A wonderful Coffee Session
No this didn’t happen at the at the Startup Insiders session but it just seemed like the right photo to start with – actually some of the discourse reminded me of a ping-pong session🙂 – for those who don’t know these two clowns, allow me to introduce Ali Sabzwari of Si3 and Jawwad Farid of Alchemy.
The Startup Insiders session (our version of the Silicon Valley BarCamp) was set for 6 pm yesterday. Imagine my amazement at seeing some of the CEOs starting to show up at 5:30 pm (this in a country not really famous for its punctuality), and youngsters started to trickle in soon after. All day Jawwad, Osama, Adnan and I had this feeling of anticipation of something thrilling and exciting that was about to happen. And boy were we right!
The atmosphere was electric. There was a buzz. Everyone seemed to be on a high (no liquor and drugs were not on the menu). Around 70 entrepreneurs and wanna-be entrepreneurs together in one room, popping questions, sharing experiences, expressing doubts and concerns, dishing out advice, some agreeing, some not – all in good humour. Faisal Qureshi being controversial yet speaking from the heart, Jawwad Farid trying not to offend as he passionately talked about flexible working hours and styles and Pakistan being the place where opportunities abound, Adnan Agboatwalla talking about having to make that final leap from a well-paid day job to not getting a salary for a year so that he could chase that dream, Osama bringing in the pains of those first weeks and months of developing a product forgetting to eat and sleep for much of the past 3 years.
The session started at 6.15 pm. By then the room was full- standing room only. Everyone had been given a sticker with their name on it for easy recognition during the networking break. The proceedings began with the laying down of just a couple of basic ground rules – all phones on silent (with the threat that any phone that rang was going to be mine since my phone is on the blink and i desperately need a new one); the panel of entrepreneurs would stick to responses that were not too long so that discourse could take place (I had said 2 minutes but didn’t have the heart to stop passionate outpourings of experiences that were crying out to be shared).
Questions included things like:
1. How do i know i am cut out to be an entrepreneur?
2. How much money do i need to start up?
3. Is it easy to raise capital?
4. How do i put together a team?
5. How do i sell my product or service?
6. What kind of support structures exist?
7. Should I seek VC funding – when is the right time?
8. Is a Business Plan necessary and how do i put one together?
9. Should I develop a product for which I know there is no market right now because it is ahead of its time?
….. and a whole load more.
1. To be an entrepreneur you need passion, you need drive, you need to be prepared to take a risk, you need to believe in yourself… and so on and so forth
2. How much money did they start with? Jawwad said US$15 loans from wife, mother, father, uncle, friend. Adnan said US$10,000 which they got from their savings. Others said just a laptop and a roof over your head, some food, coffee and an Internet connection.
3. It is not easy to raise capital until you have a proof of concept, your first customer.
4. Putting together a team is difficult – if you can find people who are as crazy about the idea as you are and have different strengths, and will stay with you because they have a stake – financial or otherwise, that would be ideal. Otherwise do what we do – hire, train, lose them, hire again – just don’t let it break your heart and DON’T GIVE UP!
5. Use networking opportunities like the events P@SHA has, Green & White, Startup Insider sessions like these
6. VC funding – Stay away if you can for as long as you can
7. Business Plans are not always necessary. Sometimes you put one together for an investor, at other times you do it to focus your own thoughts. Templates are available, come to P@SHA and mentors for help, bring a friend who is a business graduate onto your tech team.
8. Selling your product requires knowing your customers pains, his problems and the money and time your solution can save for him. You need to think on your feet, be able to switch stories that fit a certain scenario (or in Faisal Qureshi’s words ‘be a bit of a con-artist’)
So there it is – only a sampling of what was discussed at this extremely energized session. The Mulazzamat.tv guys were there too to share their experience. We had Faisal Khan CEO of Netxs who came forth with invaluable ideas as did Nauman Sheikh, Dr. Zahir Syed and Azhar Rizvi. We also had the Dawn News team there, the Editor of Spider Magazine Reba Shahid, Rabia Garib Editor in Chief of Netxpress and Asif Qayyum of Si3. Everyone added energy to the discussions. And let us not forget some of the perspectives put forward by Imtiaz Noor who walked in late because he had meetings he couldn’t get out of.
Coffee flowed as did tea and there were chips, samosas, cookies and kulfi – thanks Adnan! The networking break had people huddling up in groups, getting to know each other and sharing ideas on a one-to-one and one-to-many basis. I loved it and can’t wait for the Lahore and Islamabad ones to happen. Thanks to everyone who showed up and special thanks to Jawwad, Osama, Adnan and the two Faisals. For more on the session, do visit Desi Back to Desh and Green & White.
We forgot to take people’s email addresses yesterday so if you were there, and you are reading this, send us an email and let us know so we maintain the contact and we can also let you know about the next event.
Some of the CEOs who were there yesterday and are prepared to mentor, to help with ideas, to look at demos are:
Faisal Qureshi – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jawwad Farid – email@example.com
Adnan Agboatwalla – firstname.lastname@example.org
Osama Hashmi – email@example.com
Jehan Ara – firstname.lastname@example.org
Wanna see the action? Here’s a sampling.
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