There is no real age at which you can start becoming an entrepreneur. In fact, the earlier you start, the more experience you can gain. But Imagine If you’re a university student trying to be an entrepreneur as well? Well, that’s where the ImagineIF boot camp comes into play.

Organized by the ICTA, ImagineIF is a series of entrepreneurship boot camps aimed at undergraduate students of universities across Sri Lanka. Consisting of a 3-day boot camp, ImagineIF aimed to answer one question: “Imagine IF?”.

ImagineIF you were building a startup

This was what we learned from Hasith Yaggahavita – CTO of 99X Technology. He taught us the six steps to building a startup. It all starts with your passion he explained. From there, you need an idea and a method of validating that the idea is indeed a good one.

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Building a Startup? You need to follow a few steps first (Image Credits: CitrusBits)

Hasith shared that every startup idea needs to be validated after which you need a strong team. Teamwork is essential. “Most startups fail,” he says “because they only have a single founder”. Once you are armed with an idea and a strong team, you also need to make sure you scale your business accordingly.

Having the right technology and infrastructure is also important. Once all these steps have been covered, you’re one step closer to becoming a fully-fledged entrepreneur. The steps are quite simple; they are not exactly easy to do.

ImagineIF you were validating your ideas

Building a startup makes sense if you have an idea of what you want to do. But how do you know that the idea you have is a good one? Well, that’s where you need to validate your ideas. Ahamed Nishadh – Project Manager at ICTA spoke to the audience in depth about this.

He referred to Facebook, which only had a profile showing your name, picture, university, and interests. It’s only after the idea was validated that additional features were added on. Even these should be tested with a focus group to make sure that they’re useful. This is called product development.

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Ahamed Nishadh talking about validating your ideas

So how exactly do you validate an idea? Well, you can start by googling an idea. There’s always someone else doing the same thing. With 7 billion people in the world, you’re bound to find at least two more people thinking along the same lines as you. They may even be a step ahead of you and doing it already. From there, you can ask people what they think of your idea.

But not everyone may be comfortable in telling other people about their idea. But at the end of the day, ideas are cheap. It’s the execution that matters and if you know your idea then you can succeed. So share your idea and then gauge reactions.

You can get this feedback from online forms but the best way to get it is by speaking to people face to face. And this should be people who don’t know you or even hate you because family and friends will always say positive things even if your ideas are bad.

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Ahamed continuing his session

Once you’re done with validation, you should build an MVP. This is the barebones of your product with no fancy additional features. Think of it as a simple bun with no fancy fillings. Afterward, build your brand once you have something good to offer. And then identify and target your target customer. The next step? Sell and listen to the needs of your customer. Then repeat the entire process. He concluded by saying, “Being an entrepreneur is like a roller coaster. It’s fun and scary”.

ImagineIF you were prototyping

So you have the idea, you have the team and you have the validation that the idea is a good one. So what now? Well, you begin work on your prototype. Speaking to us on prototyping was Heminda Jayaweera – Co-founder of Venture Frontier Lanka. Heminda carried out a number of exercises starting off with the participants being randomized into teams.

Afterward, they were tasked with forming ideas to solve some of the grand global challenges. Each person in a team was tasked with formulating 5 ideas. And then the teams had to select the craziest and most feasible idea.

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Heminda Jayaweera talking at the ImagineIF boot camp

Selecting the ideas was the stepping stone for team members to prototype their ideas. Methods for this ranged from doing, sketching, and acting it out. After the teams had explained their ideas, they went about forming their ideas and then presented them after lunch.

Constant validation is the key

Following this session, we saw Ahamed take the stage once more. He introduced two tools: The SWOT Analysis and Lean Canvas. These tools are used to identify your strengths, weaknesses, new opportunities, key metrics, revenue streams and a number of other important factors.

These factors will shape the success of your business and help you in making the correct decisions for your business. Afterward, Ahamed introduced the concept of the elevator pitch to the participants. In conclusion, Ahamed explained that “You can never tell who you’ll meet in the business world”. In other words, constant vigilance is key.

ImagineIF you had to market your product

Once you have the product validated, you will need to market your product. After all, what good is your product if no one knows about it? This was what we learned from Indulekha Nanayakkara – Co-manager, Google Business Group Colombo. She introduced the concept of growth hacking with a few examples such as Facebook, Airbnb, and Hotmail.

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Indulekha Nanayakkara talking about marketing your product

These have their differences in the way they were marketed and the way they grew. For example, the biggest difference is that growth hacking is a psychological trick rather than technological. As such, it cannot be replicated regularly. One method of growing your business is to create a mailing list using a tool like MailChimp.

This allows you to make announcements to people about your company’s progress. Further, you should also track metrics, and automate what you can. This will give you more time to focus on handling core business processes.

That being said, Indulekha also explained that in the early stages of your business you should not spend time acquiring customers. Rather, you should focus more on validating your product. In short, you should get the product right first. Indulekha also encouraged the participants to read “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries. The book provides an in-depth insight into validating your startup idea before building it.

Sending guest posts to popular tech publications is another way to market your product as well. While you can redirect traffic to the website, you would also need to meet the guidelines of the websites. Alternatively, you can invite other known influencers to write for your company’s blog as well. You can also make use of drip campaigns such as onboarding by referring to various offers such as providing free Dropbox storage for signing up.

With Induleka’s session, the ImagineIF entrepreneurship Bootcamp held at the University of Jayawardenapura came to an end. If you would like to know more about the ImagineIF bootcamp and register for upcoming ImagineIF bootcamps, you can do so by clicking here. Alternately, you can also contact Tamasha Fernando or Vemani Kaushalya on 94 11 236 9656 or via tamashaf@icta.lk.

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