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10 Challenges for Emerging Market Startup Ecosystems

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10 CHALLENGES FOR EMERGING MARKET S TA R T U P E C O S Y S T E M S @ D A V E M C C L U R E @ 5 0 0 S TA R T U P S 5 0 0 . C O


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1) THERE AREN’T MANY INVESTORS. MOST OF THEM ARE EVIL OR STUPID. • low valuations and crappy terms: “51% for $100K” • supply vs. demand problem; fewer investors than startups, lack of competition = no urgency, • say NO to business plans / revenue projections • say YES to marketing plans, expense projections • wins & exits => FOMO, competition increases


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2) THERE AREN’T MANY ENTREPRENEURS. MOST OF THEM ARE CLUELESS. • need more mentorship, more founder experience • product management, design & UX, growth hacking & marketing • changing quickly as 1st gen founders exit -> 2nd gen startups


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3) THERE AREN’T MANY CUSTOMERS. M O S T O F T H E M D O N ’ T PAY. • Not true anymore; 3B+ smart phones • increasing internet penetration + consumer GDP • improving payment & logistics • local/regional markets getting BIG • access to global markets easier


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4 ) S TA R T U P S D O N ’ T H AV E T R A C T I O N , A N D N O I D E A H O W T O G E T I T. • Growth Hacker movement • STOP building product features; START growing customers (via online platforms) • unit economics: CAC vs. CLV, timing of revenue & expense, conversion metrics • find profitable, high-volume customer acquisition channels that convert to KPIs, learn how to grow them • WMD.co (weapons of mass distribution)


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5) THERE AREN’T MANY EXITS. MOST OF THEM ARE SMALL. • where are the unicorns? • acquirers crossing borders to find talent (US, EU, China, Japan, Korea, etc) • non-tech companies acquiring startups for innovation • global companies looking for emerging market footprint • local -> regional -> global growth


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6 ) I N V E S T I N G I N R E A L E S TAT E I S B E T T E R B E T T H A N I N V E S T I N G I N S TA R T U P S • startups aren’t real estate! • real estate doesn’t go up forever • most startups fail completely • but a few startups grow up to be unicorns • use real estate to lower risk, drive liquidity


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7 ) M O S T A C C E L E R AT O R S S U C K . AND THEY’RE GOING TO DIE. SOON. • Accelerator economics are tough. • Most startups fail. Most wins are small. Big wins take time (5-7 years). • Most accelerators are under-staffed, under-capitalized, short time horizons. • Accelerators should verticalize, focus on industry-specific expertise, get corporate / academic / govt sponsors • Create operational capital via investment; use real estate to hedge risk, be creative


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8 ) E M P L O Y E E S D O N ’ T U N D E R S TA N D E Q U I T Y. FOUNDERS DON’T GIVE IT TO THEM. • equity should be distributed widely among team (not just founders and management) • when exits happen, a thousand angels are born • PayPal Mafia, Google, Facebook • Yemekspeti example • create equity culture, angel investor culture


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9 ) M O S T S TA R T U P S N E V E R G O G L O B A L . M O S T T H AT T R Y W I L L F A I L . • startups have to start SOMEwhere • some local & regional markets are BIG — Turkey, MENA, Brazil, Indonesia • 50-100M customers is a good place to start • hard to jump to global markets without local market MVP, product/market fit • you don’t need to go to Silicon Valley, but you need to get Silicon Valley to come to YOU.


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10) MOST FOUNDERS & INVESTORS DON’T T H I N K T H E Y ’ R E A S G O O D A S S I L I C O N V A L L E Y. • Silicon Valley isn’t a place, it’s a State of Mind. • Most startups in Silicon Valley came from somewhere else (PayPal, WhatsApp, Udemy) • The biggest problem isn’t lack of experience, it’s lack of confidence (for both investors & founders) • You’re Good enough. You’re Smart enough. Get Going!


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