Bangladesh StartUp Cup Is Not A Competition, It Is A Business Building Program: Conversation With Muhaimin Khan Of BetterStories Limited

Bangladesh StartUp Cup Is Not A Competition, It Is A Business Building Program: Conversation With Muhaimin Khan Of BetterStories Limited

Muhaimin Khan is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at BetterStories Limited. He is one of the key persons who has contributed to make Bangladesh Startup Cup’14 happen. We spoke to Muhaimin, as an insider, to better under Bangladesh Startup Cup, its tidbits, what happened in 2014 and more. This interview will tell you what Bangladesh Startup Cup is, its anatomy, what happened in 2014, and how you can be a part of it in 2015.

This interview is part of a series we are running on Bangladesh Startup Cup to better understand its journey as a first high impact startup competition.

What is Bangladesh StartUp Cup? How it works? Who should attend?

There are many people with ideas out there for products and services but they seem to be a bit lost and unsure of the path that requires to be followed for an idea to become a full fledged business. Bangladesh Startup Cup is a platform that enables anyone who comes in with an idea to make their ideas marketable and investible.

Having an idea is not enough if it is not saleable. The Bangladesh Startup Cup brings in mentors to nurture and nourish the ideas of the participants through a feedback loop approach and facilitate their walk through the whole path of developing their Business Model. When experienced pool of judges guides the participants by giving their feedback, it helps. This platform brings together mentors, judges, and investors, to facilitate the participants with ideas to reach out to the next level of success by going to the market, securing customers and generating revenue as quickly as possible.

Anyone who is passionate about chasing their dreams of making their idea a reality can participate. Basically a big idea is what is required to participate under the five categories: Technology, Tech-enabled, Social, Women Founders and Creative Startups.

Bangladesh Startup Cup is not a competition in its conventional sense, it is more of a business building program that brings in people with ideas, provide them support and guidance and prepare them to go to market and win.

Briefly tell us about Bangladesh StartUp Cup 2014.

Bangladesh Startup Cup 2014 was initiated by BetterStories Limited and this time it was all about making people confident about their ideas. We initiated this because of our belief that investing in startups is vital for our long term economic sustainability, that entrepreneurs are the heroes of our time, and that fostering creativity, imagination, and innovation is critical for a better tomorrow. Bangladesh StartUp Cup 2014 is a tribute to the dreamers, doers, and visionaries of our community.

There are lots of other startup events and competitions out there, what are the few things that set Bangladesh Startup Cup apart from those competitions?

Bangladesh Startup Cup unlike other business competitions does not focus on participants pitching the ideas only. It focuses on results and put importance on launching successful businesses. This is a business building program. You come in with an idea and go through a 7 months long program and take your business to market.

In nutshell, Bangladesh Startup Cup is not a competition in its conventional sense, it is more of a business building program that brings in people with ideas, provide them support and guidance and prepare them to go to market and win.

How Bangladesh Startup Cup helps to build successful startup?

Bangladesh Startup cup helps to build entrepreneurs himself/herself more than building businesses. It makes the entrepreneurs understand that business is all about people. Bangladesh Startup Cup brings observation of the mentors and thorough criticisms and perspectives of the judges under one roof. This whole process brings the participants with ideas close to the experience and expertise of people from various sectors.

Building a business is a process and it is a hard work. You need to understand the process and master it to get a chance to win. As a startup founder, most of the time people lack experience, judgment, access, and the wisdom one needs to have to make an idea happen. Bangladesh Startup Cup gives a participant all of these by giving him/her access to experienced entrepreneurs and mentors and judges.

What is the selection process; please walk us through the whole process, from starting to end?

I better tell you about how it worked in 2014. For anybody with an idea, submission was open from (14th April -7th May) 2014. After submission and initial screening 46 startups were invited to a 3 days long rigorous boot camp followed by first judgment round. Top 15 teams were selected. These teams were asked to create business plan, posters, logos, presentation before they met another round of judgment. Gradually with each round new challenges came up and that is how we ended up with four finalists.

Building a business is a process and it is a hard work. You need to understand the process and master it to get a chance to win. As a startup founder, most of the time people lack experience, judgment, access, and the wisdom one needs to have to make an idea happen. Bangladesh Startup Cup gives a participant all of these by giving him/her access to experienced entrepreneurs and mentors and judges.

So around 47 teams registered for the Bangladesh Startup Cup 2014, did you expect more teams or did this number exceed your expectations?

Since it was the first time we organized Bangladesh Starup Cup, we did not know what to expect from it. But I would say the pilot events organized throughout this cup have been able to amass passionate crowd. Since our startup scene is just taking off, we were happy with the number of submissions we received.

How much response did you receive in terms of stakeholders or engaging the community?

There is a huge gap in our startup community. It was very difficult to make people understand the whole concept and intent behind the cup. If 5000 people were reached from the community, only 200 showed up.

I would still say that the response was really overwhelming because these 200 would encourage bringing in more 200 the next time. At times, during this cup, there were many mentors who showed up voluntarily just to accelerate and give a boost to the passionate minds! It takes time to make the change but change is inevitable.

What were the major obstacles in arranging and maintaining a 7 month long competition?

To some extent, managing the participants was the biggest obstacle. They kind of took the whole thing for granted. Many participants even after much training and mentoring were quite reluctant to give their own efforts, and as a result they fell out in the long run.

What are few things that could have been done in a better way?

We could have raised more and better supports which we could not because of time constraint. Overall organization could have been better but we could not do it up to our expectation. There are many things we want to do differently. We will look into this matter during the next soon to be launched Bangladesh Startup Cup.

How successful do you think this whole Bangladesh Startup Cup 2014 has been?

I would say, Bangladesh Startup Cup 2014 has been very successful. Through this event, we have got 4 startups and almost all of them are operating really well and seems to have a stable future whereas most competitions can hardly launch any startup.

We tried to make this year’s event as much inclusive as possible so that the stakeholders themselves can promote the cup through positive words of mouth and set the buzz out so that similar competitions are launched in the foreseeable future.

Tell us about few key lessons you have learned.

Every startup requires right platform to make their ideas happen. It’s a community thing. 

The other lesson would be to promote community building. We can’t do things all alone. This is a community thing, especially an eco-system thing. Last year we tried our best to involve the community, this year we will do the same.

Anyone who is passionate about chasing their dreams of making their idea a reality can participate. Basically a big idea is what is required to participate under the five categories: Technology, Tech-enabled, Social, Women Founders and Creative Startups.

Credit: Interview by Fatema Mohammad for Future Startup, Image by BetterStories Limited

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