Decoding the Startup Gene

Date:   Thursday , February 11, 2016

Headquartered in Bengaluru, Medi Assist focuses on making health insurance benefits accessible and affordable to every Indian citizen in a hassle-free way.

What defines a startup? Age, scale, profitability, or the type of funding the company is seeking? In my mind, any organization, irrespective of age, size or scale, having the \'startup gene\' in its DNA is a startup. The startup gene is the one that makes an organization quick, nimble and single-mindedly focused on the one problem the team is trying to solve.

Be Quick

You need to be quick to get your minimal viable product out into the market at the earliest. Defining your minimal viable product, however, is no easy task. It is all about making a series of trade-offs. Should you build a lot of features into your product before taking it to market or should you build and ship one feature at a time? Should you be a player in one niche area or go all out?

Flipkart started with just one primary offering - books, and then went on to become this large behemoth where you can find practically any product you need online. During my days at redBus, we had to work quickly to launch multiple features in parallel. These ranged from a complete user experience revamp to launch of a mobile app, development of an internal financial system to support the growing business, and so many more - each feature came with its own complexity, value, and implementation effort. The engineering team rose to the challenge and delivered results that went a long way in making redBus a truly valuable startup.

Be Nimble

The world is changing rapidly every day. User preferences, market trends, global economic cues, and practically, everything have the potential to impact not only your product offering, but also your business model itself.

Myntra\'s move to become app-only is an example of an established player being nimble and taking the risk of drastically changing its core delivery format to get closer to its target customer base. SnapDeal is an excellent example of a company that had to pivot several times before hitting pay dirt with its current business model. Helping organizations stay nimble and respond quickly to changing market dynamics is a key characteristic of the startup gene.

Be Single-mindedly Focused

What makes Uber so successful worldwide in a market that offers so many ways in which one can travel from Point A to Point B? The answer lies in how simple and effortless they have made it for people to hail a service. Their single-minded focus on solving a challenge that the world did not even consider a challenge is what makes them so valuable.

It was this philosophy that guided us when we launched the eCashless feature on our mobile app. Single-minded focus on customer experience at the time of hospitalization led us to the serendipitous discovery of eCashless. Rather than have our members initiate a pre-authorization request from the hospital on the date of admission, we gave them the ability to raise their requests using their mobile phone from the comfort of their home. With the provisional pre-authorization already in place before admission, customers can reduce their wait time at the hospital by as much as 95 percent. We also recognized that a large segment of our 120+ million lives we touch would not be smartphone-savvy. We give these members the ability to raise an eCashless request on our website.

Startup is in fact only a state of mind. You don\'t necessarily stop being a startup as your company matures. As long as you allow the startup gene to continue to work its magic, you will continue to remain a startup at heart; transforming and surprising the world even as your young firm grows into a large, successful organization.