All great start-ups begin with an idea, but ideas alone are worthless and do not create successful start-ups if not put into practice with proper execution.
That’s the hard part of starting a business, as many founders will discover along the way. You’ll be surprised to find that it’s often the common mistakes that cause start-ups to stumble or fail, even when they have traction and a good product.
Even the most successful start-up founders wish they could rewind to the past and impart some knowledge to their former, less business-savvy selves. In this article, G-Jay Yong, CEO of Oaxis, the Singaporean start-up behind the original InkCase display, shares the challenges he encountered in trying to break into the E Ink space and his advice for entrepreneurs who are just starting out.
It is important to set realistic expectations right from the start, G-Jay Yong (right) of Oaxis shares.
- Product quality is paramount
Oaxis’s InkCase offer users the option to add a second E Ink screen to their device that lets users read and retrieve phone info without turning it on. The company set up shop here in 2010 as a means to break away from its OEM manufacturing roots.
Despite having difficulties trying to establish itself as a brand and setting itself apart from other mobile accessory-making companies at the beginning, G-Jay was determined to focus first on product development before ramping up its marketing activities.
“From the start, I have always believed that a good product is everything. So, the first thing we worked on was to actually create a product that was good enough for us (the directors) to use on a daily basis first, before we set out to do branding and market our product,” he told Asia Finance.
“Today, we have achieved market coverage and more. We have also received coverage from major publications and established ourselves as the go-to brand for smart-cases.”
- Focus on profit and delivery
Some start-ups make the mistake of spending all their bullets on something that do not create value in the real product, he said.
“I know of companies that focused on hype rather than the product, and even managed to raise millions, but could not get their product out to the market in the end,” said G-Jay.
While acknowledging that marketing is crucial for generating brand exposure and sales, G-Jay emphasised the importance of keeping a tight watch on budget, and to focus on profit and delivery.
“It is very easy for start-ups to overspend. To avoid burning out, you need to pace and to understand how much you can do at each stage of your business. This will set you on the path to profit and to creating more products down the line.”
- Never, ever overpromise
It is important to set realistic expectations right from the start.
“Don’t overpromise the consumer or investor. Always try to be conservative and strive to deliver something beyond the expectation of the users and investors,” G-Jay advised.
“It’s very stressful to be entrepreneurs, you need to perform 10 different tasks at the same time and wear multiple hats. But if you set realistic expectations from the start, and are consistent with profit generation and delivery, you won’t feel so stressed out as shareholders will love you even if you don’t do as well in other areas,” he said.
- Constantly innovate
The InkCase was Oaxis’s first and star product. Since its first iteration, the InkCase i6, G-Jay said the Oaxis team has been reviewing feedback and brainstorming for ways to improve on it every day.
“Our first InkCase was mainly good for one thing – to show off. Users were able to change images similar to printing on a phone case. Now, we are challenging Kindle and Otterbox. For starters, we have added a whole lot of features such as the E-Book reader to challenge Kindle and developed our extremely strong drop-proof case to challenger Otterbox.”
“Not only that, the idea behind the E-Reader is so that users do not have to carry too many devices on road trips, while going to work or on daily commutes. Besides from just pure e-Reading, we have also integrated the case with news and article reading.”
“In future, we expect the InkCase to be more than just an e-Reading device. We want it to also be your virtual personal assistant that proactively pushes out information to the InkCase by predicting when you need them.”
“In the next one month, we will be adding a feature that will be extremely popular with the ladies – selfie capabilities!” he shared excitedly.