Category: Articles

Unravelling the startup culture – The Nation

Unravelling the startup culture – The Nation

Globally, startup culture has matured. However, for Pakistan, only the past few years have seen significant growth in the trend as various ventures raised significant funds to help the industry flourish. In 2020 alone, Pakistani startups raised $65 million, further encouraging the youngsters to step up on the entrepreneurial path, however difficult it may be.

Despite earlier ground realities such as the lack of entrepreneurial scope amongst the youth, the last decade saw young minds seeking to ‘start up’ something of their own. To support such young entrepreneurs, Pakistan has launched more than a dozen incubation centres, numerous accelerator programmes and investment platforms where entrepreneurial minds are trained, harnessed and given their first boost.

While undoubtedly our country has an abundance of talented and innovative minds, with optimistic cash flow now rolling in, the question of why this brilliance never reaches full potential comes up far too much.

Evidently, the reason why many startups crash before reaching the cultivation period is due to the approach of the entrepreneurs themselves. Many enter this sector thinking it will give them easy and fast cash since they will be earning on their own. In reality, the initial years are all about hard work, passion and dedication. After a few bumps in the road, many entrepreneurs retreat to stable income jobs and develop a fear of failure as their confidence is shaken.

Failure is a word that is hushed and brushed under the carpet in our conservative society as it negates success and growth. A failed idea, individual or startup is often met with humiliation and frowns and this massively discourages entrepreneurs from taking the first few steps, let alone trying again from scratch if they fail. Parents should be pushing their children towards creativity and thinking outside the box instead of promoting safe and risk free plans.

Outside of this inherent problem, there seems to be a serious lack of funding available for start-ups which prevents them from growing into established businesses. It is pivotal for entrepreneurs to attract enough investments to see their business take full flight. Unfortunately, despite having investment platforms, the raised funds are mostly not enough to help the business itself for the long term.

To top it up, well established companies in the corporate sector are always hesitant to invest their money in a new venture. A well-known reason behind this is the poorly strategised startup plans. A strong framework that has a smooth exit strategy at its maturity is a sound startup plan for large investors. Unfortunately, this is not the case with many infant businesses.

Planet N Group, Invest2Innovate, Techstars Ventures, Abraaj Group and Frontier Digital Ventures are amongst the few daring corporations that are taking steps to create a startup ecosystem. Two more big names known for their vision and innovative approach are Arpatech and DotZero, both of which have been at the back of some significantly successful startups.

Another notable name to highlight is the application, Careem. Belonging to humble beginnings itself, Careem now takes pride in cultivating entrepreneurial ideas amongst its employees, some of which have successfully managed to launch their own ventures.

While these corporations are working for the entrepreneurial journey, the education sector also needs to step up. The addition of entrepreneurship courses at an early stage of the academic curriculum, accurate training on how to set up a business and encouraging entrepreneurial ideas are some of the steps that can help youth kickoff startup plans.

When setting up a strong foundation in any sector, it is essential to rise above mediocrity and safe zones. Young entrepreneurs must have apt knowledge and evaluations tactics to step strongly into the market, and the education sector has a role to play as well. This is the point in history where Pakistan shifts its focus towards 55 percent of its under-19 population and cashes in on their potential. It is time we accept that we require new economic patterns and earning trends if the wish to compete in this fast-changing global environment.

2020 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Stride Funding, Harvard Business School – Poets&Quants

MBA Program: Harvard Business School

Industry: FinTech / EdTech

Founding Student Name(s): Tess Michaels

Brief Description of Solution: Stride offers affordable, flexible financing via income share agreements (ISAs). With an ISA, students agree to pay a fixed percentage of their income for a specified number of years after graduation. Stride is currently focused on STEM and healthcare students across graduate programs and alternative education programs.

Key ISA benefits include:

  1. Affordable and flexible payments tied to earnings
  2. Downside protection (i.e., no payments when making <$40k)
  3. Shorter duration (<5 years vs. 10+ for traditional loans)
  4. Career resources (i.e., weekly content, placement partnerships, resume services, peer2peer networks)

Funding Dollars:  >$3.75 Million in Venture Capital

What led you to launch this venture?  As a first-generation graduate student entering Harvard Business School, I explored different financing options and realized once you add tuition, books, and housing, graduate school is incredibly expensive, so I sought better ways to align the cost and value of education.

With rising tuition costs and increasing unemployment rates (#thanksCovid), students are increasingly cautious about how to pay for school. Additionally, traditional loans are 10+ years in duration, inflexible, accrue interest while in school, and have misaligned incentives.

We sought to offer a short-duration, more flexible and supportive financing product to give students increased confidence about their choice to go back to school. We see the strong demand for ISAs especially in uncertain market environments like we have today. We’ve seen a 4x month-over-month increase in our application volume during Covid.

Education is key to mobility, and ISAs are a much better way to fund it!

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? 

* Impact: We have funded 95% STEM students, 85% women, and 75% under-represented minorities to-date.

* Scale: We’ve gained significant student demand and improved the effectiveness of our marketing channels. We’ve had over 2,000 ISA applications with over $60 million of ISA demand. We’ve successfully funded and on-boarded our first two cohorts of students in top STEM programs at schools like Columbia, NYU, Penn State, Northeastern, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Carnegie Mellon, etc. We are in the process of integrating and launching with a top 3 national STEM provider that serves over 1,000 students per year via ISAs.

* Product: We’ve fully built and launched our in-school ISA product. We offer an end-to-end solution from origination, pricing, underwriting, contracting, funding, and career support. In 2019, we did an asset acquisition of another ISA player (Base Capital), including a proprietary python-based pricing model incorporating millions of resumes increasing our analytics capabilities and competitive moat.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? HBS offers unparalleled access – access to inspiring professors, dedicated mentors, top investors, and diverse peers. I’ve learned from professors how to scale a tech venture, build a brand, value our business, and learn from entrepreneurial failure. I’ve gained mentors organically, such as Tina Sharkey (founder of Brandless) who was a speaker in my Creating Brand Value course who then became an advisor, operating capital investor, and ISA capital investor.

I vetted and launched Stride during HBS ‘Start Up Bootcamp’. I gained office space and helpful mentors via the Venture Incubation Program and I was able to ideate with peers and advisors who kept us accountable on our timelines and milestones during the HBS Rock Accelerator. We had weekly meetings with Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and a set of peers going through parallel journeys.

Lastly, it was special to be on campus surrounded by students who experience the pain point we’re trying to solve daily. Several of my classmates were a part of the journey – Stride truly is “for students by students.”

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Peter Thiel was the founder who inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship. While at UPenn, I heard Peter give a talk after he released his book Zero To One. During his talk, he emphasized that being an “entrepreneur” is not a goal, rather pursuing a significant problem you’re passionate about solving and becoming an entrepreneur to do so is what creates meaningful businesses. Thus, when I personally experienced the pain point and saw the need for more flexible educational funding options, I went all in on building Stride. Also, he emphasized the importance of being bold and innovative – not just horizontal, incremental progress of going from 1 to n but vertical, transformational progress of going from zero to 1 – we strive to disrupt the traditional student loan industry!

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? My favorite class was Tech Sales given sales is such an undervalued yet critical skill regardless of the role we pursue post-graduation. The class was taught by two incredible professors and practioners, Lou Shipley (CEO of Blackduck Software which was bought by Synopsis) and Mark Roberge (SVP of HubSpot). The class was very hands-on with mock sales calls, sales interviews with local sales reps from reputable local firms (e.g., Toast), and guest speakers from relevant backgrounds.

Also, the case method at HBS is such an impactful, unique teaching approach. We learn from fellow peers who have collective experiences that far surpass any individual or any textbook – from the military to Tesla to early stage start-up and big corporations – who are invaluable to the learning experience.

The biggest lesson I learned was around the importance of inquiry vs advocacy: ask the right questions early. I constantly keep “BANT” (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing) as key questions I want answered during early calls to ensure I know the best next steps and key stakeholders to effectively partner.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? I’m grateful for the number of highly engaged, supportive mentors I’ve gained at HBS. I have been able to meet professors with incredible networks who have given me great guidance and I’ve been able to learn from their careers. Professor Jeff Bussgang most directly influenced by HBS experience and journey growing Stride. He was my IP advisor for two semesters guiding me during Stride’s growth. He has introduced me to many VC investors, potential partners, advisors, and supporters of Stride. He’s been a big advocate for the business, forced me to think differently and bigger, and recently invested in our business. I appreciated his guidance beyond tactical facets of the business to more “soft” areas such as people management, hiring decisions, etc. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 job, and it’s great to learn from someone who’s been through that journey and came out stronger and wiser.

How did the pandemic impact your startup plans? During Covid-19, we have expanded our offerings, raised capital sooner, been more thoughtful on cash burn, and integrated virtual “bonding activities” to keep the team strong.

We have expanded our core business from just traditional schools to alternative education providers (e.g., coding boot camps) given the tailwinds in the space. Also, during recessionary periods, more people go back to school, and we help them do that through flexible and affordable Income Share Agreements (ISAs). More than ever, students need an advocate for their success after school; during COVID-19, Stride has been building a network of future employers, partnering with interview prep consultants and connecting students with one another for support.

We also raised more VC capital during Covid to ensure we have enough runway and we temporarily froze hiring to better manage the cash burn.

While we had to onboard interns virtually, we want the team to continue to feel connected, so we’ve integrated weekly bonding activities such as improv, game nights, trivia, etc. It has been a great way to keep everyone together – like a family – optimistic and resilient.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? Stride aims to elevate educational experiences and accelerate economic empowerment through affordable funding of higher education. That goal drove us to think more broadly about outcome-driven financing.

Over the next year, we plan to sign up and onboard over 1,500 students onto Stride’s platform. We’ll have grown the Stride community offering career support, mentorship, placement partnerships, and networking to ensure the best outcomes for students. Over the next five years, we will expand via new markets (e.g., alternative education partnerships, corporate upskilling, international grad students), and new products (e.g., refinance). This is Stride’s first product in the broader vision of making outcome-driven financing the future – we’re wholeheartedly focused on helping students hit their stride!


Belief Systems – You Have Been Conditioned To Be Mediocre – Business 2 Community

Belief Systems – You Have Been Conditioned To Be Mediocre – Business 2 Community

You Have Been Conditioned To Be Mediocre

Your belief systems are the result of early conditioning. The educational system in America is responsible for suppressing the flames of entrepreneurship as soon as we enter public school. Our educational systems has taught you to avoid any activity where there is a potential for failure. As a result, you have been conditioned to be mediocre.

As babies, when we learn to walk our first attempts, end in failure. With the encouragement of our parents, we were urged to try over and over again until finally, we manage a single step before crashing to the floor. After a few more attempts we string together 2 steps then 3 and so on until we master walking. As the saying goes “practice makes perfect” right. Then we go to school and are told that failure is bad. When we fail we are conditioned to feel bad and over time we learn to avoid conditions and situations where we might fail.

As adults, most people never try their hand at entrepreneurship because they do not believe it is possible to succeed. They choose to dwell on the small business failure rates as justification for their inactions. Occasionally, some might make a halfhearted attempt at a side hustle and when they experience their first failure they abandon it quickly and settle back into a life of mediocrity. They use the failure of their experience as a reinforcement of their belief system. It has been said that, “Beliefs drive our behaviors and that our behaviors lead to our results.” Beliefs are the cause, behaviors the effect, and success is the predictable result.

Successful entrepreneurs know their behaviors are driven by their beliefs and that it is their behaviors that allow them to succeed.

Recommended For You Webcast, March 26th: Deterministic Attribution for the Win: Why Classic Attribution Approaches Are Setting You Up to Fail
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Entrepreneurs approach each day with passion, purpose, and excitement, knowing that opportunities are unlimited. This mentality sets off a firestorm of events that lead them to bigger and better opportunities. They walk through life thinking they have the world by the balls and can create their own future that leads to behaviors that support their beliefs and motivates them to take actions that generate results.

“Abundance attracts abundance” the same as “scarcity attracts more scarcity”. As saying goes,

“If you think you can, you can, if you think you can’t, you’re right”.

Mary Kay Ash

If you are afraid of risk failure you will never act. If you believe you will be successful in business your operating with an abundance mentally and you are on your way to being successful.

All of us have everything we need to be successful in whatever we choose, but most people do not know it. Successful entrepreneurs do, that is why they are successful. Being successful is not rocket science. It all starts with what you believe.

Are your belief systems preventing you from being successful?

4 Ways Do-It-Yourself Entrepreneurs Can (and Should) Keep Things Simple – Entrepreneur

4 Ways Do-It-Yourself Entrepreneurs Can (and Should) Keep Things Simple – Entrepreneur

If you’re new to the DIY business model, make sure to do things the right way to protect your sanity.

January 30, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The world of entrepreneurship can seem extremely complex. After all, entrepreneurs have a lot of different responsibilities on their plates. From developing products and services to managing contractors and marketing campaigns, the to-do list can seem never-ending.

Despite this, the oft-quoted cliche, “Keep it simple, stupid,” still has great meaning for entrepreneurs — especially those who bring a do-it-yourself attitude to their work. By streamlining your focus and keeping things simple, you will avoid getting stressed out and burned out. Here’s a guide for tapping into your inner DIY entrepreneur.

1. Focus on the one thing your business does best

One of the most common mistakes new entrepreneurs make is trying to be all things to all people. They want to provide an incredibly wide range of products and services in an effort to draw in a huge audience from their target industry. The problem is that this usually results in doing a mediocre job in a lot of areas, rather than doing one thing really well.
Continue reading “4 Ways Do-It-Yourself Entrepreneurs Can (and Should) Keep Things Simple – Entrepreneur”

Time Management Is About More Than Life Hacks – Harvard Business Review

Time Management Is About More Than Life Hacks – Harvard Business Review

Executive Summary

There is certainly no shortage of advice — books and blogs, hacks and apps — all created to boost time management with a bevy of ready-to-apply tools. Yet, the frustrating reality for individuals trying to improve their time management is that tools alone won’t work. You have to develop your time management skills in three key areas: awareness, arrangement, and adaptation. The author offers evidence-based tactics to improve in all three areas.

Maurizio Cigognetti/Getty Images

Project creep, slipping deadlines, and a to-do list that seems to get longer each day — these experiences are all too common in both life and work. With the new year resolution season upon us, many people are boldly trying to fulfill goals to “manage time better,” “be more productive,” and “focus on what matters.” Development goals like these are indeed important to career success. Look no further than large-scale surveys that routinely find time management skills among the most desired workforce skills, but at the same time among the rarest skills to find.

So how do we become better time managers? There is certainly no shortage of advice — books and blogs, hacks and apps, all created to boost time management with a bevy of ready-to-apply tools. Yet, the most frustrating reality for individuals trying to improve their time management is that no matter how effectively designed these tools might be, they are unlikely to work. Simply put, these tools presume a person’s underlying skill set, but the skills comprising time management precede the effectiveness of any tool or app. For example, would anyone seriously expect that purchasing a good set of knives, high-end kitchen equipment, and fresh ingredients would instantly make someone a five-star chef? Certainly not. Similarly, using a scheduling app without the prerequisite time management skills is unlikely to produce positive time management outcomes.
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‘I Never Thought It Could Happen to Me’ — How to Avoid Business Fraud – Entrepreneur

‘I Never Thought It Could Happen to Me’ — How to Avoid Business Fraud – Entrepreneur

Pyramids, Ponzis and beyond; beware the things we don’t think about that can do us in.

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former CEO of Theranos.

January 27, 2020 14 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It began with a private note from a dear woman friend who was more than 70 years old and recovering from the most recent of several hospital stints. I checked in on her, as I often do. When she responded, she gave me shocking news I would have never suspected. She had invested $300,000 in a program to create authority websites through a friend and his family who we have both known and worked with at various levels since roughly 2014.

“It’s awful,” she said. “Rapid growth, lack of communication. I invested $300,000, and it could all go down the drain.”

She suggested I write an article, not about the individual or company (plenty is being written by the traditional press). She wanted me to give insights on ways for people to protect their investments, especially when investing with someone they know and trust. This is that article, along with my thoughts on how to protect yourself as an entrepreneur from ever becoming guilty of getting into a situation like this yourself.

In the days since my friend’s email, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a complaint to the aforementioned company on December 27, 2019. All assets in this particular company are now frozen. The doors are locked, its 100 employees were dismissed without warning or severance in the final days of the year, and its assets are now in receivership. So, what went wrong?

Related: This Startup Raised $30 Million. Now, It’s Founder Is Accused of Fraud.

The company had assisted investors (some 500, to the tune of at least $75 million, according to the SEC) in buying or creating revenue-creating websites the company would build, maintain and host. The company would advertise and grow the Google authority and revenue of the sites at its own cost, and outside of a $1,000-a-month service fee to the investor, pledged to return either 50 percent of the revenue or, if revenue was insufficient to meet the return, guarantee the investor an annual return of 13-20 percent of initial investment, paid monthly.
Continue reading “‘I Never Thought It Could Happen to Me’ — How to Avoid Business Fraud – Entrepreneur”

The rise of extra-small businesses and the end of corporate jobs – Quartz

The rise of extra-small businesses and the end of corporate jobs – Quartz

Silicon Valley is obsessed with billion-dollar businesses. We are constantly hyping our unicorns—there are now more than 200 of them. As a result, it is easy to forget that 99.9% of US businesses are, in fact, very small. The US alone has more than 20 million XSMBs (extra small businesses). Firms with fewer than 20 employees are growing faster than any other category of small business, which together employ nearly 50% of the private workforce, and the ranks of the gainfully self-employed are swelling. Collectively, they are a force to be reckoned with.

As we transition to a more digital, distributed, and data-driven world, the future of work will be built not by the largest companies in the world, but by the smallest. If the past decade in tech was defined by unicorns, here are five reasons why the next decade will be shaped by XSMBs.

1. Working a regular job is no longer a reliable way to create wealth—but starting your own business is

Despite America’s reputation as a land of opportunity, social mobility is on the decline, with people born into low socioeconomic status more likely than ever to become stuck there. In 1940, 90% of young adults earned more than their parents. Today, only 50% of adults make more money than their parents.

Continue reading “The rise of extra-small businesses and the end of corporate jobs – Quartz”

The Top 5 Big Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Buying a Business – NuWire Investor

The Top 5 Big Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Buying a Business – NuWire Investor

If you’re looking to buy a business but new to the entrepreneurial way of doing things, buying a business can seem daunting at the very least. As a result, many buyers are prone to making mistakes with potentially serious consequences.

So to keep you heading in the right direction with your feet firmly on the ground, let’s look at the top five mistakes entrepreneurs are likely to make when buying a business.

  1. Overextending on finance to purchase

The lure of becoming your own boss can induce people to make bad decisions. It’s a common mistake to take on a serious debt commitment when buying a business. But you should never agree to buy any enterprise you cannot afford. Statistics suggest this is often the main reason for a business failure. After all, if you are overextended, you’ll have no operating cash to advertise and meet the everyday cost of running the enterprise. Consequently, you don’t secure enough customers to support your cash flow requirements and closure soon becomes the only option.

If you can’t afford to buy and run a business, it’s better to wait until your prospects improve or develop some kind of team strategy to share the financial burden.

Continue reading “The Top 5 Big Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When Buying a Business – NuWire Investor”

How entrepreneurship can make you happier – The National

How entrepreneurship can make you happier – The National

There are certain things in my life that I like done my way, and one of them is how I manage my businesses. I like to start my day before sunrise, with a run and meditation exercises, followed by going over my to-do lists, checking emails and then meeting up with my clients. I’m also the type of person who performs extremely well under tight deadlines. I can wrap up my whole work day in just three hours if I had to and still accomplish everything I planned on doing that day. This simple control over my routine and how my work is conducted contributes greatly to my happiness.

Entrepreneurship can contribute positively to our overall well-being. One study… found that counties with a high concentration of small businesses have healthier populations than those who rely on large companies

Manar Al Hinai

A 2012 study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, found that graduates of their MBA programme, who started their own businesses, ranked themselves happier than those from other professions, regardless of how profitable their ventures were. Their work routines have a lot to do with it.

“There’s a sense that they have control over their own time, even if they’re putting in a huge number of hours,” Ethan Mollick, one of the participating researchers in the study, said.

Entrepreneurship can contribute positively to our overall well-being. A study by sociologists from Baylor University and Louisiana State University published, exploring 3,060 counties and parishes in the US, found that counties with a high concentration of small businesses have healthier populations than those who rely on large companies.

From my experience, I found that there are several factors that, when incorporated into your daily routine, will help you maintain satisfaction levels with your entrepreneurial experience:

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Why Social Entrepreneur Kuda Biza Defines ‘Now’ as ‘No Opportunity Wasted’ – Entrepreneur

Why Social Entrepreneur Kuda Biza Defines ‘Now’ as ‘No Opportunity Wasted’ – Entrepreneur

Here’s how he’s fulfilling the purpose of entrepreneurship: to solve problems and improve lives.
January 24, 2020 7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In this series called Member Showcase, we publish interviews with members of The Oracles. This interview is with Kuda Biza, co-founder and CMO of Nunbelievable, co-founder of #ThisIsMyEra, and founder of the Amani Hope Foundation. It was condensed by The Oracles.

Who are you?
Kuda Biza: I build companies to solve the world’s biggest problems: education and hunger. My calling is to use business to impact lives.

My entrepreneurial journey began at 9 years old, cleaning my neighbors’ windows in Harare, Zimbabwe. In college, I launched a socially conscious clothing line with only $150, which has educated hundreds of African children. After college, I spent 10 years working for a Fortune 500 firm, bringing disruptive business opportunities to market and managing multimillion-dollar business lines. I also launched  #ThisIsMyEra, a social enterprise focused on personal development.

Today, as co-founder and CMO of Nunbelievable, I’m working with our customers to end the hunger crisis in a delicious way. Nearly 40 million Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from. So, for every batch of cookies we sell, one of those Americans receives a meal.

Share an interesting fact about yourself that not many people would know.
Kuda Biza: I learned Arabic for a bracelet brand I launched in Saudi Arabia years ago. During a visit to Guatemala, I saw these beautiful handmade bracelets and wanted to bring them to the United States. But they already had a U.S. distributor, so I asked their CEO if I could open doors for them in Africa and the Middle East.

My intern was from Saudi Arabia, so I bought 400 bracelets, and he moved home to sell them. In less than 48 hours, we sold every last bracelet at a bazaar. That’s when we knew we were on to something big. A few months later, we opened a store in the largest mall in Jeddah.
Continue reading “Why Social Entrepreneur Kuda Biza Defines ‘Now’ as ‘No Opportunity Wasted’ – Entrepreneur”