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Advice Is Cheap, Context Is Priceless: 3 Tips From An Entrepreneur On Building A Startup In Bangladesh

Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel
Mostafizur Rahaman Sohel | click image for more

It is often hard to separate the signal from noise. Startup world is literally littered with advice. The problem, though, is that almost all advice is of no value if it is taken out of context. Well, there are some that are timeless but those are exceptions.

The journey of building a business has some kind of thematic similarity across the globe. Personal struggles that an entrepreneur endures is almost universal. But there are things that if you take out of context would sound nonsense.

That’s why one of the purposes of Future Startup is to create local knowledge and help people understand the local context. Knowledge is universal but still you get to put it in the right context to fully realize the benefits.

We regularly interview entrepreneurs and founder and makers, and one of the common questions we ask anonymously is how they suggest young people approach the difficult job of building a company from scratch. Recently, we asked the same to serial entrepreneur Mostafizur Rahman Sohel and here what he has to say.

Set measurable milestones, Focus Relentlessly

Dhaka has suddenly become a city of events and showcases and pitch competitions. There is a certain kind of sense of success in speaking at an event or winning a competition but that seldom adds value to any business. As an early stage founder, your job is to protect yourself from these sort of distractions and remain steady on your plans and goals.

“It is easy to get distracted with trifles when you start a company but be aware of distractions. Focus is the key. I think one should develop a certain level of discipline and focus,” says Mostafizur Rahman Sohel. “Start with a smart plan, smart in the sense that your plan must be measurable, specific, achievable, and realistic and time oriented.”

“You need to set milestones to achieve time to time. Start with what you want to achieve in a 6-month time frame and measure your achievement. Then continue doing it. Once you make a decision be confident and work hard.”

Be open to change

In life and in business, only the change is constant. Your ability to anticipate change, deal with change, and adjust yourself accordingly will define your fate often. There are companies that have become obsolete because they failed to see the imminent changes coming.

“Flexibility is an essential trait of a great entrepreneur. You get to evolve a lot over the years as an entrepreneur,” says Sohel. “You get to adjust, learn, unlearn and go through different kind of difficult situations and more. Only people who are ready to break and then re-build themselves can survive such a journey.”

There will be a time when you will need to change your idea, change yourself or team. Be bold and deal with it.

Learn about your industry, become a domain expert

“If you want to be an entrepreneur: you have to know what you want to do, what you want to achieve and you have to be very clear about that,” says Sohel, “it is a huge advantage to start with domain knowledge in your sector.”

Sohel goes on to recount some of his person experience: “My background was IT. I knew the ins and outs of this sector when I decided to start a software company. It helped me a lot. My clients and other stakeholders could not confuse me. If it was a garments factory, I doubt I would be successful. I hardly know about garments and how it works.

I’ve seen many software firms and entrepreneurial initiatives and many of them had huge investment but ultimately failed just because of lack of expert know-how in their field. So, it is a prerequisite to have domain expertise in the sector you are going to start.

In fact, I would suggest not to start in a sector with huge profitability and potentials that you don’t understand but to start in a sector that you know well but don’t present as potential as the other one.”

People often idealize entrepreneurs but we know only a handful of successful entrepreneurs which is anything but representative. Sohel says: “it is hard to define an ideal founder. You can find all different kind of successful entrepreneurs. However, I think you need to be a little crazy because only crazy people can take something challenging, risky and unrealistic as normal. I think a startup founder is someone who loves his initiative too much and crazy to make it happen.”

Mohammad Ruhul Kader is a Dhaka-based entrepreneur and writer. He founded Future Startup, a digital publication covering the startup and technology scene in Dhaka with an ambition to transform Bangladesh through entrepreneurship and innovation. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, and society. He is the author of Rethinking Failure. His writings have been published in almost all major national dailies in Bangladesh including DT, FE, etc. Prior to FS, he worked for a local conglomerate where he helped start a social enterprise. Ruhul is a 2022 winner of Emergent Ventures, a fellowship and grant program from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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