14th November 2017
“A ‘startup’ is a company that is confused about -
- What its product is,
- Who its customers are,
- How to make money.”
- Dave McClure, Entrepreneur & Angel Investor
Think of the word ‘startup’ and there are high chances that all of the above will weigh heavily on your mind. And if you thought that you are the only one who is feeling unnerved and stressed at the idea of launching your own venture, then you can safely put that thought to rest as you are certainly not alone! Almost anyone and everyone who has embarked on this uncharted path of ‘trial and error’ has experienced similar feelings at some point in time as they handled and prevailed over the innumerable hindrances that confronted them during the course of their challenging journey.
Now Dave McClure of ‘50 Startups’ fame certainly packed in some harsh reality in his golden words of wisdom that beautifully summed up the underlying essence of a startup. After all, many startups have come into being till date, amidst lot of hope and fanfare - only to vanish into thin air at a speed that can put the fastest melting snowflake to shame!
Hence, it is quite natural if you are having butterflies in your stomach and feeling uneasy with a dread filled premonition that your ardent efforts may not bear fruits after all!
Ever wondered why startups fail in the first place? To start with, one of the most common reasons behind a startup’s failure is the founder’s sole motivation to make a foray into this space to earn quick bucks. But a startup is not just a money-spinning platform! If the desire to make profits is the primary inspiration to start a venture, then it is only a matter of time when this kind of short-sighted approach will trigger a downward spiral and lead to the premature death of one’s business! So is that all that one needs to watch out for? Of course not! Other than this money-grubbing drive, there are several other reasons that can contribute to the failure of first-time entrepreneurs - half-hearted efforts, poorly thought through product ideas, missing vision, objectivity and passion, insufficient market research & awareness and lack of sufficient funds to name a few.
The list sure comes across like a tall order, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is! Giving concrete shape to a novel idea from scratch and making it stand out among the biggies of your chosen field is no mean feat. However, don’t let these inherent complexities of a startup scare you and tempt you to procrastinate endlessly. After all, not every new launch is up for failure or and not every startup treads the infamous path to become an epitome of uncertainty and confusion, despite the fact that almost each of them is riddled with its own hurdles and setbacks.
Now that you have realised that the startup trajectory is slightly more arduous and treacherous than you probably expected it to be, you may be wondering if there is anything at all that you can do to fool-proof your venture while you establish it from scratch. Thankfully there is!
Read on to know more about few of these proven tactics that can give your startup a solid start and safeguard it from becoming a product of half-baked and wishful thinking!
Seek Clarity around Your Purpose and Vision Before You Get Going
The chance of a startup succeeding without a definite goal or purpose is as slim as striking gold in a lottery! Many entrepreneurs fall into this trap. I did too when after several years of contemplation, I decided to finally bid adieu to the corporate world and commence a partnership to institute myself as an independent and successful business woman.
A lot was at stake - my dream of becoming the first person in my family to make it big in the entrepreneurial world, my life’s savings, my flourishing corporate career opportunity in IT and my credibility in front of the naysayers who advised me that I was better off in my present job that was both stable and high paying.
Come to think of it, I had all the right reasons to go ahead with my dreams except for the fact that my venture had no real purpose. In my eagerness to bring my enterprise to fruition, I had not paid much heed to the purpose of my undertaking - What specific problem was I trying to solve? Was it a real problem, a pressing need that needed to be looked into on priority or a mere ‘good to have’ service? How would my product or service line benefit my target audience? Were my solutions really innovative and value for money or were they just run-of-the-mill and commonly available elsewhere? What was I trying to build - a short-term wonder or a legacy…a company with lasting roots? I had not thought on these lines. All I knew was that I had to kick-start something - a course that is tried and tested and where I could put my heart and soul into to make it a resounding success. Sadly and as you might have pre-empted by now, my intent to work hard was not enough and the business made a nosedive in no time. Eight months later, everything was done and dusted and I was charting a different course!
Play to Your Strengths and Take Measures to Plug the Gaps
Now don’t let that make you think that I have a natural dislike for creativity or that I mean to imply that you should only exploit your strengths and turn a blind eye to innovation. Well, far from it!
What I do intend to state though and with assertion is that even if you opt for an unconventional course - something that you have no knowledge of or haven’t tried it before - it is important for you to have a thorough understanding of your domain and the trends and challenges that characterise it if you really aspire to add value to your customers. Also, make an honest evaluation of what all does your profession entail and list down how you are placed against them. Not everyone is equipped with every requirement. Perform a reality check to find out your strengths and shortcomings. Figure out ways to address your gaps - it could be as obvious as sharpening your domain expertise in order to be able to harness every possible opportunity that prevails in your desired field or getting talented and skilled people on board to give impetus to your vision and goals or finding an angel investor to solve your cash woes.
When I launched my startup, I knew that it would involve extensive customer interactions - an aspect that I was comfortable with and looked forward to as I knew that it would allow me to utilise my communication and people skills to the fullest. I also knew that my field required me to possess specific technical skills in order to me to appropriately guide my customers with solutions that were customised as per their needs. Though, I tried my best to address this gap by learning on the job, many a times, I genuinely felt the need of a professional course that could empower me with the necessary skills to hold me in good stead while dealing with my clients. This was my assessment of my skill gap. You need to explore yours.
Study Your Targeted Market Thoroughly
“If a user is having a problem, it’s our problem.” - Steve Jobs, Co-founder, Apple Inc.
“Observe the world around you - everything you do, and especially everything you hate to do.” - Aaron Patzer, Founder, Mint.
Let’s face it. It is because of your customers that your startup will be able to overcome its hardest phase and sustain itself long enough to evolve as a credible and promising brand. Likewise, it is your competitors who can catalyse your startup’s downfall if you are not on top of your game! So, it is in your own interest that you make no qualms in having to conduct exhaustive market research to unearth your customers’ wants and learn more about what excites and galvanizes them to take action. Likewise, leave no stones unturned to explore the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and find out more about their unique offerings. Use these insights and intelligence to come with out-of-the-box and utilitarian solutions that give you competitive edge and uniquely differentiate your undertaking from the rest of the players in your domain.
Leverage Collaborative Platforms and Mastermind Groups to Seek Help and Advance Your Business
Luckily, your startup journey need not be a solitary or a hush-hush affair if you are willing to collaborate freely and with an open mind. There are many entrepreneurs who think that discussing ideas in a common group may lead to hijacking of their pioneering thoughts! If you care to look beyond such counterproductive fears, then you will realise that the benefits of collaboration outweigh its occasional pitfalls.
These days, one can reach out to innovative platforms like Aileensoul that offer a host of user-friendly services, including mind-boggling opportunities to popularise your brand, build and grow your business network, ideate with fellow entrepreneurs who are working in the same domain as you and stay updated on the latest happenings and trends that are prevailing in your specific business category and in other business areas of your interest. You can even exploit such platforms to source skilled and competent people who can be a part of your growing team or provide you with contractual services. For example, you can hire an experienced graphic designer who can design a catchy logo and an aesthetic website for your brand or avail yourself of the services of a reliable freelancer who can curate powerful content for your business website. Wondering how to find the perfect location that is conducive to your business into free business listing site like Aileensoul or where to shop for space-saving furniture? Find a solution to all your needs by leveraging a single platform to summon the services of a broker or find a furniture shop that caters to your needs.
Lastly, don’t forget to join the several mastermind groups that exist on the web. They are inundated with ambitious go-getters who were bitten by the startup bug much earlier than you and chose to make a head-on plunge into this space to uncover what it really entails to start something from scratch. Upcoming entrepreneurs like you can learn from their startup stories and harness their strategies and techniques to make informed decisions that can help convert your startup journey into an eye-opening and enriching experience instead of becoming yet another rollercoaster ride that ends with a doomed fate!