For many entrepreneurs, there is more to life than the latest “angelgate” developments.
Among the concerns that entrepreneurs are ruminating over: How do I know I’m hiring the right people? How will my product and marketing strategy work if I want to go global? What have I learned from the dot-com crash?
Consider for a moment Mrinal Desai. The co-founder of CrossLoop.com is currently working on his next startup, called addappt, a stealth-mode social networking company. Desai isn’t prepared to talk about the details yet, but he says addappt plans to launch an iPhone app for branded events, such as the SVC Wireless Annual Conference.
As it just so happens, on Saturday, Desai is taking part in a panel I’m moderating at the SVC Wireless conference. In addition to Desai, the other entrepreneurs on the panel are Ankit Agarwal, founder and CEO of Micello; HP Jin, CEO of TeleNav; and Sheldon Shi, co-founder and CEO of GeoWok. Also, the panel includes one VC—Henry Wong, venture partner of Garage Technology Ventures and managing director of the China-focused fund Diamond TechVentures.
I chatted briefly with Desai this week and peppered him with a few preliminary questions that I’m sure we will expand upon at the conference.
Q: I’ve heard it said many times that a recession is a great time to launch a company. Does this mean now that now that the economy is supposedly improving, it’s a bad time to launch a startup?
A: Personally, there is no such thing as a good time or bad time. You just do it when you believe in what you wish to do and you have the confidence in the ability to make things happen.
Having said that, you should never waste a crisis. Tough times are probably the best time for anybody to launch a startup. The tough times are what develop character in you and define your company’s culture. Tough times have the potential to bring out in you what you may not be aware of.
Q: When should you consider marketing your startup?
A: The media helps in building credibility and creating awareness in your product, especially the technology press since they are a third-party assessment of your venture, but it is also no golden bullet. Your product and how you treat your customer is the best marketing.
As a startup guy, I’m always marketing, always selling. The skills of persuasion are always on with recruiting employees, media, partners, investors, employees, negotiating with vendors and getting things done with the minimal resources. It’s like the line that Alec Baldwin says in “Glengarry Glen Ross” — “A-B-C. Always Be Closing.”
Q: Looking out five years, what markets do you expect will be hot?
A: It depends a lot on the business you are in, but one simply can not ignore the penetration of mobile in Asia, namely China and India. We just recently crossed a milestone of 5 billion subscribers with the vast majority of the growth coming from Africa and Asia-Pacific.
The U.S. penetration is at a little over 90% and Europe has more subscribers than people. Mobile penetration in Asia-Pacific is expected to be at 65% by the end of this year. India and Indonesia alone added 150 million subscribers in the last four quarters and we all know China is at almost 800 million with a 60% penetration rate.
But it’s important to note that due to economic limitations, the vast majority of people in certain countries, like India, do not have access to the Internet via a personal computer. They have gone directly to mobile.