Steps from conversations to a venture
dKreator (pronounced d-Kreator), an early stage start-up, is born out of conversations to learn more about the furniture retail industry. These conversations were not designed with an end goal in mind, but iteratively upon reflection, came together to expose an opportunity. dKreator commenced operations in June 2015, so our views are a reflection of the journey that led to the firm’s establishment. We are yet to launch, scale, create marketing campaigns, expand the team, so there is a lot to do.
Here are three lessons from the experience so far that other aspiring startups should consider:
Unearthing the idea
1. An opportunity could emerge from a random experience.
In late 2014, while marketing an augmented reality app to furniture retailers in Singapore, we saw the limited walk-ins at the stores. Awareness and visibility of the retailers was a bigger issue than sales conversion. Via research, we learned that the furniture retailers had limited online visibility. Big design firms had in-house libraries and supplier lists, whereas smaller firms and individual designers were working extremely hard to build their own trusted network. Word of mouth reigns. While interior design in Singapore is a $7 billion industry with 1,600 design firms and 10,000 designers operating in it, online visibility for various stakeholders is minimal. Why does every professional have to build their own trusted network independently? The conversations were impactful enough to have us explore solutions.
Validating the idea
2. Spotting the opportunity is just the start.
To move it to a business solution, again, we talked to as many people as we met. We engaged with potential customers, partners, industry experts, friends and random consumers. The conversations exposed the common thread of visibility and network, which is the customer pain point we are addressing. Converting it into a scalable business solution is the next step. The solution had to impact the customer’s business, addressable market potential, a target customer, competitive. Through these conversations, we determined our target customer in the two sided marketplace of professionals (designers and retailers) on one end and consumers on the other, potential pitfalls and established new networks.
Building the product and operations
3. It is essential to keep marching forward.
Having validated the idea, a team is needed to build the venture. Perhaps, not a full time in-house team, but a team of expertise and skill sets, whether in-house or outsourced. Locating technical, product and customer skill sets takes time and as it happened with us, priorities and risk profiles changed midway for some folks. It is daunting when a core skill set like technology is not available in-house. We can wait to find an appropriate partner or march ahead knowing the weaknesses. Customers and competitors will not wait for you. Take the leap. It was evident that clarity on the customer’s needs, a roadmap to deliver the solution and the availability of a talented team is more important than the technology stack. Put yourself out there, ask for help, be vulnerable and you will find new paths. We found great advisors, teammates, technology partners, designers and investors through these conversations.
As we close this post, we recognize that while curiosity exposes opportunities and validates ideas, having a team to execute is essential. With limited resources, one is bound to be slow on some cylinders, which in most instances should be seen as future opportunities to accelerate growth.
The story has just begun for our firm. So, stay curious and unearth new opportunities and we will do the same.
Thank you to Arul Balakrishnan, Rolf Hoefer and Alissa Ohl for their contribution and thoughts on this note. Lastly, if you know any awesome designers and retailers, please contact us and we will buy you coffee @ The Hub in return :)