There is a good news for entrepreneurs in asia and Malaysia, because there are still many thingd in this part of the world that don't quite work yet, and these are grounds for innovation.
Author Danny Mills says "technology is everything that doesn't work yet" and this means that you have more opportunities in this part of the world that have in Slilicon Valley. there are certain problems available to you here so the scope of innovation to slove these problems are larger here.
The ability to have access to capital is still not quite as good as that in the Silicon Valley. However, it has become a lot cheaper for entrepreneur to gain capital over the years and that asia has a great potential going forward. adding to this is that the entrepreneur ecosystem in Asia has grown in recent years and this helps Asian and Malaysian entrepreneurs. The fact that I can see hundreds of you in this room is a testimony to that.
To spur the technopreneur ecosystem. companies import foreign talents so that they can work with local technopreneurs and give them a chance to learn the spirit of entrepreneurship alongside their more experienced counterparts.
The government of Chile has done this. We know because Angel List gets applications from indigenous Chilean companies for funding and they are every bit as good as those in the Silicon Valley because they've had the bar set high by working with those from Valley itself.
But in the 21st century, intellectual property is the new leverage. Code is power and the new form of leverage because when a programmer writes software, he does so once but every time it gets executed, it doesn't cost him extra. This is the kind of leverage that Yahoo and google had when they came into being.
As entrepreneurs, leverage is your friend and it gives you the power to do what you want to do. entrepreneurs today are more fortunate than those who came before them and they should take advantage of this.
There isn't a fixed formula to start up as an entrepreneur. The most important thing is to do what you love even if others tell you it won't work.
Pick a great co-founder as you'll need someone to be there alongside you. co-founders should be highly intelligent and possess high energy as he or she should be one who never has to be motivated.
A co-founder must have a lot of integrity. If yuou get a highly intelligent partners who's full of energy but has no integrity, you're going to get a smart crook as your partner, and that's the worst kind of co-founder you can have.
Next, pick a very large market that entrepreneurs can easily grow their business in. This is somthing that can be easily done in Asia and even the Silicon Valley does not have such huge markets. Another important thing to note is not to pay attention to idea, as they are irrelevent today.
Ideas are worthless as many can just sit around and think them up. What's more important is that you pick a large market in areas that you're knowledgeable and passionate about and you will figure out what is the right thing yo do in that space. do not go around pitching a great idea and asking for money, as that is the worst thing to do.
Rather, say to your investor that this is the space, articulate the huge market potential it has and show them how passionate you are about the business, the kind of things you could do with your product, the kind of people you have doing things alongside you and show them a minimum viable product that you can use to test the market with.
With the leverages that exist today, an entrepeneur should be able to get a product-market fit - where a product matches what the market needs. Then do you go to people whom you can trust to raise money, and use that money to scale your business.
While basic education is important, it's not necessary for entrepreneurs today to get a graduate degree in the form of an MBA as schools in general tend to force students to conform. Instead, they should try to get into good incubators.
It used to be if you wanted to start a company, you were told to get an MBA and/or a Masters. But entrepreneurs know that going to schools does not teach you to be innovative nor are they grounds for being creative.
The beauty of incubators compaared with graduate schools is that entrepreneurs get paid to get one's education, nothing that in the Silicon Valley, incubators can get anywhere between US$25,000 to US$200,000 of funding for a company.
When you get out, you are not expected to hunt for jobs. Instead you are expected to create jobs for others, so this is completely flipping the school model on its head. You are also not expected to do the work your professor tells you to do but rather, are expected to do something original, something of value the world has never seen before. and finally, you are graded not by professor but by the real world. so the best case is that you create a company and products that will change the world; worst case, you learn by actually creating something.
Below are some of the question posed to him and his answer:
1) Despite the distance between Malaysia and the Silicon Valley, wouldn't the angels want to invest in promising companies here?
That is a really hard problem to overcome, because even with good products, one can be too far away. an angel will first want to get to know you before they invest and once they do, they want to be able to bring their network to help you in any way possible. One way to get past that is to get a local investor who is trusted and has a network in the US himself. the second is to just grow the business to the point that people will look beyond the core team and just focus on the numbers. Perhaps, it is best to follow the Estonia model where you regularly get one or two members of the start-up team to spend six months at a time in the US. this allows them to network locally and for the local players to get to know them too. But if you do that, those who come over to the US must include at least one member of the founding team.
2) What are the key criteria angels look for when investing?
Someone I know described the process of raising money as a group of young men and women seducing a bunch of old men and women. You want to make them see something of themselves in you. which means, it is an emotional sale. Emotional sales do not work on a check list. So, while there are four key categories angels look at, they will usually look for one exceptional characteristic that they really adore. so you yourself must excel in one of these four categories.
As for the categories, it starts with the team you have assembled. the angels want to see that it is a high quality team that has a history of accomplishing good things. the school that you went is less important, eventhough you hear a lot about Ivy League schools.
The second thing they look for is the product itself. You need to focus on building a really good product. I have seen many entrepreneurs who make the mistake of building poor products or half products and then try to explain their way aroud it. Don't. Just build a good product so that investors can play with it and see what it will look like. The reality is that they are highly visual people.
Third is customer traction. This matters a lot. If you have a lot of users/ customers and growing, that is very good. But if you say, give us the money and we will go get customers, they do not like that.
Finally there is something called social proof. If you get one investor in, very often another will come in, or if you have a famous entrepreneur as an adviser, that will help the company too.
3) Right now it seems that 99% of start-ups are in the consumer Internet space. what do you think of enterprise start-ups?
Actually, the odds are very low to make money from consumer products and it takes a long time too. so, actually, more investors want to invest in enterprise rather than consumer companies, especially in this part of the world. But you have to do somthing that investors like that is exciting, new and dynamic. You can take lessons from the consumer space and bring it to the enterprise space, and absolutely no clunky apps please. One reason investors like consumer apps id because they use them too. for example, pipedrive.com is a web-based CRM and sales management software as a services tool. They basically asked themselves, what if Apple came up with salesforce.com. In this way, they brought something fresh and new to the space.
4) As a successful investor, what type of start-ups will be hot in the next five years?
Frankly, there is an enormous amount of luck involved here. I have had three successful investments and that was out of almost 60. I thought all of them were going to be as successful as Twitter!
Even looking back today, I can't explain to you why Twitter is successful and I think anyone who tells you they know what they are doing with their investment is basically lying.
But, if I had to guess, the next hot thing will revolve around the mobile. this is a device that has about 12 sensors in it and each is on all the time. someone will cleverly stitch them all togehter and do things we cannot imagine today. Also, many things don't work yet, so in reality, there is a lot to be done.
5)What about the risk of exposing our idea to someone who may copy it?
Whatever your idea is - kust google it. It is already out there.
6) The prospects for angel investors exiting from their investment here is not very strong. How do you see them coping and what other means to exit can they look at? Also, do you see your fund expanding here?
The reality is that investors don't invest where thy are not. With angel list, I wanted to deocratise angel investing globally. But in reality, over half our deal volume is in the Silicon Valley and around 90% of the deals are in the US.
As far as other means for angels to exit, I think the chances are much better, especially on the M&A side. for instance, lots of companies realise they need to go global quickly and open branch offices globally, for example, Google, Groupon, LinkedIn, and in the beginning they would buy the local clones. But hopefully those will not be the only exits here because the problem with that is that it does not encourage creativity. I should add that these companies are now also buying for the talent - the designers, engineers, developers and so on.
On the local front here, I am hoping that your large companies realise they too need to acquire local start-ups. for instance, maybe Maxis will start acquiring start-ups in the mobilephone space. That started happening in the US in 2007, but then the bubble burst. Nevertheless, I see a second coming. I don't know what will happen on the local front, but what is going to happen here is that a lot of local angel investors will lose a lot of money until the cycleturns and big companies start buying small companies. Investos in at the right time will make a lot of money then.
7) I have already raised money overseas, but I notice that local investor appetite is very poor. What can we do to whet their appetite?
The best way is to create a startup that creates rich people who then invest in other tech startups themselves. In the US, when Google went public, its staff suddenly had a lot of money, and since they made their money from a tech company, they started to invest in other tech companies.
8) What are a service-based company's chances in terms of raising angel funding?
It is harder because it is very people based; you have less leverage and lower margins. so, investors don't like it as much. while they do get funded, you have to be further along in your growth and must demonstrate that there is a strong IP-based component to the company so that it becomes a more financiable business
9) What is your take on the lean startup movement?
Well lean startups sound great - do it quickly and cheaply. I think every startup should do that, but I also encourage you not to get caught up in movement and terminology. You can take a lot from this movement, such as stay small until you figure out what works. Steve Blank, a serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of Epiphany, defines a startup as a search for a scalable and repeatable business model. So until you find that, I would advise you to stay very small and cheap.
The above are reference and excerpt from : The Edge .
Profile: Naval Ravikant
Naval is an entrepreneur and angel investor, a co-author of Venture Hacks and co-maintainer of AngelList, Previously, he was a co-founder at Genoa Corp, which was acquirred by Finisar, Epinions, IPO via shopping.com and Vast.com, a large white-label classified marketplace. He has advised Bix.com, iPivot and XFire and invested in Twitter. Foursquare, DocVerse, which was sold to Google, Mixer Labs - Sold to Twitter, Jambool, snapLogic, PlanCast, StackOverflow, Heyzap and Disqus. Ravikant is recognised for changing the way angel investments are made in high tech startups, earning the title of one of the Top Angels in Tech by BusinessWeek in 2010.