We are the founders of dot2Globe Solutions, an early stage start-up from India. Belonging to Gen X generation, we took the risk of pursuing Entrepreneurship forsaking our good paying professional careers.
With reasonable life savings, sufficient to take care of our bills for some initial years & with an un-fathomable hope of securing an early stage investment, we took the plunge once we reached a milestone in our careers.
Through this story, we wish to share the journey we traversed, learning we acquired and where we are at the time of releasing this article.
We hope this article will be a good eye-opener for those who wish to pursue Entrepreneurship without any prior experience, to let them understand the underlying challenges and to take an informed decision
As Co-founders, we had decade long association with successful collaboration between our teams in one of the big five corporations of the world. Our complementing strengths proven through delivering some of the successful global engagements overcoming time-zone, geographical boundaries and hostile team cultures etc., kindled the spark & desire to attempt our winning combo in entrepreneurship.
Confined within the comfort of our corporate life, we spoke about it multiple times until turn of events on both our lives made us finally plunged into Entrepreneurship by June 2016.
Lesson #1: A belief exists that true subconscious desire manifests at some point in time regardless of how you feel about it when it happens. So, it is always good to desire for right things!
Lesson #2: If you have the slightest inclination of Entrepreneurship while doing a full-time job, start small with entrepreneurship as a side commitment before venturing full time. This will help to ascertain some of your blind areas early on and enable you better when you take up the start-up journey.
Our start-up journey kick-started informally from 01st June 2016 by when, both of us were out of our corporate commitments. One of us is good in planning & execution while the other has a strong background on design & development. With more than two decades of corporate career in IT Services domain & negligible entrepreneurial history, we set out on our initial days in narrowing our idea list. IT services or product was the initial dilemma we have to cross through.
Our domain affinity & newness made us to decide & start with IT Services area. But, we made a strong commitment for ourselves to start a product track after 1 year of our successful entrepreneurial journey. We started working on our business plan & in parallel initiated host of other activities like; kick-starting the formalities to establish partnership, paper work for company registration, look out for office space and recruitment initiation etc., We formally got incorporated in January 2017 while we started our first client engagement from Dec 2016 itself.
Lesson #3: Formal incorporation of your start-up will give a sense of seriousness not only to you but also to whom you are going to hire. You need a name for your new born!
We started offering custom ERP solutions from Feb 2017. Our experience, brands we worked for, trust with the SaaS provider earned us customers across globe. We boot-strapped our start-up with a small capital investment and within a year of operation, we became operationally sustainable.
Couple of years passed and we grew from zero to ten people busy working on converting business process into software & acquiring some loyal customers. With growing projects and our interest to gain more revenue, our goal of spinning up a product track never got kicked off.
We realized that we will become an yet another n+1 service organization working to overcome similar set of challenges like margin pressure, resource utilization, skill enhancement etc., in an era where even big enterprises are trying to keep their neck out. Also, through various forums, we realized ‘IT Services + Product’ is a proven founder’s dilemma that most has failed to succeed having both. We made a decision to wind-up IT Solutions business by end of 2018.
Lesson #4: If your intentions are towards solving a problem & building a Product, then start with Product Idea first. You shouldn’t get into anxiety of not being able to start a product track while still offering IT Services especially during early stages of your start-up.
The experience we gathered as an IT Solutions provider helped us to finalize the idea for B2B Software as a Service (SaaS) product (INCOX™). SMB Customers always found it difficult to understand & get convinced that SaaS applications need to be integrated explicitly if they need to exchange information. As we noticed this pattern across majority of our SMB customers, we felt this could be a good problem to solve.
By early 2019, we finalized our plan for SaaS product development. There again the dilemma of ‘Do we write code’ or ‘Do we find customers to validate our idea’ sprung up. From the feedback received from a Pitch-Fest session, we decided to build a prototype.
We took the prototype to our four loyal customers to check the initial reaction. All four expressed interest but wanted it to be customized to their own specific domain which was not aligned with our goal. We then decided to build a generic MVP and take it to a wider set of audience.
By September 2019, we released our first MVP (INCOX v1.0) in a controlled manner through webinar registrations. We could garner 50 trial sign-ups which never materialized further. We also did standard marketing efforts like reddit/hacker news posting, Bing ads/google AdWords, Facebook campaigns, Solutions Partner outreach etc., without any fruitful outcome. From the results of polls we conducted through our webinars and handful of customer feedback, we could determine that our product was still in raw form for production use and some more work needs to be done.
Lesson #5: The problem you solve must be like a thorn in the feet. Only then, you can sell the shoes you make. You can’t sell your shoes citing thorn in a rose. It is still a thorn but it never bothers one to use the rose.
It was end of 2019 and the only meaningful option occurred to us was to beef up our initial version and publish (INCOX v2.0) in Slack App Directory (as our UI is a slack chat) & Product Hunt to truly determine if, there exist a need for our product & if we can build some initial traction.
Our initial target was to release INCOX v2.0 by end of April 2020. But due to the global pandemic, we got delayed and finally published our app by mid-May 2020 in Slack App Directory. This release provides the stamp for our App and also makes it available for a global audience. We are also looking towards releasing our product in Product Hunt sometime towards end of May. We hope this release will bring us the critical mass of users necessary to ascertain Product-Market Fit.
We also made up our minds that this phase of our attempt will be the last in case if we fail to gain traction. At the least, we carry the satisfaction of having given careers to young people, kept ourselves alive for 4+ years and quenched our life dream of being an entrepreneur alongside learning some life lessons.
Lesson #6: Perseverance is a key for success in Entrepreneurship. At the same time, an entrepreneur must act as per external stimulus to their product and can’t develop an emotional attachment to their idea/start-up.
App integration is traditionally a knowledge worker job and almost all of our competitor solutions are oriented towards developer as their customer. Whereas with INCOX, we position business user to self-service (using BOT) their integration needs through preconfigured apps and tasks.
It is not clear if INCOX approach is desirable by SMB owners or they would always expect some knowledge workers (own IT staff, consultants) to take care of such needs.
Our hope with v2.0 release is to receive concrete feedback about: (i) Do SMB customers really have this problem or is only our perception? (ii) If yes, is INCOX the solution to their problem & can they put it to day-to day use?
The first investor reference from overseas turned out fake. It was also a learning moment for us to understand various jargons involved in start-up investments, what we must commit and negotiate etc. We learnt about things an investor would expect for funding and started preparing ourselves from then.
One other reference was a traditional investor & we couldn’t leverage them due to their primitive investment approach. Our stance was to get funded by a VC/angel who is convinced by our mission and also is a reckoning force for us in terms of raising further rounds, networking, and sound boarding etc.,
We are now looking to ascertain PMF as a priority before accelerating our efforts to look-out for investors.
There is no dearth for learning when one ventures out of their comfort zone. We share some of the entrepreneurial & personal learning during our journey so far.
1. If you decide to plunge into entrepreneurship at mid-life, have money at your disposal without worrying on fall-back.
2. Corporate success cannot guarantee entrepreneurial success. You have to be open to learn like an intern if this is your first attempt.
3. If you are open, Entrepreneurship will help you to develop self-courage, self-motivation, overcome insecurities and self-acceptance.
4. Better to have a Co-Founder from day one. Two eyes are always better than one!
5. It is good to incubate your start-up in a thriving accelerator or win some contests early on if possible. It will help you to unblock some early issues sooner.
You live once and it’s worth making it experiential. When you look back, you will appreciate yourself for stepping up to do something differently. We have no regrets that way!!
Entrepreneurship is also the need of the hour where more solutions to problems & jobs are created by passionate individuals rather following the old school of thought to expect it from someone/governments. It’s worth an attempt if it is driven by passion, understanding and clear mission.
Does any of the above resonate with your experience? Did we miss anything obvious?
And finally, if you’re a solopreneur or SMB owner for yourself, and want to see what we had built, please give it a try and let us know your feedback.
Nevertheless, leave your feedback in any case. Feedback is our oxygen!!
Thanks for Reading, if you made it thus far.