The “meaning” metric for your #startup is more important than any other #entrepreneur

I often get questions from startups around the metrics they should track. While I am of the belief that many are immaterial, it is good to gather as many as you can, but only focus on ones that you believe will truly make an impact to your business. Which is hard, because it keeps changing.

Sometimes I do get an enlightened entrepreneur who asks me more existential questions – Why do you think we should exist? Which is the toughest question to ask and answer. It is not that they dont know the answer to that question. They are asking me so they can get a sense of their business and if they are focusing on the right things.

I spent all of yesterday, with 4 tremendous entrepreneurs who are shining examples of social entrepreneurship. I was at the Ashoka Innovators panel trying to see how we can help them scale their organizations.

I used to think that most social entrepreneurs were tree-hugging, not-for-profit, mission-over-business folks. I was also ignorant enough to think that they were all NGO’s.

One young entrepreneur in particular impressed me much.

Shashank, is the cofounder of FarmsnFarmers, a very impressive young entrepreneur, enough to put 90% of the technology startups that I work with to shame with his excellent metrics.

His revenue growth, maturity and the deep understanding of his business impressed me tremendously. I can confidently say he was in the top 5 of the list of entrepreneurs I have met this year, and I have met over 2000 this year alone, in the US, China and India.

In 2 years the business has gone from 0 to over 5 CR ($1 Million) in revenue and will do 15 CR ($3 Million) this year. He and his cofounders are both IIT alums and they are both under 27 years of age.

While the revenue metric is impressive in and of itself, the meaning metric is more mind-blowing.

Their goal is to try and get as many marginalized farmers from the “poverty” line to the “lower middle class” line. A difference of nearly Rs. 5000  – Rs. 8000 ($100 – $150) per month in rural Bihar, which arguably is among the poorest of states.

That metric – the # of farmers they bring out of poverty is their meaning metric. If they do that, then their business succeeds and their revenues will grow as well.

That’s something every startup should focus on, not just those who are social entrepreneurs.

The meaning metric answers the ultimate question – “So What”?

How have people’s lives changed because of what your are building?

Even if you are building a social network or an eCommerce site, I would highly encourage you to find and communicate your meaning metric.

P.S. The # of farmers Shashank & his team bring out of poverty directly correlates to their revenues. Just so you get a sense of ambition, if he tracks on his 3 year operating plan, or even misses by 30%, he will be in the top 50 of Indian startups in 3 years, by revenue growth, in any field, including eCommerce.

Above all, he is a force of good.

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5 thoughts on “The “meaning” metric for your #startup is more important than any other #entrepreneur”

  1. You said:
    “the # of farmers they bring out of poverty is their meaning metric. If they do that, then their business succeeds and their revenues will grow as well.”
    Perhaps you are looking at this in the wrong direction – consider the obverse:
    “The more revenues they make, the number of farmer that they bring out of poverty will grow as well”

    Does this sound more mercenary?
    Does this dilute the “heroic” notion that this entrepreneur would otherwise seem be endowed with?

    Perhaps so but it still wouldn’t matter because there is only one meaningful metric for any company: the value that your customer derives from your solution…this can be articulated in any number of ways but it is the only one that you need to aspire to provide.

    Consider this: Bill Gates is probably the most ruthless entrepreneur that the world has ever known but he will probably go down in history as the greatest philanthropist ever…his product might have not solved world hunger or helped poor farmers but because he built a great business, he now has the luxury of using the money that he made to eradicate malaria and polio.

    Similarly Facebook is arguably a frivolous time-pass app with zero impact on any major social cause but its founder has already donated more than a billion dollars towards changing the landscape of primary education in an entire state.

    So perhaps we should just focus on delivering valuable solutions without focusing on existentialist questions prematurely! You can always be a force of good even if you are only developing a fart app for your phone!

    1. Oh boy. If only I had a dollar for each time an entrepreneur brought up the “Steve Jobs” or Mark Z as an example and failed to recognize they are “exceptions” and not the rule. I’d be a rich man.

      1. You are missing the point – it is not about the companies Bill Gates or Mark Z created…it is about the fact that they are giving back to society in an impactful way in spite of/despite creating companies that are themselves not directly beneficial to society or “meaningful” by your definition. These are just illustrative examples that everyone knows of…you want more? How about Warren Buffet, Azim Premji, Nandan Nilekani?

        Can give you a hundred other examples if that is what you would require to recognize that this is commonplace rather than an exception!

        Therefore regarding the last quip, perhaps you shouldn’t start counting your dollars just yet 😉

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