Last month, RMIT Vietnam hosted an episode of the Quoc Khanh Show with three RMIT-affiliated panellists sharing their expertise on the country’s startup industry.
The discussion was moderated by Mr Quoc Khanh, and featured participants Dr Gary Oliphant, Discipline Lead, Entrepreneurship, from the School of Business & Management; Douglas Abrams, founder and CEO of Expara and RMIT’s Entrepreneur in Residence; and Nguyen Thanh Tu, a Bachelor of Commerce graduate and co-founder of Wedidit Solutions.
Mr Khanh led the discussion through a range of questions, including, “What do you do if your product is too early to market?”, “How do you prevent someone from stealing your idea?”, and “What skills are necessary to successfully launch a startup?”
To the first question, Mr Abrams replied: “As an entrepreneur you have to accept that you will always be either too late or too early to the market.
“There’s only one optimal point, and you’re always going to miss that,” he added. “I believe in our business you need to be too early, but the key is not to be too, too early.”
Concerning the theft of an idea, he explained that this simply isn’t possible.
“Nobody can ever steal your idea, because you don’t own an idea,” Mr Abrams said.
“They belong to everybody. If you want someone to be able to steal your idea, you need to convert it into intellectual property – that’s a patent, a copyright.
“If you have an idea that you believe is so valuable that you would be upset if somebody stole it, convert it into intellectual property, and then you can punish them when they steal it.”
Dr Oliphant, meanwhile, expanded on the financial necessities of entrepreneurship.
“We all know about the Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs of the world,” he said. “But most businesses don’t start with a million dollars.
“There’s a term in our industry called bootstrapping, which basically is, ‘I have so much money to get me through what I need to do, but what it does is it really causes me to focus on the customer’.”
He stressed the importance of understanding customers, especially in the early stages, whereas many startups choose to quickly focus on advertising.
“If you give me a lot of money, there’s a tendency to lose sight of the customers, and all you do is advertise, advertise advertise, and that doesn’t work in the marketplace,” Dr Oliphant said.
“You have to really know the customer.”
Mr Abrams also had advice in terms of finances: “I get asked, ‘When is the right time to raise money from external investors?’”
“Now,” he said. “The worst time to raise is when you need the money.”
“When you need money, you won’t be in a strong negotiating position to ask for money. When I say raise money now, I don’t mean take money no matter what the terms are, but if you can raise money on favourable terms now, do it.”
The Quoc Khanh Show broadcasts on Youtube and features interviews with successful entrepreneurs, social influencers, thinkers, and public figures.
Story: Michael Tatarski