Manish Singhal is a founding Partner of pi Ventures. He is a veteran of 24 years in building hardware and software IP-oriented product companies, early stage investing, valuations, deal structuring and strategy advisory across different sectors. He is also a keen mentor of startups and has conducted many workshops in different parts of India to guide entrepreneurs on how to raise funds.
The Million dollar question:
In response to the question:
“As a mentor to many, what advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs and the dreamers?”
Solve a real problem and solve it like nobody else.
At the surface of it, this seems to be a nice logical answer but I think this is the key to leading any successful
There are two parts to the answer that are the key.
Solving a real problem:
While on the face of it, this sounds to be ridiculously simple, in practice, we will be surprised to know that most of the businesses are started not for this reason. There is no real problem (perceived or otherwise) that we are solving. In tech startups, we find or develop something that we think is and then go looking for users for this cool technology. There is nothing wrong in this approach as long as we are able to identify a real (perceived or otherwise) need that this technology can address and go on to use that as the lever for growth. This is however a more difficult and an expensive way of starting an enterprise.
The easier way is to identify the real need and then go about finding ways to solve this need. Design thinking as a methodology helps us start with the people, go on to identify their stated and unstated needs, which once identified, we can go ahead and solve them. The key is to identify the problem first and start from there.
Solve it like nobody else:
Once we know the real problem that we are trying to solve for a specific cohort of people, we then need to solve the problem in our own unique way. This uniqueness is what will help us stand out in the crowd and get us noticed. As Bernadette Jiwa and Seth Godin say, differentiation is the key. WE can either differentiate in the way we solve the problem or differentiate in the way we communicate and engage with the customers or differentiate in the way we bring the solution to them.
It is better to be different than being better.
Different allows us to stand out and it is easier if we bring our full personality to solve the problem. If we are fun-loving, can we bring in elements of fun in the solution. If we love music, can we bring in elements of music into the solution. If we are an avid reader, can we bring in elements of reading or books to our solution. Each one of these will allow us to stand apart and at the same time will come naturally to us. This also has the added advantage of being too much fun.
In conclusion, it is important that we identify a real problem (known or even better is unknown) that a specific cohort of customers have and find unique ways of solving that problem for that set of customers. And have a lot of fun along the way. This is as good a recipe for building a successful business as any other that I have seen anywhere else.