This post originally appeared on the Louisiana Technology Park blog.
Sabari Raja says that after she quit her lucrative technology job to launch her first company, she and her co-founder spent months writing a complex business plan and developing a polished product — only to have it fall flat with customers.
“There were a lot of lessons learned about what not to do,” Raja told business leaders recently at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s monthly lunch.
Raja has bounced back from that first startup experience and is now CEO and a co-founder of the fast-growing education-technology company Nepris, a cloud-based software platform that helps bridge the gap between business and education. The platform lets teachers connect curriculum with the real world by virtually inviting industry professionals into the classroom to engage and inspire students on topics such as science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.
Raja’s entrepreneurial experience has made her a strong advocate for the lean-startup method for building companies, a philosophy popularized by author Eric Ries that encourages founders to make better and faster business decisions. She outlined how Nepris leveraged the lean approach to evolve quickly and create a viable product that customers wanted to use.
Raja said her process of building a company now starts with direct communication with customers. She sees the traditional model — developing a lengthy business plan, raising capital, hiring a team, building a polished product, then launching it to adoring customers — as an outmoded and unrealistic approach.
“This is nice on paper, but it’s not the truth,” she said. “It’s backwards, because you don’t write a business plan without really talking to customers.”