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Diversifying to success : updates on cohub and the birth of another financially viable idea…

UPDATE — To apply for cohub, please follow this link.

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In my last article, I introduced my growing concern with our singular peaky revenue stream and how I was motivated to diversify our revenue streams. All of this without compromising on our purpose of supporting 100,000 startup journeys over the next ten years, founders who are working towards making the world a better place (not just seeking personal wealth and fame).

I talked about being fascinated with and looking to explore a model I called cohub. One that uniquely combined our purpose WITH our target demographic AND a viable business model. Here’s what my explorations on materializing this idea have yielded over the past few weeks.

Build3 Cohub Plan
This is what a full-fledged cohub will look like :)

First, I firmly believe in what gets measured gets done.’ So we set up a quick Kanban pipeline on airtable (Trello works as well, and I’m sure many others do, too) and called for daily standups. Daily standups, if you don’t know them, are one of the best ways for folks to align and request support in a fast-moving project (you may learn more here)

Who did I think to invite for these meetings? (we are a teal organization, , so yes, it was requesting and not instructing, learn more here). I was looking for folks that have skills and interest in the subject matter. It turned out my colleague Charlez is terrific at managing pipelines. My colleague Parag is excited to build the cohub community, given his prior experience at 91springboard and the Kerala Startup Mission (KSUM).

The ball got rolling with us pooling names of folks we felt would be interested in the concept or had a property where we could set up cohub. A couple of weeks in, the list contained 15 shortlisted folks who we would speak to at least once a week. The conversation journey would typically look like gauging interest, discussing details, exploring a win-win structure, and then documentation/timelines etc.

Cohub Build3
Dreamy beach side properties as part of the initial cohub candolim package

As the list got longer, we needed a system to weigh which options to pursue with priority and which to mark as incompatible and focus our time and energy on the more aligned opportunities. So Charlez helped me set up a Google sheet with ten weights, broadly spanning initial cash required, running cash required, time to initiate operations, skills and purpose alignment of the partner, fit-out readiness, and existing presence of an ecosystem. This was key as we could all objectively discuss which options made the most sense and reflect on what we actually cared about. Capital expenses, operating expenses, and alignment of partners came to the forefront. So quickly after that, we started focusing on 3–4 top options and going deeper into those discussions and negotiations.

The best option turned out to be something straightforward (right under our noses too), which was using our current infrastructure (for gathering+events as well as coworking) and adding some living inventory! In good ol’ Candolim :)

We set out to build a list of options near our beach villa. We set a firm guideline that the housing (coliving) inventory must be within 500 meters to ensure a person could easily walk to the villa. Following this guideline, we started walking around our neighborhood and asking folks if they knew of any places we could partner. Sure enough, a bunch of options started rolling in.

We were concerned about rental prices as they had almost doubled in the last few months. After experiencing a full-fledged tourist season for the first time since the pandemic, the landlord’s rent expectations were through the roof. However, with some patient scouting, we came across a few gems. Before I forget, the source of some of our best leads came from our groundskeeper Basu (or Basavraj). He’s been at the property for decades, and all the locals trust him. The presence of Basu immediately established trust in our negotiations with the landlords and prevented them from quoting inflated tourist prices… surprising where the best leads come from, eh ;)

You may remember from my previous article that I was initially gung-ho about building an entirely new location for cohub. I switched gears to leveraging our existing infrastructure because I sensed some hesitation and confusion over the high capex, rent, and time needed to build from scratch. The advice process that teal advocates was instrumental in helping expose some gaps in my thinking. Essentially, seeking guidance from invested or knowledgeable parties helps confirm your thinking or provide a different view. Its also helpful to slough off the ego ;)

That said, serendipitously, a couple of fantastic options popped up (for the bigger, fuller, independent cohub), which we super creatively call cohub 2! However, cohub 2 is at least 9–12 months away, where we can leverage learnings from cohub Candolim to build it out (as lean startup recommends — we would have tested for our leap of faith assumptions with the least time and monetary cost). Simply put, this strategy makes sense as it staggers risk!

So today,

  • We’re at a point where we are less than five weeks from opening our doors.

  • We are signing an agreement on three apartments (with the most outstanding new neighbor friends!) that will probably be able to sleep eight folks across these three rooms.

  • We have a few applications to help lead/build out this program for us (head on to our careers page if you are interested)

  • We have decided on the ‘initial’ positioning of our program (primarily around entrepreneurship, wellbeing, and art+culture, which we will gradually expand to other creative areas)

  • Parag (creator of our Founders Circle program) will help build out the landing page and booking system.

  • Parag, Sujith (Our space manager), and I will be the initial beta team :)

Wish us luck!

P.s. And while we’re doing all of this, an idea for another revenue system (which is stable!) came up, basically agencies for the most commonly requested services by founders — hiring/team surveys, financial modelling/fund raising, growth/marketing/surveys, workshops. More in my next piece on this topic…

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