Founders Handbook 2019


Welcome to the Founders Handbook! I am glad you have chosen to use this handbook.

I am Ishwar Jha, Founder of Appetals, InternDesk, MockRabbit, and Stomper. Previously, I led the technology business opportunities at Zee Entertainment as a CEO/Head of Digital Services and CIO of Sony Music.

As a practicing entrepreneur myself I devote my time between growing my own business in Mumbai, India and interacting with entrepreneurs through my training, workshop and mentoring to help them start, scale and leverage their geniuses to raise their odds of success.

I achieve these results based on over 25 years of building 100s of products, starting up and accelerating growth for over half-dozen businesses, generating more than $5 million in revenue, hiring 200+ people and training/mentoring 1000s of entrepreneurs.

This handbook is written with two goals — First, becoming an entrepreneur is quite easy these days because of access to the know-how, technology and global market to everyone. Second, the stereotype approach to business building is causing more business closing down than the new businesses starting up every day. It is happening because we are not applying the winning strategies, proven tactics, and right perspectives.

While we may have different reasons to justify our failure, the real reason why most startups fail are one or more of the below:

Their product lacks traction because it does not attract significant customer interest and it doesn’t solve the problem of the customer in a way that customers expect it.
Their business plan does not have a clear vision. Instead of having a defined vision which makes it harder to direct, strategize, and grow their business.

They focus too much on building the product without emphasizing enough on the revenue model and having visible ideas about achieving the profit.

They are not in the ring. Even though they started their business, it was like a plan B for them. They enter the game without the commitment to devote their commitment, passion and long hours before they get into the zone where they can sow the seed of their efforts.

They get caught up day to day either getting involved in small stuff or doing mundane things like checking social media, answering useless calls, chatting, or doing timepass.

Look at the above picture and reflect on your own business. Have you placed the horse(your vision, idea, team, timing, funding) before the cart (product, services, revenue, profit) in a way that you’ll be able to carry it to achieve the dream you wish to realise through your business.

You can use this handbook to set your business vision, innovate your ideas, build your product, launch your business and grow your business to achieve your entrepreneurial dream. I will constantly keep updating the content based on the feedbacks and relevancy so that you have access to the relevant tools, models, and tactics to enhance the odds of success.

In spite of so many guides and document, I decided to write the Founders Handbook because I felt that there exists a need for it.

Whether you are an expert or a rookie, your decision to become an entrepreneur your bets on the future. Whether you are right or wrong will be directly related to the quality of decisions you make, how well you turn a particular iteration and allocate your resources accordingly. This guide is organized with the models, tactics, and perspective which will guide you to pursue your entrepreneurial journey offering a strong customer value proposition, excellent execution and prepare you to grab the opportunity when it strikes at you.

The Founders Handbook is written carefully so that you can apply the suggested tools and techniques while building your own business.

I welcome you to the entrepreneurial world to create a lasting impact in the world through your knowledge, learning and your ability to execute.

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if you don’t know already, what does an entrepreneur do

Every entrepreneur starts their business because they feel they have the ideas, inventions, creations, messages, technologies, products, services, archetypes, frameworks, platforms or communities which once launched will change the world. And you find these ideas:

Pursuing your passion for the specific interest and honing your talents, skills, and abilities to deliver better results and monetize what you love. You believe that you enjoy doing it and you will draw a great sense of fulfillment and satisfaction while doing it. You draw the inspiration from the popular quote from Confucious “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”

The greatest ideas are born when you face life challenges, solve it and sell it to others who may be facing similar challenges in their life. The only caveat here is that there exists a significant number of people facing a similar problem else it becomes the problem of few and you’ll find it difficult to scale.

Fueled with the advancements in technology and the emergence of newer technologies such as Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Biotechnology, robotics, etc. our future is going to be substantially different than what you see today. If you can do some future gazing and spot future opportunities, you can build a high-value business idea today.

Entrepreneurs also get their ideas while working on something side by or helping someone. When you keep doing things and constantly improve it over a period of time and that helps you build something so significant that you can build a highly successful business out of your continuous work.

Sometimes, business ideas also come when you experience things during your travel, holiday or actively participating in the events. When you apply your skills and creativity to convert such experiences, you can build a wildly successful business.

Whatever may be the source of your ideas when you convert it into a market-ready product solving a real problem of your target customer with excellent execution and passion for success, you can revolutionize an industry, create wealth and change the world.

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And people aka entrepreneurs do it despite all odds

I joined TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) a global organization as a Chartered Member in the year 2005. As part of my membership obligation, I started mentoring startup founders and since then I would have met hundreds of entrepreneurs who approached me to get clarity on their uncertainty, identify the direction appropriate for their business as well as personal life and develop a definitive roadmap for their business success.

While interacting with all these entrepreneurs and also been an entrepreneur myself, we all want the same things; we want to deliver a strong customer value proposition, pursue a differentiated strategy, develop a better understanding of the market, hire and build a strong team, and raise capital. But, their approach to achieving these results are quite contrasting.

In my quest to discover the persona of these entrepreneurs, I found a verse in the Bhagavad Gita that I could relate to:
“In this world, there is a two-fold path, as I said before, O blameless One (Arjuna), the path of knowledge for men of contemplation and the path of work for men of action.” //3.3//

Let’s call them Gyanyogi and Karmyogi.

Even though they look similar, speak similarly do the things similarly, they are separate from each other in their approach to work and life.

A Gyanyogi Entrepreneur will find comfort in the path of peace, his journey will be inward to the self, knowledge will be his ammunition and attaining success through wisdom will be his goal. Most of the scientists, scholars, and researchers achieved their success working on their ideas and solving it to build a meaningful solution. Ratan Tata, Narayana Murthy, Bill Gates are popular Gyani entrepreneurs.

A Karmyog Entrepreneur, on the other hand, would prefer the path of power, his journey would be to conquer the world, energy will be his ammunition and attaining success by becoming powerful will be his goal. Dhirubhai Ambani and Subhash Chandra are popular Karmyogi entrepreneurs.

There are enough pieces of evidence of all sort of people succeeding in the business leveraging their respective geniuses. I believe you can too by following these simple rules:

Spend time engaging in the provocative questions not just finding the answers. There are umpteen number of people ready to hand over the answers if you are able to ask the right questions.

Search and question what you are skipping and ask yourself why? Entrepreneurship is hard — whenever faced with the difficulties question yourself to get what is that one thing which will get you where you want to be.
Someone has done your version of success before – emulate their beliefs, habits and maximize on their strengths. Avoid their flaws and costly mistakes.
Siddhartha met a merchant. Looking at him, the merchant asked “Everyone can do something. What can you?”
Siddhartha’s replied to the merchant:
“I can think” –good decision-making and asking good questions
“I can wait” – plan long-term, be patient
“I can fast” – be able to withstand pain and be resilient
You too can think. You too can wait. You too can fast.
Just do it!

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The Business Model is your product

We are living in a ‘surplus society’. Everything you need is offered by similar businesses producing similar things having access to similar resources with no remarkable difference in the pricing or quality.

You must be thinking:

  • Is there any opportunity which is worth pursuing and investing your time, money and resources?
  • How can you still create a great idea which will offer a strong value proposition that customer can’t resist?
  • How can you attract a continual stream of business leads and business opportunities?
  • How can you stay competitive to position your business so compelling that your customers continues buying it from you?
  • How can you monetize your customers by selling them more and offering them other complimentary products and services?
  • And, how can you cost-effectively and efficiently get more things done every day to remain competitive, offer better value, and maximize your profit?

Yes, you can.

The purpose of this guide is to help you find the secret formula that when applied together with the excellent execution, your entrepreneurial dream will lead you to achieve the success you deserve.

At this point in time, I want you to do a bit of day dreaming. I want you to think of the day when you’ll be introducing your idea to the world. You’d be tweeting about your launch. Knowing the limitations of introducing your idea in less than 280 words, how would you like to introduce your business to the world so that when they read it, they must feel “wow”. They can’t stop visiting your website or checking it out?
Use the template below to introduce your idea.

Don’t worry too much about it. Just use the best of your creativity and imagination to write the most compelling tweet to introduce your startup.

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Value Proposition – Create compelling products and services

Competitive Analysis – Getting ahead of the competition

“Companies that solely focus on competition will die. Those that focus on value creation will thrive.” – Edward de Bono
When you’re starting a new project or a new company it is very important to define which values your innovation brings to the market, also known as value proposition.
A value proposition is where your company’s product offer intersects with your customer’s desires.
Basically, it’s the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it.
It is a simple tool that quickly gets you to the ‘minimum viable clarity’ require to test your ability and services. The canvas contains two areas – your product and your customers. Each area has three elements: products and services, pain relievers, and gain creators.
Let’s start bringing up that value!

Action: Start creating your value

Organize information about what the customers want in a simple way that makes the patterns of value creation easily visible.

  • Step into your customer’s shoes. Try to understand what matters most to the customers
  • Look at your each customer profiles separately; understand their story and what product/solution they are looking for to solve their existing problem
  • Identify your customer pains including obstacles and risks
  • What outcomes and benefits does your customer expect? List down as many gains as you can come up with
  • Rank the ‘Pains’ from most extreme to moderate pains and ‘Gains’ from essential to nice-to-have gains at the bottom

Make a copy using Google Docs-> File->Make a copy option.

Additional Tips:

  • Don’t mix several customer segments in one profile. Make value proposition for every different customer segment
  • Keep this question in mind: Why customers should buy from you over your competitors
  • Use different sticky notes for each pain reliever and gain creator
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Competitive Analysis – Getting ahead of the competition

“How do I stay on top of the game?” Now is the time to find out who your competition really is. A healthy competition can keep you
motivated more than just passion for what you do. And for that you’ll have to keep a close eye on your competitors.

You know why Honda was able to break the US motorcycle market? They kept an eye on their competitors – none of them were producing small bikes at that time. It was a unique and fresh idea that no one in the US market thought of before. And it worked.

The competitor analysis tool will help you identify your competition. In just a few minutes you will be able to determine and weigh their
attributes, assess their strengths, weaknesses and uncover their objectives and strategies to see how they relate to your market.

Action: Conduct Competitive Analysis

Your aim should be to determine and weight your competitor’s attributes, assess their strengths, weaknesses and uncover their objectives and strategies to see how they relate to your market

  • Identify your competition. Include those locally based as well as internationally
  • Research information about your competitors. List all the elements you want to find out about your competition
  • Compare your business using the competitor analysis grid
  • Schedule a monthly competitive analysis. They should be as regular as your inventory checks and other business functions

Make a copy using Google Docs-> File->Make a copy option.

Additional Tips:

  • You can employ college students or create internship programs for conducting your analysis
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Value Curve Analysis – Visualizing and improving your value propositions

‘Thoda extra milta hai toh, accha lagta hai na’, If you get a bit more than you expect, it makes you feel good.

Adding value is an important strategy of any business. It is used to acquire and retain customers, increase brand awareness and ‘make noise’ in the marketplace. It lets your competition know that your company exists and that it’s ready to get down to business.

Value Curve is a tool that can be used as a guide towards creating and leveraging new market space. You’ve identified your competitors in previous steps, but this is where the fun part begins. It’s time to introduce them to the next best thing – your business.

Action: Plotting Value Curve

Diagram your value curve to compare products on a range of factors by rating them on a scale from low to high

  • List all performance dimensions of your industry offerings on the horizontal axis
  • Use the vertical axis to address the importance of the offering, from low to high
  • Define your competitor’s and your company’s curve along the dimensions and look for significant patterns
  • Categorise your personas with some or all of the following information:
    1. Eliminating dimensions add no real value to customers
    2. Reducing any dimension that are of little value
    3. Raising any dimension that can be enhanced or increased
    4. Creating any new dimension that would differentiate your solution from the rest
  • Continue modifying your value curve and look for ways of improving your product offering

Make a copy using Google Docs-> File->Make a copy option.

Additional Tips:

  • Keep the number of dimensions between 7 to 10
  • Conduct this analysis in a group to get a better understanding of the competitor and their offerings
  • Revisit your value curves regularly. Tweak your product when necessary
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The Big Picture

A little girl was drawing in her empty book. She was fully focused and rarely looked away from the paper.
“What are you doing?” asked her father, curiously looking over her shoulder.
“I’m dra