11 Feb 2014
It is something few are brave enough to do: quit a high paying job at Microsoft to start a venture based solely on a fruit. Yet that’s exactly what James Joseph did: taking his love of jackfruit to a whole new level with Jackfruit365, whose goal is to popularize this versatile yet underrated product.
James is a successful entrepreneur, former director of Microsoft and founder of Professional Bharati, a social networking platform for Indian professionals wanting to work out of their hometowns and villages.
We at CrowdStudio had the honor of working with him on the branding of Jackfruit365. This week, we caught up with him to ask some questions and hopefully earn some words of wisdom from this dynamic man. Here goes!
Your newest brainchild is focused exclusively on a fruit. Have people ever come up to you and told you "you're crazy"?
Yes, of course. Right from the beginning. Practically everyone I met has said the same thing.
You quit Microsoft to kickstart this venture. Can you tell us about the Eureka moment? What made you go ahead and actually do it?
It started at the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai where I was hosting a dinner for my clients. Chef Hemant Oberoi had made a spectacular dish called Varqui Crab. Two of the guests had opted for the veg version, Varqui Mushroom. It was delicious, but I couldn't help thinking why the chef didn't use jackfruit, which is more nutritious than meat and mushrooms. I asked around and the reasons were the same: too sticky, too smelly and seasonal.
When jackfruit season came, I took some to a chef I knew. He used it to create a jackfruit burger which was coated in jackfruit seed crumbs. It was delicious and much crispier than the aloo burger at McDonald's.
I didn’t consciously set out to create a business. It was a process of trial-and-error.
At first, I wasn't thinking "entrepreneurship". I didn't consciously set out to create a business. It was a process of trial-and-error. The "eureka" moment was when we created a jackfruit pie, spectacular and more delicious than the apple pie and pecan pie I had in the US. That was when Jackfruit365 truly took off.
What are the big differences between working at a corporate giant, and working at a startup? Is there anything the two have in common?
There are lots of differences. For one, you're on your own. A startup can't operate on the same scale as a corporate. Budgets are frugal and they have to guard their cash flow.
A startup founder also has to face lots of unknowns. I had mentored many startups like WowMakers and MindHelix at Startup Village, and watching these guys, I thought: "If they can do it, why can't I ? " That's how I was motivated to form my own startup.
A corporate giant is different from a startup in three ways: You are usually just one among hundreds, you are following someone else's path and the work you do is not truly motivated by passion. With a startup, you have the chance to build upon a great idea and have a positive impact on the community.
Really, the only thing a corporate and a startup have in common is the individual. To give myself as an example, I used the contacts and marketing skills acquired at Microsoft to build my own startup.
Storytelling is everything. People don't buy a product, they buy a story.
How can a startup market itself with a zero/minimal budget? How important is storytelling for this process?
Storytelling is everything. People don't buy a product, they buy a story. For startup founders that don't have the benefit of a pre-existing network like me, a mentor can be invaluable. Finding a good mentor will help you get contacts and grow your network. The best zero-budget marketing is through social media: use it to tell a story. It has a wider reach than traditional media and is cost effective. At Microsoft, I used TV ads, but for my startup I used social media.
You chose CrowdStudio to get the Jackfruit365 logo. How was the experience? Would you recommend it to other startups and small businesses?
Absolutely. It was the best in terms of speed and cost and their creative brief is excellent. I constantly recommend it to others.
What is the best advice you’ve ever followed, as a startup founder and entrepreneur?
Be genuine. Follow your passion. Know your target audience. Focus on increasing your cash flow.