From Idea to Exit: iCover Founder’s Strategies for Identifying Market Needs and Creating Value for Investors and Customers Alike

Successful serial entrepreneur Hari Srinivasan, co-founder and CEO of the groundbreaking life-insurance app iCover, knows what it takes to find the right idea, cultivate it for a market, launch the business effectively, and scale up operations. While many business leaders keep those secrets to themselves, Srinivasan loves helping others achieve their own business dreams.

“I work with several startups as a mentor,” Srinivasan says. “I’m happy to be a sounding board for new entrepreneurs.”

What are the keys to entrepreneurial success? Noobpreneur sat down with Srinivasan and asked for his top tips.

Hari Srinivasan of iCover

Common Challenges Lead to Common Mistakes

First, Srinivasan has some advice for new and aspiring entrepreneurs about what not to do. According to him, the most common mistake is “rushing the idea or the product and taking a single-dimensional approach.”

Entrepreneurs of new enterprises generally face multiple pressures, including the necessity of raising funding and demonstrating concrete results on a short timeline. For these reasons, launching a new business tends to be stressful and elicit powerful, difficult emotions. Srinivasan identifies these circumstances as the underlying causes of unforced errors in business.

“Entrepreneurs are already battling a lot of emotions and, in some cases, don’t have the luxury of spending adequate time defining the value proposition or market needs,” he notes. To avoid making these common mistakes, Srinivasan emphasizes the importance of slowing down, doing research, and gaining clarity.

Get Clear on your Value proposition

According to Srinivasan, entrepreneurs need to do their due diligence before launching a product or business to ensure their hopes for market demand will actually match reality.

“Study the market from a data perspective,” he says. “If you’re launching a consumer product, then analyze demographics, trends, and behavior. For B2B products, track investments from major players, industry publications, white papers, and trends. Market study through data is always effective since you are leading with data, not emotions.”

Conducting this research will help you understand how your business can differentiate itself from the competition, which Srinivasan describes as an essential step. “Before you take the plunge, be clear on the value proposition,” he advises.

Traditional market research is just one way to avoid mistakes, however.

Testing your Ideas Against Reality

According to Srinivasan, business owners should maximize their chances of success by subjecting their ideas to testing in the field. “Get perspectives by validating your idea or concept with potential customers or industry leaders,” he says.

Worried that you don’t have the finished version of your product to test yet? According to Srinivasan, that’s not a problem.

Instead of trying to launch the most advanced, polished product from the beginning, he recommends clearly defining your minimum viable product (MVP) — a basic form of your idea that can be refined with feedback from prospective consumers, early adopters, and others in the industry. Gaining this feedback also helps entrepreneurs adjust their approach early, which can save time and money in the long run.

Similarly, Srinivasan notes that challenges are inevitable in business, and most entrepreneurs will find it necessary to adjust their initial ideas to boost value for consumers. “You start with a concept and keep fine-tuning it until you capture a significant portion of the market share,” he explains. “Then, you should follow a diversification strategy that will help you capitalize on your existing products and capabilities.”

For example, Srinivasan relates how his own latest enterprise evolved during its early days. “In my case, I wanted to start the iCover journey as an insurance company,” he explains. “I decided against it based on market study and advice from industry leaders. That’s why, four years ago, we launched as a SaaS platform — the business model change helped us diversify, expand our portfolio, and create multiple revenue streams.”

Idea testing

In the same way, Srinivasan recommends new businesses take advantage of a number of creative ways to test their concept, such as running experiments and pilot programs, conducting focus groups with prototypes, or even analyzing customer behavior after careful observation. While the exact method a given venture uses will depend on its exact needs and situation, each of these strategies can help determine the viability of its current approach and enable leadership to make adjustments as needed.

Choose Investors with Care

Finally, while it’s common for new entrepreneurs to feel strapped for startup funds, Srinivasan advises caution while forming partnerships with investors.

“Every entrepreneur starts with a vision and the impact he or she wants to create in the world,” he says. “If this is not balanced with the right investment partner, it could impact the growth of the organization in a negative manner.”

For instance, new entrepreneurs could find their business being pushed in directions they never intended or wasting time trying to explain things to people with countervailing motives. That’s why Srinivasan counsels a more considered, deliberate approach.

“Be patient and invest time to find the right partner who understands your industry, shares your value proposition, and believes in your vision,” he says.

Believe in The Journey

Starting a new business is an adventure, which means new entrepreneurs can expect dragons to slay. Srinivasan encourages them to persevere even when times get tough. “Above all, having faith in the concept and believing in the journey will make things happen,” he says.