Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Yaneek Page | Starting a global tech firm with less than US$1,000

Published:Sunday | September 27, 2020 | 12:15 AM
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ADVISORY COLUMN: SMALL BUSINESS

In my last column, published on September 13, I shared ideas and advice on how those who’ve lost jobs to the pandemic may pivot, upskill, and strategically rebrand to find scarce job opportunities amid the crisis.

I also recounted the journey of accountant-turned-cybersecurity audit and protection expert Gavin Dennis, a Jamaican now living his ‘best life’ in Europe after securing a dream job in cybersecurity via LinkedIn Jobs before launching his own business ventures.

Notwithstanding, the reality is that even the most radical and assiduous job-hunting efforts will be mitigated by anaemic local, regional, and even global job market conditions as the world struggles to live with and recover from COVID-19.

For this reason, I’m using this week’s space to delve deeper into the universe of tech employment possibilities and explore how to create a job on a shoestring budget in that lucrative and fast-growing area for those who are unable to find one.

At my request, Gavin Dennis generously shared a basic cyber business bootstrap guide to help prospects tap into high-demand tech services with his response to the following question:

”If you were starting today from scratch with only US$1,000 and no laptop, phone, subscriptions, or even a desk to sit at, what would you spend that money on to create a cybersecurity business?”

Confirming that it is possible to kick-start a tech firm now, and not just cybersecurity but basic IT support and various other digital services, for under US$1,000, he recommended the following frugal spend:

• A very basic website with your name and services (US$100)

• Laptop, Internet plan (US$500)

• A Skype US unlimited calling plan (US$5)

• A cheap phone (US$50) and a local unlimited calling plan (US$30).

According to Gavin, who operates a fully digital business that supports solutions to over 20 businesses and more than 600 clients, with a start-up fund of only US$700, one would have all they need to create a digital ‘office’ and make an unlimited number of calls pitching digital services to both local and international businesses. What’s even more promising is that for a low monthly fixed cost of under US$500, to include some online advertising, a start-up tech solo entrepreneur could enjoy vast revenue potential of hundreds of thousands of US dollars per annum.

In-demand digital services

Another question I posed to Gavin, who now serves clients in Europe and across the region, is, what services would you offer in the current climate?

In his view, one lucrative and in-demand digital service offering to consider is periodic website security scans, every month or every other month, which can start at US$250.00 per month.

As an experienced cybersecurity expert, his in-depth scans can fetch up to US$3,000. Another valuable service he proposed is website search engine optimisation, SEO, scans, which help to ensure businesses are maximising their online real estate, particularly now with heightened web traffic and growing opportunities to reach more prospective customers via websites.

Other potential services for start-ups could be IT outsourcing of support to staff working from home who have minor IT issues, basic IT training for regular staff, and sales call services to businesses to help them validate leads, which will convert to income.

It may also be worthwhile to consider helping businesses with basic cybersecurity to help them avoid being hacked and selling various checklist documents to management for different business processes to help their teams stay productive.

My advice for prospective entrepreneurs trying to create a job for themselves now is to do a skills audit then fill the gaps between the expertise you do have and the expertise people are willing to pay for. In this climate, you simply have to go where the money is instead of trying to push services you’re good at but which people don’t readily need and won’t readily buy.

In addition to focusing on ready demand, also prioritise based on where you will get the highest and best return on every minute of your time invested. Also critical are recurring services, such as those you may offer and bill for weekly, monthly, or quarterly and those that may be easily automated so as to provide fast and easier scale and sustainable income.

Finally, perhaps one of the most important pillars for success in this time is leveraging strategic networks while delivering exceptional service.

Gavin shared that his first large corporate customer resulted from a personal referral from a colleague with whom he had worked on a project who was impressed with his performance and could vouch for his efficacy. His experience supports my own successful journey into the global space and reinforces the principle that business is ultimately about people adding real value and delivering exceptional and consistent performance.

Good luck!

Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series.

yaneek.page@gmail.com