New ideas are the source of sustainable growth. With the exception of China, Asia's economies are either too small or too vertically concentrated to flourish without innovation in the long run. The challenge that Asia faces is that its incumbent industries have not been broadly challenged with grass roots innovation. As such, the competitive playing field largely remains unchanged and this drives complacency.
When is the last time your company had a game-changing idea and implemented it? I am guessing it's difficult for most of you to pinpoint one. Life is too short not to put your effort and enthusiasm behind a great idea of your own.
I am Asian but my attitude is 100 percent American. For everything I love about Asia, the one thing I loathe is the culture of entitlement. The rich get richer and the well connected get all the breaks. Most people simply do not get a voice because of the deep patriarchal culture in most companies. Change is then naturally slow because preservation rather than risk is rewarded. But technology has the power to disintermediate everything. It has the power to change nations (the Arab Spring). It has the power to change politics (the anti-corruption movement in India). It has the power to change industries (take your pick). It has the power to change your own path if you don't like the current direction.
It's a tough economy out there. I know. I know I speak to many of you when I say you either have a job and are unappreciated, unenthusiastic, or simply unhappy. Or you don't have a job and feel like you are fighting a losing battle to find a company that values you. In either case, I beg you to try to start a company.
You read these posts because you are part of the digital generation. Never have the barriers and cost to starting an Internet business been so low. You don't have to be rich, connected, or technical to do it anymore.
Ninety percent of what you will need to run an operation is free to get started. Launch a website on WordPress. Build an inbound marketing campaign through social media, and learn everything you need to know on the Kiss Metrics blog and HubSpot blog. Manage your customer list with MailChimp. Keep track of all of it all with Google Analytics. Yes, it's all free and delivered as a web service instantly. No infrastructure and no boundaries. You know what else is free? Good ideas and ambition.
I am new to the startup world. It's been only 18 months and I have proven very little thus far. However, one thing is clear: I will never work for someone else again. The liberation that starting a company affords you is simply an amazing experience. The freedom of unconfined creativity and limitless possibility is something I wish everyone could experience. And this experience is invaluable. The most exciting element of starting a business, in my opinion, is the notion that a good idea whose time has come cannot be stopped. Whether you succeed or fail, I am very confident you will come out stronger and more creative from the journey.
Be brave. Take a risk (more thoughts here). Work night and weekends until you can leave your job. What do you really have to lose? Go for it!
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Mikaal Abdulla is the CEO and cofounder of 8 Securities. Mikaal has extensive global experience having launched and managed successful consumer Internet businesses and products across Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, India, and the United States. Prior to founding 8 Securities, Mikaal was a senior vice president at E*TRADE where he was responsible for marketing and strategy across 15 geographies. Mikaal holds a M.B.A from both Columbia University and the London Business School.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT