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Time to pivot or is this called growth? ;)

When I started envisioning how build3 would pan out 2 years ago, I imagined we would back entrepreneurs with proprietary cash and build slowly with a few startups each year. Going into it, I knew full well that it was going to be around 4–5 years before we saw positive financial outcomes, and we needed to spend a lot of money to get there. 2 years in, having spent 5 crores, I feel the need to diversify our revenue streams.

There’s a little voice in my head saying that we shouldn’t match a consistent month-on-month expense base (team, office infra, etc) with a peaky revenue stream (startup equity exits)… It can mean trouble in the long run. Consequently, I’ve been dreaming up business models that will allow us to build a monthly revenue stream.

Enter challenge #1

Our primary client is a startup founder building an impact-centric startup. Funds are hard to come by in the early stages, so building a revenue model based on selling them products and charging them cash is next to impossible. The next obvious question is — What are they willing to spend on, and can I broaden the primary client persona to encapsulate more folks with greater ability to pay? Hold that thought.

Challenge #2

What does this early-stage founder need that they are not getting in spades already? Is it information (google, medium, and Ankur Warikoo seem to have that covered ;), is it resources (money, mentor connects, infrastructure etc), OR is it something else? Hold that thought too.

Challenge #3

We need to build a product or service with our limited resources (financial/hooman), that also helps achieve our organisation’s purpose — in this case “support 100k entrepreneurs to build purpose-led businesses”.

So I did the obvious thing; I gave up and binged on Netflix… :p Noooo. Fortunately or unfortunately, I’m not built that way; it’s this thread-the-needle kind of puzzle that gets me going.

Soooooo (drum roll), this is what I came up with. Introducing Co-hub (some key slides below, email me for the whole deck, I’m happy to share), a community space for creators, one that brings interdisciplinary creators (musicians, artists, writers, entrepreneurs, etc) together to inspire and be inspired, to allow for serendipitous collaboration to occur… stuff that’s beyond ChatGPT (for now at least ;))

What if the next time a founder or a creator takes a holiday, they rub shoulders with a potential co-founder for their business, or they find a fellow musician to jam with and partner with on their next tour? The possibilities are endless. The common thread between the people at co-hub is their passion for creating no matter what form it takes.

As Steve Jobs would say — “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. — Steve Jobs & Rob Siltanen, 1997”. (fun fact — I had solely credited Steve jobs with this quote, as does most of the internet, but my very astute colleague, Abhimanyu Rathi, points out that Rob Siltanen deserves at least half the credit)

Imagine a picturesque location dedicated for the ‘crazy ones’ to meet, share ideas and collaborate. How awesome would that be!

Okay, okay, it’s easy to wax lyrical. Let’s see how this concept actually holds up against the three challenges we laid out earlier.

It seems to elegantly appeal to founders (and creators) when they are stuck (wanting to start a startup, need to pivot, in a dead-end job, have started a startup but missing key folks or key components), and hence I believe this is a need they will pay for — this is validated when you look at various hacker house/startup house business models that have sprouted in recent years. We can offer them all that along with Goa's social and natural benefits! — Challenge #1 MET!

While it’s easy to google stuff and youtube stuff, there is something to be said when you intellectually spar with someone and discover something or serendipitously stumble onto a realisation because you gave a topic some space to breathe or you observe something. It triggers a stream of lucid thoughts — something we rarely do in our daily hustle-bustle. Does this sound familiar? This frequently happens to me when I’m at a conference. One of the speakers triggers a thought, or when I’m relaxed and chatting with some like-minded friends, some really cool breakthroughs happen (only a certain creative subset, mind you, many are still plugged into the matrix). When I have time just to be and reflect — walking on the beach, or sipping a juice and reading a book… THIS is the environment we want to recreate and get those creative juices flowing. I feel this can’t be bought, googled or youtubed. Challenge #2 MET.

There seem to be a number of hospitality venues in Goa, especially in the south, which could benefit from a rebrand. Building the Co-hub is a fresh concept (for the South of Goa) that requires skill and has an emerging and relatively large consumer group. This would mean decent revenues, yet lowish Cap-Ex and rent. We already have the knowledge and the bandwidth (via our startup studio) for the programs and events we would need to run to attract impact entrepreneurs and some creators, so incremental Op-Ex should be minimal. While not perfect, I’m ready to say the probability of achieving success in this business is high, and it’s one of the most capital-efficient ways to do so. And hence I’m ready to say — Challenge #3 MET!

Now it’s time to build an MVP and get real-world data, the kind that Eric Ries will be proud of :)

Some hard questions coming to mind now that I would love your support with -

- What location would be ideal for this? (we’re based out of Goa — so thinking of some place where folks are willing to come, but not overrun with tourists as that will not only create a messy experience but will also be expensive in terms of rent… I like the idea of south goa, but will people come?)

- Programming is vital, I’m sure of it. A bed, healthy hygienic food, and good internet do not cut it anymore. What programs excite folks? We’ve been toying with areas as wide as pottery, farming, music, theatre, entrepreneurship, art, writing, food, wellbeing, permaculture, puzzle, and board games… I’m sure I missed something… Please feel free to chime in.

- While revenue economics can be emulated through service apartments, hostels, and simple B&Bs, the cost and CapEx economics and the availability of properties need to be validated, so we need to hit the road and speak to folks that have these resources to offer.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted on how this roller coaster goes 🙂

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