The Sum of Its Parts


The whole might be greater than the sum of its parts, but startups are all about the individual parts.

The whole might be greater than the sum of its parts, but startups are all about the individual parts.<...>

Especially in the early days.

I'd like to explain this by telling you the story of Waqas Ali, an entrepreneur whom I've never met in person, but for whom I have huge amounts of respect.

The first I ever spoke to Waqas was in January 2013 after I had responded to a tweet of his and he followed up by e-mail. He told me that he was building a new eCommerce startup (a story which he shared here) and that he was considering using WooCommerce.

I responded only with: "If I could help out with one concise & clear thing, what would that be?"

Waqas then asked me for help on two things:

  1. He'd love access to the beta version of WooCommerce 2.0 that we were testing privately at the time with a small, closed group of customers; and

  2. They had already purchased a theme from WooThemes (which they were customizing), but had no budget for a couple of add-ons that they desperately needed for the V1 of their store.

I liked what they were doing; that their business model was empowering craftsmen. I also loved that they were attempting all of this whilst based in a developing country (something that I relate to intimately).

So I did the easiest thing (for me) that I could do: I gave them early access to the new beta and sponsored the $300-worth of add-ons (retail value of course).

Fast-forward almost 2 years.

Waqas (and his team) has built a fantastic business with a super-successful Kickstarter campaign (that reached it's goal within 22 hours). That earned them a mention on Seth Godin's blog.

So when I got another of Waqas' update e-mails this morning, it was an easy to back the Kickstarter campaign and become a Markhor ambassador.

The best thing about this experience (for me, as armchair observer) has just been the journey and how the individual bits have contributed and culminated in this successful campaign. Within Waqas & Markhor's journey, there's a couple of things that I've learnt or have been reminded of:

  • Relationships are critical to entrepreneurial success (something which I've written about before too). Throughout the last 2 years, Waqas took it upon himself just to connect with me and chat about what they're doing. Sometimes I engaged and sometimes I was too busy with other things, but a connection always remained. That connection and relationship has been strong enough to prompt me to back their campaign and write this article. Relationships build businesses!
  • You can build awesome stuff from anywhere in the world. If Waqas & his team can craft beautiful shoes in Pakistan and ship them worldwide, that's evidence enough that the world is indeed flat.
  • I love how Seth Godin describes (part of) the success of products like Markhor when he says that "the ideas they embody are worth seeking out". This is a trend that's gaining prevalence; people don't want to connect with robotic and bureaucratic companies and brands anymore. They want to do business with people that believe what they believe. Branding and values is the next, core startup competency.
  • Building a business is a journey of learning. It's been incredible to watch Waqas evolve as an entrepreneur in the last 2 years; this has been so obvious in the way he communicates and conducts himself. He's also surrounded himself with some great people (not me), whom I'm sure have helped him figure things out.

And ultimately, I was reminded of the most important thing of all: Great ideas with great execution will always win, but there's something that can be said about the little things.

Being an entrepreneur requires you to be deliberate and diligent about the tiniest things that sometimes makes no sense today, but you just kinda hope and believe that it'll have a positive effect on the ultimate journey.

Once you get to the end of that journey and you look back, you'll no doubt see the whole as a much greater representation than the sum of the individual parts. But it's ultimately those individual parts that got you there.

Note: There's still some time left to back the Kickstarter campaign and get yourself an awesome pair of handcrafted, leather shoes.