Oh, I’ve seen this Before

Apr 26, 2021 6 Min Read

Leaderonomics Archives: Building Enterprises

Entrepreneurship is a way to achieve self-actualization, create meaning, and change the world.

Almost every time I vetted pitch enterpreneurs decks, what usually came across my mind was, “Oh, I’ve seen this before.”
In my line of work as an advisor and mentor to numerous enterpreneurs, I’ve been reviewing thousands of pitch decks either from startups, corporate, or venture capitalists locally and internationally. It helps me to learn about different perspectives and a few tips and tricks which may help you as an enterpreneur.

My favorite questions to enterpreneurs include, Who is your ideal customer? How much time did you spend hearing their stories? Do they feel your solution is good to have or a must-have? How much are they willing to pay? 

Guess what? The way they answer me, I feel many of them seem to have a crystal ball. They just know what customers needs even without proper market validation. Just wow! So I guess it’s not a surprise why 90% of companies run by enterpreneurs fail. Worst, we see a lot of the eco-system around us morphing and changing significantly, with so many opportunities (and threats) around us.

We are living in an exciting world full of uncertainties; businesses are continually being challenged to evolve. I think the best way to develop is to have a growth learning mindset. As leaders, we should not easily assume things based on what we know in the past but stay curious about current trends that help us make a good judgment. Theoretically, it may sound easy, but it takes a lot of strategic effort to shift the mindset. And as an enterpreneur, it is vital that we do not fall into the trap of believing our past dogma, but continually finding ways to understand the present.

I think what’s important for entrepreneurship in this era is not so much about the economies of scale, or trying to fit-in your ideas into the existing supply chain, but has to be a game-changing mindset to come up with a new sustainable business model (focusing on responding to local needs, using what’s locally available, and value-added to the local community).

Coffee Farmers

Let’s take a coffee farmer as an example.
Large corporations that own famous brands charge you about 3–4 dollars per cup of coffee. 
How much per cup of coffee did the farmer actually make? The last time I heard, about two years ago, it was about one cent. Who made the most money? Is that equitable income in the modern era?

The world’s coffee production is close to 10 million tonnes a year. Over the past 30 years, we have lost millions of coffee farmers due to the economies of scale and pricing issues. Until discovering Cascara as an antioxidant, superfood made it possible for coffee farmers to earn five times more than just selling the coffee bean.

If one thing this pandemic has taught us well, we need to take care of our health. One of the best ways to boost the immune system is by taking antioxidants, which can be found in Cascara. 

Imagine how much waste of resources has been at the expense of those farmers in the last 30 years? If they could have sold Cascara from the very beginning, wouldn’t that have been a game-changer for them and their families? I would like to highlight doing more with what the earth is producing and less about getting the land to produce more of what we want.

Corporate Responsibility

I presented, Rethinking CSR for Digital Transformation to the United Nations in Geneva late last year. CSR is not about handing over a big cheque, taking a photo, and posting it on media for publicity. Integrity is the heart of CSR activities. It is about the company doing the right thing and making the world a better place for stakeholders, not just shareholders.

As a responsible corporate enterpreneur, the leadership team should make significant effort to ensure their stakeholder’s equitable growth. If their business somehow contributes to modern slavery and/or hurts the community and environment, they need to have a clear plan to address those issues and create a fair, sustainable plan for their stakeholders. Showing more than 10x growth by hurting others, whether direct or indirect, is not something they should be proud of.

Let’s take a real-world example: Intel is a leading semiconductor company. Water is essential for the manufacturing process in the semiconductor industry. Intel realized they had been using a lot of water and committed to restoring 100% of the water used in their manufacturing. The intent and action plan were clear. Intel is restoring approximately 1.8 billion gallons of water per year.

Another good example is Amazon. During the Coronavirus outbreak, the company launched a 25 million dollar relief fund for drivers and seasonal employees under financial distress during this challenging time. I casually spoke to many entrepreneurs regarding the need for mindset change, and quite a number of them reacted by saying,

“Man, that’s how the world works!”
“We control the supply chain, make it exclusive, pay the cheapest, make big bucks, isn’t that great?”
“It’s okay; we pay taxes so let the government worry about that.”
“Once we earn the big bucks, then we can always do charity/CSR.
"CSR is just to manage perception. Just a marketing exercise”

I feel ashamed hearing these responses.

How Can We Do More?

I think we can do much better than just focus on making money. I’m not saying money is not important here; money is necessary, but money is not everything. It shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. We could use this momentum of technology to drive lasting change.

Today, opportunities are everywhere, not only limited to big cities but also from the outskirt areas like the coffee farms or agricultural land. You don’t necessarily need to fit in the existing ecosystem but could reimagine the whole supply chain. There are plenty of examples that I consider innovative such as using a kite to generate electricity or delivering internet over lights. Keep exploring to provide better, faster, and cheaper with a green and equitable growth model. For me, entrepreneurship is a way to achieve self-actualization, create meaning, and change the world. The choice is up to you.

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Tags: Values

Atasha is Chief Executive of management consulting firm, Foxymojo & Co. Atasha is also an Advisor to the Alibaba Group’s eFounders Fellowship Asia, which is a joint project with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in support of sustainable development. And an Ambassador for the Seedstars organization which empowers and supports emerging entrepreneurs.

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