Reflections on “5 Go to Funding Steps” Talk by Anuj Khanna — what makes a successful entrepreneur?

This week Anuj gave us an incredibly inspiring talk from his very own personal start-up experience, and I thought it couldn’t be more of a perfect opportunity to write my reflection and thoughts on this talk.

 

Before we dive into the five steps and the successful “cycle” developed by Anuj, I want to point out some of my observations on the quality of a successful entrepreneur:

Energy, Courage & Belief

When Anju started his presentation, there is this immense energy that was beaming out from him, he sounded energetic, excited and extremely confident. He had a presence on that stage, and I believe it is exactly that presence which won over his investors. I think it is a essential quality personality wise that contributes to a successful entrepreneur. When you start up, you have to channel all your energy and be excited about it, as if nothing is out there too scary to stop you, which leads to his 1st point:

 

1. Commitment

Why is this the very first point? I wonder. And after some soul searching I think Anuj is right about this. A 100% commitment is the very foundation of your start-up journey, if that foundation is not strong enough to support you, everything else will eventually fall apart. Just like what Anuj said in a positive direction: “When you commit 100%, everything else will just fall into the right place.” You have to be committed to your start-up, and by “committed” I think it translates to more of a powerful determination. You have to be determined to walk this path, and stop looking other ways. I confess that the very idea of starting up without a backup scares me, but that is exactly what is holding me back. Simply put, I’m not ready to commit yet, and I am very sure that I’m not alone in this. The idea of “be your own boss” is very attractive and in the mean time intimidating. Therefore what most people will do is to treat it as a “trial” and prepare them a “safety net” while starting up. “If things go wrong, I always have a _______ as a backup” they will think. However this very move of leaving yourself an exit is what prevents you from devoting yourself wholeheartedly in the start-up business.

 

2. Compelling Concept

When I was listening to this point, my biggest take away from Anuj’s stories was that he managed to “deceive” himself. “Compelling” does not just mean compelling to others, but most importantly compelling to yourself. In other words, I think this whole point is about the power of believe. You have to believe in your idea so strong that you manage to “mesmerize” yourself. When you have a idea, it doesn’t matter if others think it is absurd, stupid or impossible. You have to believe in it. Believe it is going to work despite all the other odds. Believe it is the brightest idea on earth. Believe that your idea is “bulletproof”, to quote Anuj. Believe it like your very own little religion, and you will make it happen if your belief is strong enough.

 

3. Customer Contracts

Once you have your idea and you are committed to it, you have yourself sorted out. This is the step to get others on board and put it down on paper. Anuj’s story was fascinating, how he managed to get Coke, M1 and all the big names to jump on board? I think I’d like to use the word “gumption”. It doesn’t matter if you are not full of experience or credentials, it is all about gumption. If you think you are small and insignificant, others will treat you the exact same way. What Anuj did was a bold move, but it worked! and Why? I think he truly believed that his concept was compelling enough and it really can make a difference, and he did not think for a second that he was insignificant to speak to head of marketing of APEC at Coke. That confidence, or “gumption” is what let Anuj to grasp renowned clients right from the beginning.

 

4. Competent Co-founders

I’m not going to repeat what he mentioned during the talk and this point is very straight forward: get the competent partner. But I do want to talk about what we have to do to allow us to find the right partner. I think the key is “don’t be afraid to share”. Many will have the fear of getting their ideas stolen or “copied”, and that is a legitimate concern. However I think by putting your faith and trust in people first is way more productive and helpful than starting with doubt and suspicion. In a way, I believe “offense is the best defense”. By putting your trust in other people first, they naturally feel a sense of responsibility and a sense of being valued, and that implies an expected mutual trust and cooperation. We all have conscience. Doing something unethical is agains our nature and it is not a pleasant feeling. If you let your guard down and put your faith in your partners first, instead of setting up your defenses in every step of the way, it helps to let other people’s guard down and to create a positive, cooperative atmosphere. Plus, so what if someone copied your idea? Does that mean that person will succeed? He might not have the resources/advantages you have. Therefore, have a little faith in yourself and in other people when you look for the “competent co-founders”.

 

5. Cash & Capital

I think what Anuj said was so true. There’s enough cash to go around, but definitely not enough good people to invest in. Personally I believe money is the last thing to worry about if you do the 4 steps before right. For starters I personally think step 1 is a hard enough challenge. Imagine if one is fully committed, determined, have the right partners, the right clients and with a brilliant idea, who wouldn’t want to invest in this potential “the next big thing” and get a share in that if it succeed? However of course when you source for funding you have to be smart about it, neither under value yourself nor over estimate. Overall I strongly believe we should concentrate on the first 4 steps and do it right. The money will come just like everything else that falls in place to make your idea come true!

 

So what are your thoughts on the talk? Your insights are more than welcome!

8 thoughts on “Reflections on “5 Go to Funding Steps” Talk by Anuj Khanna — what makes a successful entrepreneur?

  1. Thank you sir! There’s no better lesson than the ones drawn from real personal experiences. I really enjoyed Anuj’s talk, thank you for this incredible opportunity!

  2. Yes I totally agree that it was an amazing session! There were so many valuable lessons I learnt from him! Perhaps the biggest take home point for me was when he was talking about finding a committed team. Personally, I have been planning to start a business since I was 18 and i have been investing all my time and money on improving myself and trying out different businesses knowing that I will definitely work in my own company after I graduate. During my years in NUS, I have met lots of people that claim that they want to start a business and are “committed” to it, and I have even partnered with a few of them. To my disappointment, they are often just all talk. When projects or exams come, they will just put the business as second place, leaving me to do all the work. I was kind of skeptical when my 2 friends approached me with a startup idea but after hearing what Anuj said, I feel that I have found partners that are indeed committed to this and I’m willing to give it a shot. The exciting thing is that we came up with another business idea (the original one was scrapped) that fully utilizes all of our skill sets… so it’s no longer just attitude that they possess, but also the aptitude and relevant skills!

  3. Hey Chenglong, thanks for the summary! I agree with your article and thoughts in general however I’m not very comfortable with Point 2, when you say that one needs to ‘deceive oneself’ that one’s idea is the best around. It’s impossible to deceive yourself. It just doesn’t work. What Anuj said was more about finding all the possible loop-holes in your plan, address all those concerns and bullet-proof that plan. By doing so its solving real problems and coming up with a more viable, much stronger plan that is backed by the opinions of others and tested against their wits. This is positive conviction, rather than self deception. What do you think?

    • Hey Justin, to deceive oneself doesn’t mean “lie to yourself”. Sure there’s a bit of tennis ball going on in your mind like “this doesn’t work, you are stupid” but if you repeat it enough and really try to believe, anything can be turned around. I really think one can convince oneself that his idea IS the best idea on earth, regardless of the grim possibility of success. That how we achieve breakthroughs like inventing a light bulb or split the atom to find protons, neutrons and electrons which atom was believed to be the smallest matter.

  4. I truly agree to the 4th point. Personally, I felt that every good idea should be shared.

    I remember when I was younger, my mum had always asked me to share my toys with my brother. At that point of time, I was angry as it seems to be unfair and not justifiable. However, not long, my brother and I found new ways to bring out new joy from the toy that I would not have achieved alone.

    One key take away was that being selfish or closed would not have brought you to the next level for your idea. Many times, it is your friends or strangers that you shared with that give you a better perspective of your product or idea.

  5. Thanks for sharing!
    There is one more thing I realized after meeting Anuj, that is to be a qualified entrepreneur, we have to act according to what we believe.

    Anuj’s commitment not only reflected on his speech, but also how he inspired the others to refine their ideas and came up with a more compelling concept to attract customer contracts.

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