- Player: David Seinker
- Company: The Business Exchange
- Established: 2014
- Visit: thebusinessexchange.co.za
The house at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, California is not an especially impressive structure. It’s a small, very middle-class home. So it’s rather surprising to find out that it’s been designated a historic site. Why? Because it’s the house where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak first started building computers in the garage.
A lot of great businesses got their start in a garage or some other informal structure, and are proud of their humble beginnings.
There comes a time, however, when you need to get out of the garage. As a business grows and starts to land some notable clients, a certain level of professionalism is expected, and that means securing office space.
The Peril Of The Lease
The move into office space is a big decision, mostly because it demands the signing of a lease. It’s great to move into a swanky office, but it’s also easy to tie yourself into a monthly payment that you can’t afford.
“It’s tempting to rent a conventional office soon after launching a business,” says David Seinker, founder of The Business Exchange.
“But it’s risky to take on a lot of monthly expenses if your company is still very young. It adds extra, and often unnecessary, pressure.”
An entrepreneur himself, Seinker understands the need for upmarket office space that start-ups and young businesses can access at an affordable price, without taking on a lease and additional employees, like a receptionist.
“As much as one wants to warn against moving into offices too soon, it’s also understandable why a lot of businesses decide to do so. They want a receptionist who can answer the phone, they want a nice boardroom where they can meet with clients — it all adds to the level of professionalism a new company can offer,” says Seinker.
Accessible Office Space
With this in mind, Seinker launched The Business Exchange in 2014. “I wanted to create flexible office space that businesses could make use of without spending a fortune every month, or tying themselves into long-term leases,” he says.
Serviced workspaces, like The Business Exchange, are gaining in popularity because of the freedom they provide. A company gets to have a great headquarters, without having to deal with all the hassles normally associated with it.
“Apart from being quite affordable compared to traditional office space, a place like The Business Exchange also offers other perks such as fibre Internet, biometric access, flexible lease options, boardrooms and videoconferencing facilities,” says Seinker. “And, of course, businesses don’t need to have these facilities installed and maintained themselves. It’s all managed for them.”
But Who Is This Sort Of Offering Aimed At? Is It Only For Start-Ups?
“It depends on the sort of serviced workspace you’re looking at,” says Seinker. “Some really only offer a ‘hot desk’ and are aimed purely at start-ups. Others, though, try to cater for a larger market. The Business Exchange is largely aimed at companies that have three employees or more. It’s definitely not just start-ups that make use of our facilities. Our offering is designed to support growth SMEs.”
Tapping Into A Community
Another great benefit of a shared workspace is the ability to tap into a network and build relationships.
“We try to hold regular events and facilitate networking between companies,” says Seinker.
“Firstly, it helps to communicate with other start-ups when you’re just starting out. Starting a business can be a lonely experience. Secondly, relationships lead to business opportunities. We’ve seen many examples where an informal chat with someone from another business led to a great opportunity.”
Moving from your garage or home office is a necessary step when growing your start-up, but it’s always risky. Don’t get tied into a pricey lease too early.
(Infographic) The 20 Most Common Reasons Start-ups Fail And How To Avoid Them
These do’s and don’ts can make or break your start-up.
So, you have a great new idea or invention, and you are ready to open your start-up business. But, you’ve been scared by the well-publicised statistic about start-up failure – more than 50 percent of small businesses fail in the first four years.
Opening and operating a successful start-up requires some luck hard-work and thoughtful planning – as well as the ability to adapt that plan. Having been involved as a consultant to numerous start-ups over the past decade, I have seen some fail, some achieve a modicum of success, and some make it big.
Here are a few do’s and don’ts that will help guide your start-up to the promised land:
- Don’t think that a great idea or a great product is enough. The start-up graveyard is littered with amazing ideas and products that have failed.
- Do have a business plan that includes every aspect of how you will run your operation and how it will be successful. It should include all anticipated costs, marketing, manufacturing, the technology required and staffing. A business plan should also include how you will market and sell your product.
- Don’t think your idea or product is original and because you and your friends think it’s amazing, means that it is and there’s a market for it.
- Do lots of research before you spend your money. As a consultant, I have on three separate occasions been asked to help with a business plan for a start-up, where I discovered almost exactly what they are doing has been tried before and failed. In two of those instances, the previous failures indicated that the idea wasn’t good. In the third instance, we were able to learn from the previous mistakes and actually make a successful run at it. The number one reason start-ups fail is that there is no market for their offering.
- Don’t assume you will get financing other than the money you start with from yourself, family and friends. Only a very small percentage of start-ups get Venture Capital (VC) funding and in fact, the funding bubble has burst. And that means early-stage start-ups are getting little or no love from outside equity firms.
- Do assume the initial funding you have will be all you get, so the goal is to have the lowest burn rate possible. Therefore, your initial business plan should have a route to profitability and sustainability before the money runs out. The number two reason start-ups fail is that they run out of money.
- Don’t think that your expert knowledge of your business, a well-developed business plan and proficiency in PowerPoint are enough to craft an investor deck that will get a private equity firm’s attention.
- Do hire an expert consultant who has done this before. VCs can smell an embellished or amateurish deck 100 miles away. You typically only get one look by a potential investor, so make sure your investor deck is the absolute best it can be.
- Don’t assume that technology will be easy or come as scheduled. In almost every start-up I have been involved with, where the need for technology advancement was crucial to success, there were unanticipated issues and delays.
- Do assume that there will be delays in technological deliveries and therefore you need to leave a buffer for that in your business plan. Do have a competent development team and if they are not performing, replace them as soon as possible.
- Don’t think that you can go at this alone or that it will be easy to assemble a winning team.
- Do select your team members carefully, trying to add as much diversity as possible. The most successful start-ups that I have seen have mixed experience and newbies as well as the more traditional kind of diversity. The number three reason startups fail is that they have the wrong team.
- Don’t think customers are just waiting for your offering and investors will be lining up to give you money simply because your idea is amazing – even if you have been a successful serial entrepreneur in the past.
- Do be humble and realistic about everyone you meet. Relationships are a key to success, and like with personal relationships, if you want to be successful, be sure you see yourself as others see you. I have witnessed a lack of self-awareness and a big ego from owner’s doom potentially successful start-ups.
- Don’t think you are leaving a nine-to-five job for the easy and flexible life of being your own boss. A start-up is a seven-day-a-week occupation and now it’s your money and reputation that are solely on the line.
- Do plan to work harder than you ever have with little return on your efforts for an extended period. Do be honest with everyone you interact with, as your reputation will ultimately be a key to your success.
To have big success as a startup, you’ll have to master all the do’s and don’ts above, and that’s a daunting task. So, before you begin, the question you must ask yourself is: “How badly do you want it?!”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
3 Actionable Insights To Make Your Investment Pitch Perfect
The best pitches aren’t just short and to the point, they deliver on investor expectations and needs.
The best pitches aren’t just short and to the point, they deliver on investor expectations and needs.
1. Confront your product and market flaws from the start
Investors come from business and investment backgrounds. They will recognise the potential dangers in your business model. If you ignore these elements, you’re not addressing key concerns they may have, and how you will protect the business against them.
DO THIS: Look at your business from every angle. Where are your potential weaknesses, and what is your plan to overcome them?
2. Pitch to the right investors
The sectors and mandates that different investors and funds follow dictates the businesses that will interest them. Pitching your business to the wrong investors wastes their time, your time, and potentially damages your brand in the market place — waste the time of too many investors, and the word will spread.
DO THIS: Research the investors and funds you are pitching to thoroughly. This will narrow your focus, and help you develop your pitch deck. It will also help you unpack the areas of the business that you’ve discovered are important to the particular investors you’re pitching to.
3. Don’t follow fads
Investors aren’t interested in ‘flash in the pan’ business ideas. They care about products that stand a chance of long-term success. You might start off selling to a niche audience, but the goal must be to reach a wider audience as the product develops and matures.
DO THIS: Critically evaluate the staying power of your business idea. Is it a product that’s trendy but could lose traction as market fads change, or does it solve a real and enduring need?
5 Tips To Get You Ready To Launch That Business Now
Are you dreaming about becoming an entrepreneur, but not sure whether you’re ready to take the plunge? Some of the world’s top entrepreneurs weigh in on what it takes to be a success.
1. Think out the box
A general rule of thumb is that you should do what you know. Spend time in an industry before launching your business, build up a network and understand your target market and their needs. This is all sound advice, and has been the foundation of many successful start-ups.
However, there is an inherent danger that entrepreneurs should avoid at all costs: Many industries are bound by legacy ideas and systems that are the enemy of disruption and innovation. Entrepreneurs who didn’t know something couldn’t be done are often the ones who find a way to make it happen.
Approach an industry or idea with fresh eyes. Take lessons from other industries. Don’t be limited by your lack of knowledge — go out and learn, even if you’re learning on the fly.
Airbnb, Uber and Netflix are three of the most disruptive businesses in the world today, and they’ve achieved phenomenal success because they didn’t buy into the simple and engrained idea that an accommodation business should own property, a taxi service should own vehicles, or a movie rentals business needed to own DVDs.
If you really want to differentiate, you need to lead, not follow.
“Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” — Sara Blakely, Spanx founder and self-made billionaire
2. Be an open-source person
Have you been delaying launching your own business because you’re not sure if you’re ready? Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have taken the plunge and learnt along the way. Gil Oved and Ran Neu-Ner, founders of The Creative Counsel — South Africa’s biggest advertising agency with an annual turnover of R750 million — followed this simple rule in their start-up days: They always bit off more than they could chew, and then chewed like hell.
Their philosophy was that ‘no’ was never the end of a negotiation, but the beginning of one. This tenacity kept them going, even though they spent their first year barely making ends meet.
Gil and Ran are not alone in their thinking. Robin Olivier, founder of Digicape, a R240 million Apple products and services business, prepared himself for entrepreneurship by putting his hand up for anything and everything that came his way. “I’ve always been like that. I jump in with two feet and figure things out along the way.” For Robin, that’s the only way you learn.
Joshin Raghubar, founder of iKineo and the chairman of Bandwidth Barn and the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative, began his career working for Ravi Naidoo at African Interactive. At 23, he found himself project managing the African Connection Rally, a massive partnership with the Department of Transport. Why? Because he was always ready to step in, learn something new, offer his opinion and take on any challenge.
Joshin believes that successful entrepreneurs are open-source people who are willing and able to consistently and continuously learn new things. If you’re moving forward every day, you’re already on the path to success.
3. Be significant
Start-ups are tough. They are lonely, and they take a lot from you physically, mentally and emotionally. Passion and significance are two key components that will keep you going through your darkest hours. If you can answer why you are doing something, you’ll be able to forge on, even when the challenges ahead seem almost insurmountable.
“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it,” says Elon Musk, who isn’t letting go of his dream to colonise Mars during his lifetime, despite many challenging tasks ahead of him. The lesson is simple: Whatever you endeavour to accomplish, out of this world or not, do not allow yourself to be deterred by the odds. Bravely forge ahead.
Steve Jobs shared a similar outlook. Before entering into business with Steve Wozniak, he dropped out of college and took time off figuring out what he wanted to do with his life.
“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work,” he said. “And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
If you know you want to be an entrepreneur, but you aren’t sure what you should be doing or haven’t found the right business idea, think about the things that truly matter to you. What problem would you ultimately like to solve? Sometimes you need to build up to it, and start with one thing that will lead you to the next (consider how Musk built the Tesla to fund other parts of his business), but once you’re on the path to significance, nothing will hold you back.
“The key to realising a dream is to focus not on success but on significance — and then even the small steps and little victories along your path will take on greater meaning.” — Oprah Winfrey, self-made billionaire media mogul
4. Look for opportunities in every challenge
Some people see challenges, others see opportunities. The latter are known as entrepreneurs. Some of the most successful businesses have been launched in the midst of recessions. How? Because entrepreneurs aren’t daunted by a challenge. In fact, challenges are great, because they keep the competitive pool smaller.
Vinny Lingham, Shark Tank South Africa investor and serial entrepreneur, says that he would rather have been homeless than not start a company because he didn’t have any finances. He sold his house, rented back a room in his (now former) home, and launched Clicks2Customers, a business that hit the R100 million turnover mark three years later. He didn’t see the challenge; he focused on the opportunity.
You’ll have to keep a close eye on cash flow and find some really smart solutions to real-life problems, but that’s the foundation of a great start-up. It’s all about the lens you see the world through. Are you open to opportunities, or limited by challenges?
“Dear optimist, pessimist, and realist — while you guys were busy arguing about the glass of wine, I drank it! Sincerely, the opportunist!”— Lori Greiner, Shark Tank US investor
5. Failure is a critical element of success
Don’t let failure hold you back, or worse yet, keep you from trying. You already know that failure is a part of the business of entrepreneurship, but it’s easier said than done when you’re picking yourself back up after a bad break. Remember that with a shift in your perspective you can transform the stumbles and falls into opportunities to improve yourself and your business offerings. What didn’t work? What did? Keep at it — you only have to get it right once.
Oprah agrees. “At some point, you are bound to stumble, because if you’re constantly doing what we do, raising the bar; if you’re constantly pushing yourself higher, higher, the law of averages — not to mention the Myth of Icarus — predicts that you will at some point fall. And when you do I want you to know this, remember this: There is no such thing as failure. Failure is just life trying to move us in another direction.”
And what about Richard Branson? The billionaire mogul has launched more than 200 successful ventures, but he’s also had some dismal failures, including Virgin Cola and Virgin Brides. If he didn’t ‘screw it, just do it’ in the face of failure, where might he be today?
Instead, he believes in getting back up and pushing on. “The main thing is, if you have an idea for business, as I say, screw it, just do it. Give it a go. You may fall flat on your face, but you pick yourself up and keep trying until you succeed,” he says.
There’s no such thing as a successful entrepreneur who didn’t fail while they found their success. But, there are many, many entrepreneurs who haven’t found success because they’ve been too afraid to fail. Which will you be?
“Don’t worry about failure. You only have to be right once.” — Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox
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