Even though Green & White is officially no longer supporting Startup Insiders, the activities in Islamabad seem to have been taken over by Nust and BrightSpyre who are continuing events under that brand (no we didnt officially give it to them). The 8th Startup Insiders is going to be held at the NIIT / NUST campus in Rawalpindi on April 4 with the theme “Starting Up: The first essential steps”.
Spirits are high on the front of PASHA, the organizers, and also the NIIT students who have been asking for an on-campus SI ever since SI#2, and who would also get to speak to and meet some great panelists hailing from diverse backgrounds in media, telecom, web, CDROM development, and elsewhere.
I was invited to be on the panel as well, so look forward to connecting with students with brilliant products to show to the world. But I do have one thought though that is very likely to get me disinvited from SI events
I’ll say it anyway because we earned your respect and support at G&W from being transparent and objective, not by giving into political needs for silence.
The only thought I have here is that based on the theme and expected audience, this is also going to be a “general motivational” session mostly covering the backgrounds and experiences of the panel – much similar to SI #1-3. After NUST this could probably be repeated in many many other universities as well but at some point down the road SI needs to evolve to realize its calling as a platform to help entrepreneurs get to the next stage by giving them practical, immediate support in improving their products, their plans, their network, their access, and more.
To a small degree this is already happening – we’ve had PixSense giving a desk at their firm to another guy with a product in Karachi recently; some of the panelists also helping startups offline after the events; we made some business partners and friends as well through the events. The PASHA group in Karachi also seems to be committed to this somewhat by inviting investors into every one of the Khi events so far.
On the other hand though, I have startups (and I mean people actually in the field starving to death for success and doing this fulltime) telling me they are disinterested in participating in SI because, beyond entertainment and the ability to connect with individuals, to them (and by them I mean those hardcore guys) SI has been evolving into a series of MBA-style lectures merged with snippets of practical advice. To them, the event doesn’t conclude in them finding an immediate answer that helps them tweak and improve their hit ratio for business. Some have even suggested that the bigger focus for SI seems to be becoming self-promotion (I dont think its been that way so far in any of the events that I’ve been to, but this is what I’ve heard from a few folks).
Practical, immediate, support for entrepreneurs would require SI evolving with either more vertical focus — vertical-industry specific sessions where startups from a particular industry are connected and mentored and guided by panelists from that industry — or by horizontal focus — where one event gives the upcoming startups some very achievable homework which can help propel their business forward, which focuses everyone on their future.
Practical homework can include “build a pitch”, “Go demo your thing to XYZ and we’ll figure out the next step from there next time”, “add this feature on your thing this month and we’ll bring ABC to the next event so that you can show this to them and hopefully get going”, “next time we’ll bring HIJK who’s an expert in your particular space so that he can guide you better, but to get the best advice from him it would be good to give him blah.”
Practical support includes focus and relevance in connecting the right people with the right mentees. It involves a global-facing view where the activities from each of the cities shouldn’t been looked at in isolation, but rather all of the participants from all three cities should be able to connect with each other and build upon each others’ shoulders. It requires welcoming everyone as potential experts in a niche space, not just those we know. It requires a roadmap and community buy-in. It requires process.
There is a very big difference between a person who is trying to decide between a job in a bank vs a startup, and a person who has already made that decision, has jumped into it fulltime, but needs to know how to grow and succeed at his startup.
My only thought is that I hope SI continues to focus all their plans and energies on the right person out of those two, because if you lose focus and are unable to help the entrepreneurs get to the next stage, you also lose the community around SI which is spending so much of their energies into supporting this brand.
Feel free to disagree, but dont lose your temper or hold personal grudges against me for speaking out some free advice for SI… business needs to be objective and we should all be able to absorb and respect each others’ perspectives.
Looking forward to seeing you all on the 4th. If nothing else, these panelists are incredibly accomplished individuals and it would be great to meet them.