I believe “What if?” should be both the foundation of a startup and its ongoing mantra.
In a hypercompetitive market, asking this daring question is the best way to differentiate your business from the rest, find consistent growth, and push yourself to continuously challenge the status quo.
How ‘What if?’ can launch a business
I’ve always loved data, and I watched in amazement as the so-called big data industry grew into what it has become today.
But during this growth, I also witnessed the market flood with companies that showed data to users either through business intelligence and visualization or through insights in the form of predictive and prescriptive analytics. I saw the mass confusion caused by Apache Hadoop, data lakes, data federation, machine learning projects, and the shortage of data scientists in the market. And I watched as 70 to 80 percent of all corporate business intelligence projects failed.
For a guy who has always been a data junkie, the urge to ask “What if?” kicked in big time. I jumped on a flight to India and met with the future co-founders of my company, Gautam Shyamantak and Ruban Phukan.
We sat down and asked the question, “What if we productize data to save it from destroying itself through all the noise in the industry?” This one question led to the creation of our corporation.
Lessons learned from asking ‘What if?’
Asking “What if?” can teach so many important entrepreneurial lessons, including how to:
1. Be hypercurious.
Entrepreneurs must be bold, willing to take risks, and must possess a constant burning desire to figure out how things can be made easier and more efficient. A couple of years ago, it was this very same curiosity that triggered my journey toward solving the “data insanity” I saw afflicting corporations everywhere.Often, the most uncertain paths end up leading to the largest opportunities. “What if?” will help you find those paths.
2. Embrace a ‘fail-fast’ mentality.
Failing to take a risk is more dangerous than taking the risk of failure. Entrepreneurs need to have a “fail-fast” mentality so that if they come up short, they know they need to quickly get back up, pull themselves together, and keep on moving. Asking “What if?” leaves you vulnerable to failure, but it’s how you respond that truly matters.Fortunately, I have been successful in fostering a “never give up” culture in my company, and because of it, we’re getting closer and closer to the growth we aggressively desire to achieve.
3. Possess enthusiasm for improvement.
At the core of “What if?” is a desire for improvement. Every entrepreneur needs to have an infectious enthusiasm for bettering his or her company and solving the problem it seeks to solve. At DataRPM, we always hire people who are smarter than us, and we always look to improve what we offer to our clients.I am a big believer in Steve Jobs’ stance on how important it is to be passionate about what you do. Passion drives improvement, and people should have the courage to follow their hearts and intuition.
Entrepreneurs who aren’t asking “What if?” over and over again are likely heading down the path to irrelevance. The potential for what can be achieved will never be known if no one ever tries. Come up with crazy ideas, think inside and outside the box, and step out of your comfort zone. Ask “What if?” You just might create something that changes the world.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Sundeep Sanghavi is a highly accomplished data junkie, innovator, and entrepreneur with more than 20 years of experience in using data as the currency to perform advanced analytics. Known for his “what if?” mindset, he co-founded DataRPM with the goal of providing a platform that delivers hyperfast data products to organizations challenged by the volume, velocity, and variety of their big data and machine learning. Throughout his career, Sundeep has learned to productize data within day-to-day business workflows, which has led to multibillion-dollar savings. Connect with @sundeepsanghavi on Twitter.