- Vinay Nair
Need for an Integrated Startup Ecosystem
Across the world today, startups are considered to be some of the most potent sources of employment and innovation, and India is no exception. Even though the startup culture emerged in India all the way back in the early 2000s, it has taken a while to reach the level it is at today.
However, even though the space is now poised for maturity, it still requires that extra push to help it move forward.
Having journeyed across the spectrum within the startup ecosystem myself, I understand all too well the pitfalls that impede a larger number of Indian startups from accomplishing their goals. Fortunately, it is not the lack of entrepreneurial spirit or innovation that plagues the space, for India is clearly bustling with novel business propositions. Instead, it is the lack of an organized, integrated framework that often leads these promising startups astray.
As most startup founders will be able to tell you, starting a new venture in a unique space is a lonely journey. There is a dismal paucity of advice and aid, and little inspiration to draw from. Even our academic discourse barely prepares us for the frankly arduous process of setting out on an uncharted course, with nothing but one's own ideas to fuel the journey. Everything from finding investors to reaching out to potential consumers, from raising money to starting production: is usually extremely difficult to execute for any beginner in the space. As a result, a lot of bright ideas often disappear from the ecosystem long before they have a chance to be assessed and fine-tuned, let alone set in motion.
My own experience of struggling through a similar process makes me feel that it would have been a million times easier for these brand new startups if only they were able to operate within an integrated startup ecosystem. Working within a community of fellow founders, professionals, experts and mentors would automatically equip them with more streamlined know-how as well as a better understanding of how to navigate the maze of founding a startup. In its early stages of existence, a startup usually requires the right set of people to validate its business model and help it devise an appropriate market strategy. Considering that every business is different from the other, it then becomes imperative to enlist the aid of the correct business advisory service and find experienced organizations to help promote, facilitate, and execute its investments.
However, being a part of an integrated startup ecosystem should ideally mean much more than simply being advised on strategy and fundraising.
As I see it, the success of any nascent startup would largely depend on the collaborations it makes, be it with other entrepreneurs, investors, partners, advisors or simply fellow enthusiasts. Having a shared workspace, or at least a place to interact with a large number of people with diverse experiences from within the same broad sector, would help any startup gain a sense of the bigger picture and a whole new perspective. The ability to have this space is something I believe would take away the loneliness from the uphill climb of founding a new venture.
All startup founders must initially focus on three imperatives:
Now, each of these elements can be enriched if they are developed within a community, or a startup activity hub, replete with experienced people from different walks of life, having variegated insights into the entire process. No flower can blossom in a vacuum, and a similar statement can be said to apply to a new business. To thrive, it must regularly interact with other startups at varying stages of growth, that have gone through a similar journey themselves. Likewise, it is essential to observe the processes of incubation and acceleration that is likely to occur within such an ecosystem to glean knowledge and understanding from all of them.
While all of this might suggest that startups can only flourish in a physical workspace that accommodates a community of innovators and proven leaders, I do believe that the online community also has a crucial role to play. It may not always be feasible for interested entrepreneurs to access a physical location and reach out to the experts. For them, it would be particularly useful to have a community forum ready to walk them through their doubts, and guide them on all aspects of founding a startup. This would potentially involve online databases to find and reach out to investors that fit their business model, and mentors who already have relevant experience in the space.
For the Indian startup community to soar to new heights, I believe we are in desperate need of an integrated ecosystem that will help startups find all the answers in the same place, instead of cluelessly hurtling in the dark. Nothing great is ever born of isolation, and banding together might be the best option for Indian startups to reach the next level.
After all, as any Game of Thrones fan would know, "the lone wolf dies but the pack survives", and this pack could definitely be poised on the brink of success, if it plays its cards right!