, while execution involves creating meaningful transactions around your minimal viable product.

At New Ventures, a Young Entrepreneur Accelerator in Cape Town, entrepreneurs participate in an 8-week course, and are equipped with business and personal development training that will best prepare them to take the necessary steps into the unknown. The business modules combine Lean Startup principles with traditional business plan writing, to flesh out whether the idea in their head is in fact solving a problem or not. If after talking to potential customers they find out that the idea is not problem solving, entrepreneurs are taught to “fail fast and cheaply”. The Lean Startup process helps pivot entrepreneurs towards a model that is repeatable and scalable, before running out of resources.

Herein lies the beauty of the Lean Startup model: Failures are just temporary learning points – and thankfully not necessarily debilitating – along the path to entrepreneurial success.

No business model is created within four walls. Customers, suppliers, key partners, even potential competitors – these are the people who are experts on the problems entrepreneurs are trying to address. You need to get out of the building and talk to them. By doing so, you will not only find out exactly what the current pain points of the industry are, but your product will also be best placed to solve them. The result? A reasonable enough argument that the timing is right for you to start transacting.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

“An entrepreneur is someone who jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down.” – Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn.

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the most basic version of your concept that delivers on customer value. Its directive is to validate product learnings while simultaneously generating some form of transaction to recapture the value put in (i.e. Getting paid from day one).

When making the bold decision to start your own business, set yourself up with an advisory team that complements your own strengths. Do this by creating a positive network and support base consisting of legal, financial, sales and creative consulting experts. If you’re a visionary, find someone with strong action qualities. If you’re a people’s person, find a good planner or organiser. You’ll be surprised at how many experts are willing to help if you just ask. Network with like-minded individuals, engage in service or trade exchanges, basically do whatever it takes to add value to your company without breaking the bank.

Entrepreneurship and finance should always go hand-in-hand, ideally never straying further than arm’s length or eye-shot apart. Starting a business with no money is possible. Running one, growing one and scaling one is not. Think about your finances, yes, but don’t let them prevent you from taking the most important step of all – knuckling down and starting up when the timing is right. Do the customers need it now? Do they want it and is it affordable? What is the industry doing to solve this in the meantime? These are some of the questions you must answer. The rest you will find out along the way.

Salesian Life Choices – A Case Study:

Does it work?       

New Ventures Studio, once  a start-up itself, came to life through a desire to refresh the failing non-profit organisation (NPO) business model, relying purely on donations for income. Salesian Life Choices, the Public Benefit Organisation that launched the programme, came so close to running out of funding in 2013 that they almost had to shut down. Managing Director Sofia Neves and her team knocked on the doors of corporate experts in an attempt to find a solution. When they all said the same thing – to “stick to what you know,” aka developing youth – it made sense to get involved in entrepreneurship.

The company is now a profit-making entity that acquires a 20% stake in all companies that make it to the incubation phase. By having a share in the profit, a sustainable revenue stream is established. The model is a partnership between three entities; the young entrepreneur, the service providers and Salesian Life Choices. The nature of this partnership creates an ecosystem where the entrepreneur’s success is the cornerstone for everyone’s profit. The initiative is invested in creating wealth in partnership with young entrepreneurs.

New Ventures Studio commits to the entrepreneur for as long as it takes them to become successful. Our first two versions may not have been perfect, but we are fast creating something that is. First came the idea, team and proposed business model, forged by the fires of necessity. Using a shared vision to disrupt the status quo, just enough funding was secured to get the project off the ground. As quickly as it all came together, suddenly the timing felt right, and we jumped.