When starting your business, learn from mistakes – both yours and others.
By Quynh Pham (Founder & CEO, TourNative)
The startup idea for a new travel marketplace came after noticing, while backpacking through South America, how hard it was to meet local people and do local activities without entering into a touristy zone or trap or even worse- a dangerous situation.
I started out like most entrepreneurs – with big dreams, a lot of risk and no money. I love connecting with people, feeling people, immersing myself in a foreign country and experiencing the world by getting out of my comfort zone were big motivators as well. In starting my company, I wanted to create an income source for the locals and contribute to the emerging markets.
I wanted to challenge myself by taking big risks. Most importantly, I wanted to define my own destiny not have it defined by someone else. I enjoy the freedom of traveling the world and the flexibility of working from any corner of the world. But being an entrepreneurial woman is not easy. I’ve gone through stages where I’m really excited about my businesses and then other phases where I just wanted to give up everything.
Learn from Mistakes
Running a startup is fast-paced and it is natural to make mistakes.
Three of the most important mistakes that I have encountered have been:
Hiring People Who Are Not Suited to the Challenges and the Nature of a Startup
I have been a victim of this mistake many times since the working environment of a startup is very different than that of a normal company and not everyone is suited this rollercoaster experience.
Making Decisions Without Carrying Out Proper Market Research
During the decision making process, I have made decisions with incomplete research and information, some have turned positively but some have given me a negative result. We need to make the best decisions possible while moving quick at the same time, and sometimes that is a recipe for disaster. It’s better to have all the research possible before making any big decision. At the end if you succeed or fail at least you will know why.
Failing to Make Something People Really Want
This could be one of the most common mistakes that startups make. Having a good idea is not enough to get you off the ground, you need to create something of value that is truly needed. In my marketplace businesses, often times I obtained the supply assuming that’s what people want, but instead, I should have gone out there to get the demand first and get the supply after to accommodate the demand.
Having learned from my mistakes, I’ve gone through many phases of success and failures and I’m still going through that everyday. I constantly need to remind myself of why I’m doing what I’m doing, what are my passions, my goals and my dreams to get myself backup when I face failures.
For example, my first startup realized the potential of video advertising. I took the necessary steps to create a free platform where users can show off their products, reach and sell to a broader audience. My efforts paid off when I single-handedly bootstrapped Reachoo into a profitable lifestyle business. The site currently gets half a million users monthly.
Now on my second startup, a travel marketplace that connects travelers with local people for authentic and unique experiences all over the world, called TourNative, I’ve found some interesting experiences that a traveler can have abroad – this includes eating local food inside a favela in Rio de Janeiro while learning how the community actually lives. I am empowering a traveler to take a Silicon Valley tour in San Francisco and meet with interesting startup founders or photograph the best spots of Buenos Aires with a native professional.
What problem does your business work to solve?
About the writer: Quynh Pham is a serial entrepreneur and a technologist who’s the current CEO and Founder of Reachoo and TourNative, both peer-to-peer marketplaces where people can connect with each other directly to have a more personalized experience. She’s a Computer Science graduate from Penn State University and former IBMer.