I usually start my weekends with an intense workout regimen. This one was also quite intense but in a very different way. I attended the 71st edition of ‘Playbook Roundtable’ on Saturday the 28th of May, 2016. Incidentally, this was my first time at any Playbook event. From the time I received the invite, I just had one question: how should I prepare to give it my very best? Little did I know that rather I would get the very best from this infectiously energetic tribe of people we call entrepreneurs on earth.
The event began at 11 A.M. with the first sip of cappuccinos and a brief introduction by everyone. We had 12 entrepreneurs (plus their co-founders), who had come to spend this Saturday to learn from one another. Besides passion, everyone was running high on desire to solve meaningful problems by using technology and change our world forever. While few of them had already (successfully) launched a product and were now facing next level growth challenges, many were still somewhere in MVP stage, figuring out product-market fit.
I was amazed to see an eclectic mix of problems these start-ups wanted to solve – beyond many industries and businesses. We had a renowned Fintech company making peer-to-peer banking easier with its latest product, a B2B engagement platform that helps convert one’s clients to promoters, a knowledge management product that makes life easier for customer support staff, a marketplace for those who want custom-tailored clothing minus hassles, an employee engagement platform that makes it easier to share ideas and innovate bottom-up, a mobile push notifications platform which has a unique ‘do it from your notification itself’ feature, an AI-based data cleaning & organizing tool, a personalized curated video platform which helps discover ‘still hard to find videos’ at YouTube, a collaboration platform which seamlessly works over Gmail, an education portal that aims to make multiple forms & cumbersome application process around admissions redundant, an open source ERP for small businesses with an enviable community across the globe, and a managed marketplace for getting super-affordable flash presentations. Phew, that was a lot… But that’s how best Saturdays are made!
The format of the event – with a handful of participants and an intimate setting over a roundtable, literally – allowed for an easy interaction for everyone. After hearing elevator pitches by everyone, we all were kicked to get into the next phase of our day – the demo!
Every entrepreneur had a total of 30 minutes to give a brief demo and then get into question-answer session, which was a unique opportunity for everyone. While a lot of questions satisfied curiosity of the audience, many entrepreneurs actually took on the audience by asking difficult questions that were giving them sleepless nights. “Almost everyone giggled when this young gentleman innocently asked – how do I reduce my cost of sales? And one response came – don’t ever sell to this segment!”
While everyone learned a thing or two, I noticed recurring themes in advice and insights that most of us agreed with. I call those timeless pieces and they are:
- Articulate the problem you’re solving really well (for whom, how, and why)
- Keep it super simple during MVP stage
- Speak to users, don’t assume
- Your product is super cool, but maybe for some other segment!
- Solve one problem really well for just a handful of users before conquering the world.
We concluded the session with everyone summarising their one or two key takeaways from these awesome 6 hours spent together (damn, nobody mentioned expanded LinkedIn network!) For me, more than anything, it was a humbling experience to be with these ultra-human beings for I’d like to be like them, some Saturday!