Ayman Alashkar, is the founder of UAE-based proptech startup OVERWRITE.ai
We entered 2020 like everyone else, full of ambition and excitement. As the new decade dawned, there was clearly something about this year that was going to be different. Business sentiment was abuzz; as were we.
We had soft-launched OVERWRITE.ai just two months before and were new on the property technology (proptech) scene. For my part, I was nervously confident, I knew our technology was ground breaking. What I didn’t know was how it would be received. OVERWRITE is an artificially intelligent, B2C web-application that instantly auto-writes property marketing descriptions; allowing estate agents to optimise their search rankings, reduce costs and increase their sales leads. Put simply, we intelligently automated what is otherwise a crucial yet time-consuming everyday task for realtors.
The inspiration for OVERWRITE had come to me a few years before. I’d been involved in real estate since my youth. Something had lit a spark in me at an early age, which led to an 18-year career in professional real estate. I’d banked it, built it, bought and sold it, and started my first business trading it. But I felt like it wasn’t enough. And then I had a eureka moment.
The world had digitised, but unlike other major industries, real estate was painfully slow to embrace technology. That had to change, and it was the very inevitability of that change which fired me up to seek out a new challenge. Having written a thesis on real estate predictive modelling some years before, I dusted it off, rolled up my sleeves, and looked for a way I could marry my passion for predictive machine learning, with real estate.
Starting a business isn’t just hard. It’s downright the hardest thing you can do. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make setting up on your own, a little easier for yourself.
This Tip to Rule Them All
Every entrepreneur’s journey begins by identifying a problem they’re going to solve. Ask yourself and those around you; “Does what I do solve a problem for anyone?” If no, stop. Don’t waste your time.
Hopefully you answered yes. Starting a business is hard and we can make it easier for ourselves if we have crystal clarity on the problem, and its solution.
So, follow up by asking yourself these three simple questions, i) Who am I solving a problem for? ii) Is the problem worth solving? And iii) How easily does my solution solve the problem for the people who suffer it?
This exercise will force you to focus, to become so single-minded and clear about what you want to do. Knowing who you’re solving a problem for allows you to shape your messaging and target your communication to your specific audience, saving precious dollars on wasteful marketing.
You might have a great idea and build a slick solution around it, but if the problem wasn’t that big an issue for those you want to sell it to, every sales pitch will be an uphill battle, and you can kiss recurrent revenue goodbye. If you’re solving a legitimate problem, then genuine demand will beat a path to your door, flattening your sales funnel, lowering your cost of sales.
Remember to keep it simple. So many people correctly identify a problem and have great ideas. But their effort falls apart in the execution. They overcook the egg, making their solution so complex that it befuddles its intended customers. Keep things as simple as possible. Build an elegant solution. Otherwise, you’re just allowing room for your competitors to mop up your customers for themselves.
Spotlight the Problem
The problem you’re solving is your raison d’etre. Always keep it front and centre. Fix a spotlight on it so you don’t lose sight of it. Speak to those that suffer it. Hear how they’d solve it. Imagine you are one of them. Would you buy your solution? Be true to yourself. If that justifies plotting a new course, be open to it, you can learn a lot along the way.