by Gale Peart
Qasar Younis along with two friends, all engineers, bonded over shared childhood experiences to form a company, TalkBin, through YCombinator, an incubator that provides funding for early stage startups such as DropBox and AirBnB. Yes, they were startups too. Younis’s TalkBin was a platform that let customers give immediate feedback to local businesses (via mobile applications, and it looks like the businesses can read and respond to them from a web app). In month ten (10), TalkBin got acquired by Google for an undisclosed sum of money.
As a guest of the U.S Embassy Kingston and Startup Jam, Qasar, who has come full circle with his recent COO appointment at YCombinator, met with tech entrepreneurs in Jamaica to share insights about Silicon Valley, his personal journey and to offer tips to help boost the local tech ecosystem.
The moderator was Fei Fei Sun, former writer and editor of TIME and Vanity Fair magazines. The small space, compliments of Listen Mi Caribbean, made the session special. Some of Qasar Younis’s tips are noted below: –
1. Build something that you need yourself.
2. Do not start a company with one or four or more persons. For the latter two, decisions will become hard to make. For a single founder success will be so hard to accomplish. You’ll need someone with shared values and interests to bounce ideas, brainstorm solutions and for a source of motivation throughout the entrepreneurial journey. He is an advocate of best friends starting a business together.
3. It is rare that your starting idea is the one you end up with. In Qasar’s case, he had a t-shirt e-commerce business. It is therefore important to be flexible and pay attention to what consumers are willing to pay for. They rarely want to pay for anything.
4. Create a business that solves a problem. Identify where bottlenecks exist and aim to fix them efficiently.
5. An all tech team is a plus. TalkBin was founded by three engineers, age 28 (on average), who were all-in being sales representatives too. Being ivy leaguers helped to build trust among external parties easily. They owned 90% of TalkBin common stock which ensured decisions were made quickly. The engineers saved personal funds, scaled back on living expenses and started their business while growing and paying down debt.
6. All companies do not need to be big. There is an upside to being small and niche.
7. Location is ultra important.