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Future Startup Weekly 12: Labor Productivity and Startup Success

What kills a far greater number of startups than any other reason is simple productivity loss, not being able to do with sufficient efficiency, what needs to be done. This is precisely why everyone talks about execution over ideas. While we generally attribute startup failure to various reasons such as lack of product-market fit, bad timing, running out of money, etc, a failure to produce results is at the center of all these challenges. 

Charlie Songhurts puts it beautifully in an interview with Patrick O’Shaughnessy: “So I think the dominant sort of failure mode for startups is the same at each different stage. So at sort of pre-seed to seed, you basically have a failure to achieve labor productivity, which is just a polite way of saying the team doesn't come together. Doesn't gel and produces good output. Usually, a team that just produces good work will generate enough sort of kinetic energy to get continuing funding."

This is a helpful perspective. If you can bring down your reason for failure to simple productivity failure, it allows you to design interventions to avoid that from happening. Now productivity is not about getting things done alone. It is of course about getting things done on time but it is also about getting the right things done. You are accomplishing the right things for the right reason that is productivity. Now that requires some system in place so that you not only build a culture of getting things done in a timely manner but also you as a team pick the right things to do. 

In most enterprises of decent size, the aspect of productivity, at least in the context of Bangladesh, is often left to chance. You have standard HR systems but that seldom covers what is being done and for what purpose. Startups should design systems and processes with an eye to maintain productivity. 

One particular productivity killer is distractions. Lack of focus kills far more companies than anything else. While accountability in the form of developing systems and processes is critical for companies to ensure productivity, distraction, even seemingly productive ones, can drain any productivity gains from implementing a good system.

If you like this, read other essays from the series called growing up here.

On to the updates. 

1. Xiaomi Country Manager Ziauddin Chowdhury On Xiaomi Bangladesh, Smartphone market, and Management.

In this excellent interview with Future Startup, Mr. Ziauddin talks about his journey to what he is doing today, his work as the country general manager of Xiaomi Bangladesh, discusses the state of Xiaomi’s business in Bangladesh, operational intricacies, its challenges, and ambition going forward, shares his take on the smartphone market in Bangladesh, how he operates as a leader and his management philosophy, and much more.

Read the full interview here.

2. Digital Healthcare Startup Maya Launches in Pakistan. 

Maya, a Bangladeshi-origin and Singapore-based digital healthcare company that provides mobile-based digital health services, announced that it has officially launched in Pakistan. The launch follows a USD 2.2 million fundraising round in February led by Anchorless Bangladesh and The Osiris Group. Maya already provides an all-in-one health solution through its more than 150 experts to over 10 million users in Bangladesh and claims to be the largest telehealth company in the country. 

Pakistan is the third market for Maya after Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The company is also eyeing to enter a few Middle Eastern countries and Southeast Asian markets.

Read our full analysis of the launch here

3. 4 Startups to Watch in Apparel Manufacturing, Ecommerce, EdTech, and Space Rental.

We have seen an influx of new fascinating startups in Dhaka's startup scene over the last few years tackling challenges in a variety of verticals including garment manufacturing, ecommerce, online education, and space rental, among others. 

Many of these companies are doing unique work such as Nitex, a sustainable apparel manufacturer that manages the complete supply chain, from design to manufacturing to shipping, for small clothing brands and individual entrepreneurs. 

Others are part of global meta trends such as EdTech, space rental, and digital commerce. For example, Ajke.live is building a live commerce platform focusing on fashion and lifestyle, part of a larger trend happening across markets. In another example, Chaya aims to take on space rentals by connecting space owners and renters. Online Sohopathi, an edtech platform, seeks to make online education personalized and social using a peer-to-peer and live online learning model. 

All of these companies are in their early stage either just closed their pre-seed or seed investment. But each of them offers a peek inside the fast-evolving nature of Dhaka’s startup scene.

Read the profiles here.

4. A Bangladeshi Young Person’s Guide To Investing and Wealth Creation.

Most Bangladeshis start investing at an older age by putting their retirement savings into a fixed deposit or some other investment that pays a monthly return. While young people have more opportunities to earn these days, the increased earning capacity has not translated into an increase in investment habits. 

Many young people think that they have plenty of time left to build wealth and they will not experience any difficulties in life. Instead of investing, they go through a cycle of earning and spending until it is too late.

But it is important to build a healthy personal finance habit early in life for good reasons we discuss next. Creating wealth takes time. And you will never build wealth by earning alone.

Read the full guide here.

5. Guide: On Raising Angel Investment in Bangladesh. 

Angel investors play a critical role in the development of any startup ecosystem. Startups are long-tail games. Angels enable the long tail to happen by enabling a large number of founders to pursue their business with necessary cash and seriousness and help startups prepare for the later stage of fundraising. 

While we don’t have a strong funding ecosystem in Dhaka as yet, the angel investment ecosystem has slightly improved in the last three years. Compared to two years ago, a significantly higher number of companies are now being able to raise angel investments. 

Raising investment is a skill. Having an excellent idea, even sometimes early traction does not guarantee that you will be able to raise investment. Sometimes you might be able to raise investment but from the wrong investors. So you must spend time in both finding the right angel investors as well as in convincing them to invest in your company.

Read the full guide here.

6. Latest stories from Future Startup.

We regularly publish insightful stories on startup, tech, and business. You can find our latest stories here.

Ideas from around the web

# Too Smart by inimitable Morgan Housel. Link

# Excellent Aeon Essay Plagues and empires. Link

# I finished reading Gabor Mate's Scattered Minds last week. This was my second book by Mate. If you suffer from developmental issues and are plagued by issues like ADD, like many of us, this is an excellent read.

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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