Saturday, November 19, 2016

Start-up Requires No Funding

Funding a start-up is risky, and as Drucker noted, entrepreneurs never take risks.

The risky part is not for those who assign a bit of ex nihilo credit tally to a given start-up, but to those who sign the slave papers in return for the granting of ex nihilo credit.  Now that is risky. You might end up like a college graduate today, huge debt and unemployed. No need to do that when starting up, for a proper start-up takes no money or credit to speak of.

The banks promote the idea of "risk taking" by entrepreneurs as a means to unload the unlimited ex nihilo credit, the granting of which is no risk to them.

We have at least one generation that has been trained to lose:

get enough funding to live off of for a year or two, and blow through it... who cares if anything succeeds, cuz you get to play "business" for a year or two...  and who knows, great resumes have serial start-up experience.  Those days are over, but the idea is embedded in a generation core curriculum at the universities.  (And as Drucker said you can tell when information is obsolete, the universities make it core curriculum.)

If you are serious about start-up, you must have a business plan that moves forward without funding.  If you are saying "I just need funding" then you are deluding yourself.  If you are saying "I just need customers" you are at least assessing the problem correctly.

Start-up is about creating customers and innovating in the redeployment of excess capacity (or lessor demand capacity) to the end of solutions to problems. (And as Drucker says, there is no solution that cannot be imporoved upon.)

It takes no money to conceive of the solution.

You must speak to the customer at some point, why not first?  It takes no money to do so.  And you walk away from this phase with ideas and contacts, with which you begin to fill your rolodex and files.  And this is critical, to begin to build your "world trade organization" that is the people you've met, with whom your synergies will produce more than otherwise possible.

It takes no money to talk to your customers.

You have no credibility as a start up, so you borrow authority from target customers... talk to them first...  do they say yours is a good idea and does not otherwise exist?

Then you begin to work on the design, which the best is on a royalty basis. Again, done right, no money up front. And as to design, you work only to achieve "enough design" to generate enough orders to cover the suppliers minimum order requirement. Repeat this mantra: customer is the most important thing in business, getting the design right is the hardest.  But even with this in mind, people fail by working way too hard on the design.  Learn from Steve Jobs.
Apple I Computer.jpg
You learn quickly that in the real world "intellectual property rights" thinking is counterproductive.  Forget about patents, copyrights, trade marks, you get nothing you can use for your time and money. You leave all that behind. With necessary and sufficient product design you expand your world trade association. You begin to discover those whose expertise is in your area, and gather their advice: freight forwarders, customshouse brokers, 3PL, and with it the realities of logistics and costs of your product.  You do not waste time and money becoming expert in international trade, you become expert merely in the international trade of only your items.

It takes no money to gather to get this far.

Please note what "snowballs" here is your solution with customer feedback packed around it. It is what is rolling and why all the other people you contact stick to it getting bigger and ever more momentum (and value).  Each door is opened because of the work getting the previous door opened.  You have not made any money yet, but you haven't spent any either.

Now, you propose importing or exporting (or both?)  Neither importing nor exporting is a business. They are steps in business.   In essence, authentic international trade is simply accessing optimal excess production capacity to the end of production.  Business is buying and selling, not making.  The world is full of production that created no demand.  We do not want to join the 80% of start-ups that fail.

Customers (there is that word again) call forth the product.  We are the impresarios who gather the players necessary to respond to that call.  Yes, we suggested the solution, but the customers power the rationale for all the players you collect to act.  (And I might add, dealing with very talented people each in his own narrow field is a privilege and often breathtaking.  It is also tempering, you just know not to waste these peoples time, you know you must do your best work. Re: best work, see below.)

With importing, you are moving from general (the domestic market) to specific, the best supplier in the world.  In exporting, you are moving from specific to general, the best supplier in the world, to any buyer worldwide. With either, you are discovering markets no one else considered, directions informed with data no one else has created and studied.

This costs you nothing, and you cannot buy it anywhere, it is not for sale.  It is free.

For specialty, the best source is rarely, if ever, the cheapest.  Usually it is more expensive.  We are not achieving perfection in initial product design, any more than Apple's first product was perfect.  We are achieving milestone #3, enough orders to cover the supplier's minimum order requirement, in a workable amount of time, profitably.  Again, learn from Steve Jobs.
Apple I Computer.jpg
Then you find the best sources for production, and discuss what you've done so far. And now this is where you do your best work, as paranthesied above: you promise nothing except to test this very well informed (by now) idea, by presenting the sample of what you created in the form of products, agricultural items, services, you name it, back to the customers you first encountered in your start-up.

What you are offering is new market study at no cost to the supplier.  Your compensation comes only from customers you create.  Everyone involved gets something for nothing, and you get paid by customers (your markup on all the discovered costs) if you get the design right.  Never promise anything more than to report back on a test.  No one needs anything more, expects anything more, nor would believe you if you promised anything more.

You form a hypothesis and shift from passion/joy to science. You seek out valid and reliable information about the market, you search and learn the contours of a market no one else yet sees.

You may of may not pay for samples, but otherwise it does not cost you money to pay your dues. The less money you spend and the more time you research, the better off your start up. As the carpenters say, measure twice cut once.

Now, here is where people those with funding fail:  since they did not start with the customer, they promise the supplier much in the way of flash and imagery but no customers (or worse, assumed customers).  The wrong suppliers respond to that (or just plain scammers.)  Just as these people begin "selling", things go bad fast.  (Alibaba is the world center for failure match-up.  Amazon and eBay is the medium upon which failure occurs.)

What we promise all of our associates is not a single order.  What we promise is to test against samples the most informed hypothesis of whether there is enough customers collectively to cover the supplier's minimum production run in a workable amount of time, profitably.

Sound complicated?  No, it is quite simple, and may take some unlearning to "get it." It is what the best suppliers expect.  And so far it costs nothing to speak of.

That minimum production run requirement is specifically the LCL MOQ FOB:  Less than container load, minimum order quantity, priced free on board country of origin port of lading.  That is often merely a pallet load.

 In importing we are the ones buying the lcl moq fob, in exporting, we are the ones selling the lcl moq fob.

And if we do achieve the initial goal of enough orders to cover the suppliers minimum in a workable amount of time, profitably, then we execute.  And we are talking a min order qty of one maybe one pallet, no more than say $5000 worth.  Do you really need a venture capitalist for this?  Or a banker? Or even a rich uncle?

And if we do not achieve it, then what we have in hand is market feedback, what is wrong (shape, weight, color, size, package, material, speed, flavor?) with our product.  Aren't you glad you only have samples, not a garage full?  You can go back to your world trade association you built and fix the problem.  And then go at the market again.  These is no excuse for failure, or especially burn out.

You may fantasize some business in which you are paragraphed in the Wall Street Journal.  Sure, if you want, but both Apple and Vandor started the same way.  Vandor never got above $3 million in sales (at least when I was managing it) and you've never heard of it.  The first company I was working for was at that time the same size as NIKE, tiny.  Phil Knight knew no bounds. But the owners of all had all of their material wants met by the business.  Business is about lifestyle, not accumulation, another conept the last two generations need to learn.

And start-up is not about funding. Anyone investing more than $900 or ninety hours before discovering whether they have enough orders from customers to cover the suppliers minimum order requirement in a workable amount of time, profitably is wasting time and money.  I am often pointing out where people are wasting either in their pursuits.

Now as simple as this is, there is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.  I came of age when it was no problem to walk down a street and see a "help wanted" sign in the window of an import-export company and after two years of learning every part of the business, be travelling the world as a buyer.  Ex nihilo cedit ended all that for now, but the ex nihilo credit regime is over.  Thirty years ago I could see this de facto apprenticeship program ending, so I began to lecture at colleges and wrote a book to fill-in the gap formed when getting a job and working your way up ended.

Those were boom years, and the damage is done during the boom years.  Now it is the bust, where the losses are laid on the living (the rich take the profits, the poor take the losses) and the work of rebuilding a natural, authentic economy is at hand.

Pro sports bore me.  I spend the time most people devote to pro sports teaching, writing and lecturing.  I find it fun and fascinating.  And writing is how I get paid for time spent thinking. The rest of the time I spend working on my own business.  Lifestyle, not accumulation.

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