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5 Startup Lessons that you can learn from Radhe Ma

Lesson 1: Make Sure whatever you do has a virality affect

A few days back there was a picture on Twitter, it showed a lady wearing a chura (red bangles) as newlywed Indian women would, and then there was a picture of her dancing – I saw this tweet go by, and ignored it.. suddenly in the evening this picture was being discussed on the news channels, I wondered what happened, only to catch up with the news and soon she was all over.

No one, well not many knew of her till the day these pictures came up on twitter, and what came out was that she was well established, her own set of followers and now she was trending everywhere, and everywhere you went people were talking about her.

Lesson 2: Sell to your probable customers, in less than 60 seconds

The Elevator pitch is not just for raising money, it is also for making sales. They say over years our attention span has reduced, and on twitter conversations don’t last for more than a minute. If you were to go by this, you need less than 60 seconds to make a sale, and Radhe Ma does this – whether this is by her attire, or people surrounding her and adding to the background conversation or by making sure you have heard about her (good or bad), even before she arrives on the scene. So next time you are looking at making a sale, make sure your customer has heard about you and your value proposition, if you are raising funds – make sure the Angel / VC has heard about you before you arrive there.

Lesson 3: Content is still King

Search for Radhe Ma and chances are you will come up with several hits, these hits are not just the news item from the time she became famous on twitter and was on the news channels, this includes videos on Youtube, Facebook pages that are active for long and also articles talking about how people have experienced spirituality in her sessions. No I am not recommending that you attend one or don’t attend one – i leave that choice to you, but having content out there, that explains what you do when you make a pitch, present a business card, or talk to someone about who you are and what you do is important.

Don’t skip on writing a blog, don’t skip on updating your social media network, don’t skip on creating videos – if videos is what people are looking for. Each of us has a different social media network that we follow, and who knows where people are searching for you.

Lesson 4: Have your own Tribe

Seth Godin [Wikipedia] in his book Tribes explains that there is an inherent need for us as humans to to connect with other human beings, whether this be for networking or this be for your tribe, or your followers if you were a godman / godwoman. Having a tribe of believers, early adopters, customers who buy your product because they believe in it is a great idea, and if you have a tribe that is large enough, say a 100,000 customers that buy from you on a regular basis, you have a business going. Today there is a lot of talk about Hyper Local Businesses and one of the lessons here is to ensure continual engagement, repeat buying, and having your own tribe.

If you want to know more about Tribes, I urge you to see the following TED Talk by Seth Godin.


Lesson 5: Palagarism can be a good thing, too

This brings me to my final lesson in the Radhe Ma Controversy, The Picture at the top of this article, is from a Party that had a theme of Radhe Ma – Indeed, this is not a joke – you can find this by clicking here on facebook. If people are copying your idea – that means there is something worth doing, whether you are building a mobile wallet, solving the bus ticket example, or building a travel site – there is a me too happening in that space, don’t worry about it as competition, see it as a validation of your idea, what you are doing is right, and if you follow Lesson 4 and build a tribe, if you follow Lesson 1 and build virality, if you follow Lesson 2 and are straight to the point on how you are better than the rest, your product, your service will succeed.

There are many more lessons that can be drawn out of the Radhe Ma news / controversy or from any other popular story that you see on social media, in news papers or on the television today. The world is now connected 24 x 7 and your news could be a minute long, or could be a month long, or could be an year long – what we all need is a story, a story that the world can tell about your startup. It is interesting to see how SproutBox is mentioned everytime someone talks about Coworking on Social Media, we finally have a tribe going and a virality to that effect. What do you think?

The article has been written in lighter vein, this article is not to point anything towards Radhe Ma, her followers or any one associated with her, or in the same space as she is. If you are someone who believes in her, we respect you, if you are someone who does not, we respect you for your thought there also. For us, the Viral affect and the Speed in which this news has spread, how people are now doing themed parties, to the discussions about her everywhere are great lessons that we think should happen to each startup.

 

Sunscreen, Startups & Success

If you have met me in real life, I must have told you the sunscreen story, if I have not here it is. In 1999 Baz Luhrmann converted a hypothetical commencement speech written by columnnist Mary Schmich titled Wear Sunscreen, to a song. This song has made a great impact on me both personally and professionally. In a meeting last evening with a startup that was on a tour of SproutBox, we were discussing this song again and how Startups, Success and Sunscreen get co-related.

There are times in our life, when we loose hope, we don’t know if we will succeed, we doubt ourselves – the song is a great upliftment at that time, trust yourself, compliment yourself or as the words say “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much. Or berate yourself either, Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s”

Listen to the advice of people who offer it, you may not like what they are saying, but respect the advice. Make sure when you are down and low, high and above – you don’t forget your siblings, you don’t forget your friends, you don’t forget to know your parents better – before you know it, time will be done – you will be old and you would only want to look back at your youth to realise what you missed.

The journey of a startup is harsh and yet fun, each day is a challenge “Do one thing every day that scares you” whether that is picking up the phone and making that sales call, or saying no to a client that may not help you build value in a company, to going against your gut feeling.

Be ready for trouble, real trouble “Remember there could be real trouble that will blind side you on an idle Tuesday evening”

In the song there is a line “Don’t read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel fat” – I believe a lot of us get in a rush of why we are not getting private equity, why are the angels missing from my business – my idea and my implantation is great – stop reading the news – it will only make you feel bad. Build your product, resolve a problem, build your team, grow – the money will follow.

To me and Rajeev ji, Wear Sunscreen words are our mantra at SproutBox.

At SproutBox we believe that a community of like minded people, a network of startups, coworking with them, spending time with them allows you to get advice, run your ideas with others – collaborate, create and grow. It also gets you friends you will look back in 20 years and say you had fun with, some will stay with you, some will be memory, but an experience of working with diverse set of individuals can never be replaced by working from your own office.

To me as I said, I can go on and on about the song, and if there is a mantra for growth that I can give any startup, this song it is. So read the lyrics, see the video, build a product, a service, a company just like the sunscreen – that is relevant to all dark or light, black or white – and yes do trust me on it.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99
Wear sunscreen

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future
Or know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours

Floss

Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements

Stretch

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t

Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft

Travel

Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you, too, will get old

And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders

Respect your elders

Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out

Don’t mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen

The First Month

Running a Startup is a very interesting proposition, you could be a well established entrepreneur, with people to do every possible task, but when you start something new, and ensure that you are going to do it as a startup, you learn some new lessons, the journey for starting SproutBox though is about 5 years old, but we started construction in April 2015, and we opened our doors on the 1st of June 2015 to our coworkers, and in the last one month of operations, there are several things we learnt, several things we are yet to learn, and surprises that we did not think of, so if you are a startup, an entrepreneur, a freelancer, a coder, an artist, or a blogger or just someone who is looking at starting out to do something on your own, read on – I promise you that you will go back home and say to your self  “Why Did I not think about this earlier?”

Lesson 1: Use Technology

Well there is no debate, technology is a tool if you can use it, and have it work for you, from our messaging tools (slack), to our ticket management system (groove), and even our mailing list manager (mail chimp), technology has helped us come this far. Ensuring that everyone in the team from shared resources from our existing business’s to dedicated resources we have for SproutBox, needs to be updated with all the operational information.

Lesson 2: Have a Strategic Plan, Not just a Business Plan

Over the last few years there has been so much focus on the business plan, that we all end up forgetting what our strategic plan would be, and having this ready helps. Though there is not much to talk about it here, ensure that your Business Plan covers the “Who” and “What” of your new business wile the strategic plan covers the “How” and “When”.

Lesson 3: Define Your Vision Statement

Remember the elevator pitch, well we did enough exercises, and said we are a coworking space, but that was just not enough, over the first few days we realised, we were more than a coworking space, we are designed to be an accelerator, a conducive space for growth, a place where you come to collaborate, network, exchange ideas and grow.

Lesson 4: Delegate Authority

I am not good with finances – there I said it, though if you know me personally you would have already known this. Yes I am good with numbers but when it comes to checking the cheque books, updating balances, and planning cash flows – I am not the best person there, luckily Rajeev ji is, and this is what brings me to delegating authority. Trust is the first factor of a partnership, make sure you trust your partner, and delegate authority. While I manage the technology section, our website, and work with our Digital media team, we meet up once a week and discuss where we are, where we want to go, our revenues, our cash flows, and how things are.

Lesson 5: Build a Community

When we started out, Happy Hours Wednesday was more of an Idea, now it is a reality, the first Wednesday we were just 3 coworkers, and Rajeev ji and I, now a month later we are roughly 15 coworkers and us, but Happy Hours Wednesday is one of our bonding events, where we get together over lunch time or the evening, enjoy a snack together, have a conversation and build connections.

Lesson 6: Something will go wrong

Yes we planned for everything, backup Internet connections, Backup power from a Diesel Generator, backup manpower, backup everything – but something will go wrong! A fan will stop working, an electric appliance will mis-behave, or even a monkey will come and take away the cover of your water storage tanks (yes this happened to us) and then break the plumbing pipes (this happened to us also). You may have planned everything, but something or the other will go wrong – so be prepared, and take the challenges head on, make sure you communicate to everyone that you are handling it, and wherever possible delegate and get it done.

Lesson 7: Never be afraid to ask

Though I have always believed in this, but during times of trouble one tends to forget, yes there is always a web search on how to do something, but what I have learnt time and again is – it’s great to ask, pick up the phone and reach out to someone who is in a similar business, they will answer – always.