Interview with young entrepreneur Rishi Chowdhury Co Founder of At YHP (Your Hidden Potential)

Cristian: Hi Rishi and welcome to www.entrepreneurship-interviews.com You’re building an online portal for aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners to grow their ideas and business through sharing of advice, resources, skills and services. What is it?

Rishi: At YHP (Your Hidden Potential) we look to encourage entrepreneurship, and show people that it is a real career choice. On the site we have interviews and guest posts from some of the top and up & coming entrepreneurs who share their journeys, the challenges they faced,  how they overcame these, as well as advice they would give to others.

This is valuable and inspirational. We have built a great community around this and so we are currently building the portal so our community of entrepreneurs can help grow their businesses together by sharing advice, recommendations, build a team or swap services. This is very valuable at a startup stage and being able to interact with a community going through or having been through similar experiences and with the same mindset, can be invaluable.

Cristian: Not sure how many people realize, but looking behind the scenes, running a portal is not just about publishing content, it’s a real business. How does it work to run a portal as a business?

 Rishi:  Indeed, it isn’t easy, once you build this, you then have to think about support and maintenance and ensure that the portal is capable of scaling and still offering a user friendly experience.

But this will become our main revenue stream, coming through a subscription model and as they say, ‘if it ain’t hard it ain’t worth doing!’

 Cristian: I know from my own experience in the online business that is very hard to come up with an idea that hasn’t been done before. How do you find a need and make sure it’s a lucrative market?

 Rishi: I think a lot of the time you draw upon inspiration from around you, what challenges you or those around you are facing. YHP began when me and my co founder were in University & we saw so many people with great business ideas but were afraid to go forward with them or just didn’t know where to start. Both my previous businesses came out of opportunities that I saw right in front of me. At that point you have to think about proof of concept, the majority of businesses are nothing new, just people trying to do it better!

Look around you and see what problems people are facing and come up with ways to solve them, even if they sound crazy, it’s a good way to start thinking in that mindset and you’ll start spotting opportunities all around you.

 Cristian: So what exactly happens at YHP? What are the most interesting areas? How does it help entrepreneurs?  

 Rishi: We get great feedback on our interviews, as well as us gaining some fantastic & influential contacts, they offer great advice and inspiration, giving readers that little push in the right direction to help them take the next step. You wouldn’t believe how many emails I get from readers who say that the site has inspired them to start a business, to go full time on a business or helped them successfully take their business in a new direction.

It is a massive motivator and shows me that we are doing something right. This is why we are working on creating a community portal which can help entrepreneurs work together to help grow their own and each other’s business. This is going to be interesting as we grow this and test what works and what doesn’t, but we think the service sharing will be useful as we want startups which have little budgets, to be able to swap services and keep their costs low. It will also help them build case studies and a customer base who could pay further down the line.

Cristian: You’re targeting a specific demographic?

 Rishi:  Any one of any age can start a  business and so our site isn’t restricted to anyone, but we do concentrate more on young entrepreneurs under 35. This is when you have less life experience and I believe we can be of most use to this demographic and the fact we are young ourselves, we are going through the same experiences by starting a business early.

 Cristian: You’re also hosting an offline event, what is it?

Rishi: YHP connect is our monthly networking event which we host in a social atmosphere like a bar where people can come, relax and meet like minded entrepreneurs, investors & aspiring entrepreneurs.

We also have guest speakers consisting of successful young entrepreneurs & CEOs of top UK startups. These are more intimate events and offer more value as speakers can interact with attendees more personally and answer your questions.

We hope to expand these across the UK and people can set them up in their own towns via the YHP network.

Cristian: From your experience, what has changed with the crisis in entrepreneurship?

 Rishi: To be honest I think that entrepreneurship has become more popular as people look to different options, since a lot of people have been made redundant or a lack of jobs has led to those coming out of studies and those who have lost their jobs, look at starting a business themselves.

Since money is tight for the majority that can affect revenues made by Startups and make them more ROI cautious which can only help a business in the long term as they want to ensure that as they grow and scale the business, they have the processes in place to help maintain and improve ROI.

I also think that more and more organisations have popped up which are dedicated to helping foster entrepreneurship and communities of entrepreneurs have grown significantly online and via offline events as well. This has been positive as this has helped startups grow through better support.

Cristian: People tend to think that because it’s crisis nothing works. Still, new businesses appear each day. So what works?

 Rishi:  What works is having the right team, If you have the right people on board you can make the most of the many opportunities that  come about during an economic downturn.

Many established companies were born in a recession, HP, Microsoft & FedEx to name a few. These times certainly aren’t easy, but if you have a smart, positive & a passionately determined entrepreneurial team then you have every chance.

 Cristian: So what do you feel are the biggest challenges for young entrepreneurs and how do you feel they can overcome them?

 Rishi: I think that young entrepreneurs obviously have the challenge of inexperience which is often helped by the enthusiasm and ambition whilst having a hunger to learn.

Another challenge is when working with clients, partners, employees etc… people may not trust you because of your age. You have to use your personality to overcome this, know what you’re talking about, show your passion. You don’t sell an idea/product to people by listing the features or your 3 step plan, you sell a belief. You get them to believe what you believe.

The biggest challenge though is often yourself. Never feel that because you are young that you are inferior. Don’t be nervous to speak to those who are more experienced and don’t be afraid to challenge ideas or negotiate with them. They’ll probably be more impressed, so just be yourself.

Also don’t fall back on the excuse that you can’t do something just because you’re young. It will become an easy excuse and you’ll be holding yourself back from fulfilling your potential.

Check out YourHiddenPotential.co.uk and you will see just how many entrepreneurs there are under the age of 25 who have been so successful, some are even onto their second or third successful business.

 Cristian: Do you think there is a real help coming from the educational system and governments to sustain entrepreneurship?

 Rishi: There is certainly a greater push from governments to help spread entrepreneurship as a career choice which is great but I think they need to realise where they can help and then let it flourish rather than actively try and create something because I don’t think it can be artificially created. They can help by giving small businesses and entrepreneurs certain tax breaks or  promoting startups and startup jobs, even provide discounted shared office space, but leave these startup clusters to grow organically.

I think education is way behind! The rate of change and understanding of what is current seems to be warped and lagging far behind. I have certainly seen an increase in the number of private organisations set up  to help student entrepreneurs and an increase in student run entrepreneurship societies but a lack of help and exposure from educational establishments.

The educational system inherently teaches us that failure is a bad thing and this does not help in breeding an entrepreneurial spirit because the risk is perceived to be failure & it’s this fear of failure which is holding back so much creativity and innovation. We are losing the creativity we are born with, through the rigid education system based purely around academia.

Unfortunately I think our education system puts the fear of failure into students, but that’s another story.

 Cristian: What is the biggest mistake people do when thinking about starting a business?

 Rishi: Procrastinate, don’t waste time, get your business out there, why do something tomorrow when you can do it today?  Whether it is an early iteration of your product get it out and experiment with  frequent iterations on your invariably small user base. Get lots of feedback, see if there are any recurring comments.

Also I see a lot of young energetic entrepreneurs  who start a business and want to put all their ideas into action at once and waste time, effort & money on stuff which isn’t adding a huge amount to customers. At an early stage when you have little money and manpower, it is important to concentrate on what matters to your customers and what will  make the biggest contribution to sales. Keep it simple, don’t over complicate things, I found that out the hard way.

 Cristian: You’re also doing some interviews with entrepreneurs. What was the most interesting interview so far?

 Rishi: So one of my most interesting interviews had to be with Michael Acton Smith, the founder of Mindcandy and previously Firebox.com. You can see the video interview I did with him here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-9LeF8svdo&feature=related He is a very smart, charismatic character & it was really interesting to hear his story from how he started without any money and surviving the dot-com bubble & growing his current company into one of the biggest in Europe.

 Cristian: I don’t know about you, but with the interviews I had since 2007 with entrepreneurs, I come to realize that there is an incredible array of “impossible business” that become a great success. What is your advice to people that are too afraid to start their own business?  

Rishi: Absolutely, I have seen some incredible startups that have been successful that would probably have had a few odd looks when the founders first proposed their ideas  and to be honest sometimes for good reason, but they went ahead with it and it may not have worked but they have changed bits here and there and reinvented themselves and their startup has become massive.  It’s all about being adaptable and knowing when something isn’t working, is then about having a team to make it happen.

The thing they had which made them successful was a great team and the right mindset. You have to be flexible and go in knowing that your idea might change down the road depending on the feedback you get. You have to do what you feel is right and that may be going forward with your idea but be ready to change.

Many companies pivot these days and you won’t know more about your product/service till you create a business and start trying to sell your product/service. Go out there and be prepared to fail, just make sure you learn quickly.

 Cristian: How can one get an interview with you?

 Rishi:  You can contact me via email at Rishi [at] yourhiddenpotential.co.uk, on twitter @rishi_chowdhury or through LinkedIn

 Cristian: Any advice you would give young entrepreneurs?

Network. I think networking is very important and hugely beneficial and more so at the early stage of you business, take the time out to network every so often.

Network at not only startup/entrepreneur events but networking events in your industry as well. Build a strong network and it can do wonders in terms of spreading the word of your business,  advice,  support network, potential employees/partners etc…

It is always helpful to have people around you going through the same challenges which family & friends might not be able to relate with.

Remember your ‘network is your net worth!’