When we started planning for Riwaya back in early 2020, we did what all the conventional thoughts on building a start-up tells you to do. We created a business plan, we sized the opportunity of the market, we looked at what other businesses are doing, we got seed funding, we listened to marketplace podcasts (sharetribe do a brilliant one here https://www.sharetribe.com/twosided/) and we got advisors in.
But despite planning and iterations of numerous business models, nothing could have prepared us for the lessons we learnt from actually building our MVP (minimum viable product), launch iterations and getting customer and vendor feedback.
So for any budding marketplace (or wider tech) entrepreneur who wants to build a marketplace, here’s our 5 top tips from the last 2 years that will hopefully give you a greater insight.
1. Customer is key
There are a million great start-ups springing up daily, the rise of technology has democratised previously closed off businesses and made them available for disruption to the masses. Everything from how you order your food, how you brush your teeth to how you go to sleep has an amazing start-up, revolutionising the way we do things by including some automation or technology in it.
However, the difference between a successful start-up and a great idea is whether customers adopt your idea. And for them to adopt it, we need to solve the following simple question: does it make my customers' lives easier?
Everyone will always take a shortcut if it's handed to them and no one voluntarily makes their life harder than it needs to be.
At Riwaya, our goal is simple: to make it easier for customers to buy from vetted sellers to buy amazing products without sacrificing their moral and ethical beliefs.
2. Things go wrong…alot
Regardless of how much you plan and account for, there’s one thing you can be sure of - things go wrong all the time..especially when it comes to tech. Having an app or web native platform opens amazing opportunities.
You’re not constrained by location of customers, you can scale at a much easier rate and depending on the business model, your start-up materials tend to be much lower. However, it comes with a huge array of issues too. BUGS, security concerns, API failures, integration issues, inefficient coding and errors. The list goes on and on.
And we haven't even taken into account the usual business issues of marketing, customers, partners, finances and employees.
It takes a certain amount of resilience to keep going when things are not going your way and everything is breaking around. Key tip, take a step back. Pray istikhara (guidance prayer) and trust in Allah.
3. You’ll doubt yourself
Will it work, won't it work. It’s not growing at the rate the plan said it would. Customers are not happy. Maybe i'm not cut out for the entrepreneurial path. Why is so much easier for everyone else…
Just some of the thoughts that enter our mind on a weekly or even daily basis. You may think that it's just a personal self-confidence crisis, when in reality it's part of the job of being an entrepreneur.
Ben Francis, the CEO of gymshark (the £1 billion clothing start-up) recently said that even 10 years in and a huge amount of success, he still questions himself every day about whether he's up to the task.
This is why you need to have true belief and passion for what your business is. If you don’t, when the going gets tough, you’ll eventually quit. Your belief in your goal and journey will help you ride those tough days out.
Grit and determination is needed, remember James Dyson took 5,127 iterations before he created the first bagless vacuum cleaner. At Riwaya, we’re working on iteration 4.0 (so we have some way to go to match Sir James!) but every iteration is a learning process and an opportunity to improve what we have to offer to our customers and sellers.
4. People are key
You may be forgiven in thinking that when starting a marketplace or a tech company that all that matters is the tech. That build good tech and everything else would fall into place. Well, we’ve got news that it doesn't quite work that way.
Yes its true you need to have an amazing product, but you need amazing people to build that amazing product, to sell that amazing product, to improve that amazing product, to market that amazing product and to finance that amazing product.
People can make or break a good product and a start-up’s success as well as good people management. People who believe in the journey, have a desire to reach the next level and don't settle for ‘okay’ are going to be key to any organisation. However, their importance increases a large amount when it comes to start-ups.
5. Everything is predestined
A key aspect for any venture, business or journey you wish to take. It’s easy to look at yourself or another person and conclude that everyone has an easier journey or the guys at Google did it so easily.
Just remember that you’re on your own journey, you can't compare your experiences to others. You’ll learn your own things and things will happen (or won't happen) in its own time.
You can't control any of that, so you may as well buckle up for the ride. Remember that your Qadr(fate) and Rizq(sustenance) is predestined by Allah so try not to worry too much and enjoy the journey you take along the way.
Inshallah we wish your tech venture or marketplace every success. One of our goals at Riwaya is to create a community of budding entrepreneurs within the Islamic and ethical space. If you wish to get in touch, please do at [email protected] or find us at www.riwaya.co.uk