When a company transitions from a FREE to a paid model, there’s usually some bit of hubbub around it. We can’t blame anyone, it’s just how the digital industry or shall I say startups from the SV have influenced our mindset.
FREE is glorious, FREE is noble, FREE is the purpose of a startup, FREE is a good deed and so on…
When we started FounderMates in April 2013, we wanted it to be FREE because we
- didn’t know where value lies
- didn’t know how users will use the system and
- what will users value in the system
As the months progressed, as much as it enhanced our learning of the Indian startup ecosystem, it was also interesting to encounter the perils of FREE. FREE is neither always useful nor always beautiful. A lot of times, it is ugly.
And what makes it ugly?
Indiscipline: When things are made easily accessible, people lack discipline. They don’t keep up the commitments and tend to take things for granted.
Lack of ownership: There usually is a lack of ownership in all stakeholders engaged in FREE transactions. India is not Silicon Valley where there are true mentors (entrepreneurs who have made it big and now sitting on pile of cash just to give back). India has a solid pool of professional experts who are excellent at what they do but will need to be compensated for their effort.
Startups who say “I want an expert to not talk about compensation or I want the expert to first deliver results and then talk about money” unfortunately expect things as they happen in the valley. But India is very different from Valley…People with loads of money still want more money to save for their children, to buy properties, to make good investments. We are culturally very different than the millionaires of SV.
Yes, I don’t deny that there exist a handful of people (mentors) in India who say that they could work with a startup for a while (without any monetary compensation) and later on decide a mutually beneficial model. But, to find a mentor who’s fully committed, takes ownership and yet is ready to wait for a startup to generate money could be far flung.
No Progress/Little value: It’s just human psychology to value FREE less than a paid thing. When entrepreneurs received FREE advice, there was no track of the entrepreneur unless (s)he came back to the expert.
Value can be maximized only when one implements the advice and sees results for one’s own business.
Why FounderMates new proposition makes sense in India?
To create successful startups in India, we need serious entrepreneurs. By serious entrepreneurs, we mean those who are willing to commit to their businesses and see them prosper. And every serious entrepreneur needs to bootstrap before he/she can think of raising investment. This is because, unlike in the Valley, we do not have enough risk-taking angels who can fund you just by looking at your idea. And when you need to bootstrap you will need to spend your money (or your family’s money or your friend’s money).
As explained earlier, although India might lack mentors, India has a wide pool of great consultants who have worked with aplomb and created great businesses. Startups need to tap into these consultant pools and use their expertise to help them grow their business. This applies more so to founders who come from a technology background with little or no business experience. Remember, technology or a tech product is not equal to business.
FounderMates through its unique and flexible engagement model is making it easier for you to avail the expertise of the consultants; people who are the Doers, the Executionists and who will take ownership of delivering results to you. So, now when you pay to an expert, you don’t just pay for advice but you pay him because he will do things for you. And as an entrepreneur, this is in fact not a cost but an investment you are making in your business. Also remember, a startup can only thrive when it has a team of equally committed individuals. So, if you are paying an expert for his commitment, the chances of your success increase many fold.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
NIDHI KAPOOR - Nidhi is the co-founder of FounderMates. She holds an MBA in Innovation & Entrepreneurship from Imperial College, London. Prior to starting FounderMates.com, she worked with 2 reputable startups in London. One of the startups was as young as a year old where she was the first hire while another was almost 5 years old. This has been an enriching experience for her in understanding the dynamics and needs of a startup across a broad spectrum.
Nidhi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org