The Next Big Idea: What It Takes
Written by: Nomrota Sarker
NSU Startups Next started its journey with the vision to inspire innovation and support founders of the next generation. At NSUSN, founders are learning from experts, form strong connections with those in the startup ecosystem and build a network, to create strong foundations for the rest of their journey as entrepreneurs. To nurture the idea of creating the next generation of startup founders, NSUSN hosted its first webinar on the 22nd of July, 2020 with industry experts talking about their individual learnings. The objective of these webinars is to awaken the spirit of learning and entrepreneurship among the youth. Insights about leading startups of the country from successful founders were the focal point of discussion of this webinar.
The panelists present were Rahat Ahmed, CEO and Founding Partner of Anchorless Bangladesh, Siffat Sarwar, COO and Co-Founder of ShopUp, Hussain M Elius, CEO and Co-Founder of Pathao and Anayet Rashid, CEO of TruckLagbe. The webinar was hosted by Rahat Ahmed, followed by a live question-answer session from the audience. The panelists discussed what it really takes to come up with the next big idea. The webinar started off with Rahat Ahmed asking a vital question to the founders present.
“How do you arrive at the point of changing the world with an idea?”
Hussain M Elius, CEO and Co-Founder of Pathao said, “Very slowly.” He added more to emphasize the concept that change cannot happen overnight. “Nobody wakes up with an idea. Observing and understanding your surroundings gradually takes you closer to your purpose. Pathao was just a courier company when it started. We didn’t realize what it could become then. The journey towards identifying a problem in order to solve it requires a lot of learning, communication with people, potential investors and customers–and asking them if your idea makes sense or not.”
On the topic of how to progress with an idea, the panelists discussed it further. “Even if you have a big idea, start small,” added Hussain M Elius. As the panelists moved on to the next big aspect of nurturing an idea that is a possible solution to a problem, Siffat Sarwar, COO and Co-Founder of ShopUp said “Start with a small problem, work on solving that. When you successfully attend to that, your customers will come to you with a different problem for you to solve. This is how you scale. If you don’t fall in love with the problem, you can’t stay persistent on the solution aspect of it.” ShopUp, founded with the core belief to enable small and medium businesses, works with a principle of technology-first and enables thousands of SMEs through social media to use their network as a source of stable income. When asked about the success of the company, she added “You have to dig down your customer base, find out who your business really connects to. ShopUp wasn’t an overnight success, neither would it have been possible to be. Associate your business with the problem you’re trying to solve, then see if your solution can best fit the scenario.”
“You are not learning if you are not failing”
Halfway through the webinar, the panelists talked about how to deal with failures as a whole. Anayet Rashid, CEO of TruckLagbe added his valuable insights on how the industry was a difficult arena for him to make TruckLagbe stand out. “TruckLagbe was initially an absolute disaster”, he said “but because we were open to experiences and feedback, we kept improving our product and service through iteration. The key is to always test out the product, work on the feedback and most importantly, learn from other’s mistakes. Your failures improve your idea.”
When asked about his experience with startups in Bangladesh, Rahat Ahmed, CEO and Founding Partner of Anchorless Bangladesh, said “I am an ex-founder myself, so I empathize with founders. As much as it’s vital for the founders to focus on the product-market fit, they also need to focus on the investor-founder fit. A lot of your progress depends on that.”
“Being open to learning opportunities is important for growth”
The panelists then moved on to discuss what it really takes to come up with a genuine idea that solves a real problem. To which, Hussain M Elius added his insights on how the intention of learning needs to be nurtured. “I knew that getting a job was not the sole purpose of life. I used to read a lot of books on startups, how they worked and how they created value. My source of knowledge wasn’t limited to a classroom. This is a journey we need to be willing to embark on if we want to make change happen. Your idea wouldn’t solve a problem instantly on day one. It’s very unlikely that your first MVP will work.” On that notion, Siffat Sarwar added how getting stuck in a validation loop instead of a feedback loop can be detrimental to growth. “A good student is not necessarily a good entrepreneur. It is important to constantly nurture the mentality of receiving feedback and working on it. Life isn’t just a compilation of checklists. There is a global shift going on due to technological advancement and innovation. Take advantage of it. Be open to learning more about the subjects you’re interested in apart from what you’re pursuing as well.”
Regarding the vision of this incubation program, Rahat Ahmed – Senior Advisor of NSU Startups Next said, “The reason we have created NSU Startups Next is to guide you to the path where we can ensure minimal risk and more impact for your startup. Don’t just be the best in Mirpur, see if your idea can be the best in Lalbagh as well. As a founder, you need clarity of the problem you’re solving and an idea that can genuinely have an impact.”
While speaking about his experience with founders and entrepreneurs, he mentioned that the innovation aspect of a business is crucial for them to consider. As the panelists discussed how innovation is what sets an idea apart from its competitors, they all unanimously agreed to the notion that the strategy of execution is what it really comes down to. How the founders execute their idea and implement their plans determines whether their startup will become the next big thing. While innovation is key for an idea to succeed, the purpose of solving a problem remains at the heart of it.
“Don’t solve problems from the last five years, rather for the next five years.” – said Rahat Ahmed, in his closing remarks.