Of startups and upstarts – Khaleej Times

Some of these ventures eventually rise to stardom from humble beginnings (like home garages) but many vanish into obscurity.

There are startups and there are upstarts who don’t start to make money. One is intelligent, while the other lacks the smarts to sustain a business. A mature startup ecosystem is a smorgasbord of ideas, errors, capital, innovation and disruption. It will throw up a winner who makes a killing that the media and markets cannot stop raving about. Sounds cool, but the reality is far more complex, and it takes time and effort from promoters to make business plans bear fruit.

Some of these ventures eventually rise to stardom from humble beginnings (like home garages) but many vanish into obscurity. The real story emerging from data is that 90 per cent of global startups will fail to reach Big Tech cult status that Apple, Google, Amazon or Microsoft enjoy.

But hope springs eternal, and one shouldn’t stop trying. There’s always a second chance, a learning curve, where regrets are in abundance. Intelligent entrepreneurs, however, learn on the go as they embrace failure as a means to an end.

If Silicon Valley in San Francisco doesn’t work, there’s Namma Bengaluru (Our Bangalore), the Indian cousin of the original where wannabe entrepreneurs can try their luck with business ideas.

Startup action is also shifting to Dubai that’s emerging as a middle ground for entrepreneurs and innovators, thanks to government initiatives and the diversification of the economy that has its eyes set on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. So, for every global Uber, there’s a Careem or a Noon in Dubai. The list is growing and the action is hotting up here.

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What’s sparking off this startup spree? Some professionals are tired after seven years at a company. They get the itch and are keen to start from scratch. They want to be at the helm of a company from inception to completion, and even acquisition by a bigger player.

I realise now that I want to start all over again after burning my fingers two decades ago in a media venture that left me in debt for two years. The trouble is, I don’t know where to begin. Two decades of experience gathered as a media hound hasn’t prepared me for this. Age is not on my side. Startup founders are getting younger.

I admit I was an upstart before I went bust back then. The dotcom boom hit and I joined an e-commerce company that had global ambitions, only to leave it four years later as things started to look down from a career point of view.

Modern ventures spell flamboyance and a new class of tech upstart-ism has emerged for the media to lap up and hype up. There’s a slice of digital Eden, El Paradiso for everyone, where the only Apple is one that was seed-funded in a garage, or an Amazon that sells everything from baby diapers to sawdust.

Startups, in fact, have become synonymous with digital technology, which I think is taking some credit away from other businesses who were also startups at their inception. Tech-enabled, a colleague corrected me during a conversation. Indeed, tech is the game-changer, the disruptor, according to business experts who track these ventures. I won’t fall for it, nor should you. It’s an evolution where some businesses bite the dust while others don’t reach their potential because they are way ahead of their time. Many flounder under the weight of market expectations.

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The more tech infusion there is, the better the chance of luring VCs and banks for funding. There’s plenty of risk but what the heck!

I am excited about this space and also worry about gullible (and brave) folks who are losing money as they join the startup herd.

As for me, I am scouting for a home garage and digging into reserves of courage to take the leap. I am inspired by Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Even HP started in a garage back in 1939.

Want to know what my startup idea is? Let’s meet and break bread. Was that a clue? Here’s my email address anyway!



Allan Jacob

A news junkie with an abiding interest in foreign affairs. I’m a keen follower and learner of the media and how it will pan out in the future when the common man and woman will themselves be journalists and not just sources of information. Lead a team of bright journalists who are driving the change and have their feet on the ground.



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