15 Startup Tips for avoiding failure, and insuring success from great Founders
Founders 15 Topics: Early Stage, Mission & Vision, Listen, Niche, Just do it, Co-Founders, Team, Lean, Funding
Early Stage. Thinking of idea of starting a company? Worried about things that may go wrong or making the wrong decisions? Did you just start a company, but are concerned that you are doing things the right way? There are not only many thousands of Founders – just like you – who are working at starting their own company or have just launched their company, but there have been thousands of Founders who were once in your shoes – who’ve gone on to grow some “wildly” successful companies – some of which you maybe have heard of or even use on the regular basis.
Asking for Advice. While you are working at developing your product, how to sell to your niche, what to charge, etc, part of the process involves asking others for their help & advice – after you’ve doe lots of research to make sure you are on the right path (ie, by talking to potential customers to determine if they really want your product. But have you ever had the opportunity to pick the brains of Founders who created amazingly successful startups of companies like Envato, Backblaze, Simple, or Treehouse?
Advice from successful Founders. Being strongly interested in businesses and how they work, I chatted with some of the Founders of well-known and/or growing startups – most of which you’ll have heard of (or you may even use their services), to ask them about one of the toughest areas of starting your own company. What mistakes did they make and how did they overcome them? Usually, people don’t like talking about their mistakes, but thankfully these founders took some time to share some of their hard-earned knowledge with you. Let’s discuss of the most common mistakes and how to avoid them, using the words from the founders of Envato, Dribbble, Freshbooks, 6Wunderkinder, Treehouse, Backblaze, Simple, Shapeways, & Statamic.
1. Solve a real Problem that creates real Value in the world. Focus on the problem => solution => value => profit chain of events. Try to make a pass through this sequence as soon as possible. Be strategic. Find a competitive advantage. At Dribbble, we stumbled into ours – we were just building a side project, but it was a site for designers, and the CTO is a designer with lots of recognition & credibility. As a result, we attracted a great set of initial users who posted incredible work. Things snow-balled from there.”
2. Starting a company with a Mission & Vision. The #1 thing I’d recommend is to start a company that has a worth purpose, not just a company that’s building a nifty product. At Treehouse, we’re trying to make technology-education affordable & accessible to everyone on Earth. Doing that means that we’ll be working for a really long time and will likely always have more to do.
3. Catering to Thought Leaders & Fans. When Backblaze launched and customers started showing up, we thought “Yeah !!! What we should have done is realized that some of those earliest customers are also thought leaders & fans. We should have focused on engaging with them. While we focused on providing a good experience with the service and being open to feedback, [Tip] we did not work to engage, nurture, & build those early fans into advocates.”
4. Listen to your Users/Customers. Customer feedback has been critical to our success from the beginning at Freshbooks. We occasionally would push out features that were a bad user experience and made our service worse not better, and our users told us right away when something was wrong. In fact, our first version included a feedback form upon logout and that – along with phone calls – gave us plenty of information to learn from. Tip: The key in those early days (and even now) was to be nimble and open to feedback.”
5. Find your Market Niche. I’d say the best advice would be: “Just get started and once you find something, focus & execute”. Don’t try to be everything to everyone right away. If you pick one vertical niche and do it well, other folks will find you. 6Wunderkinder
6. Focus on your Niche early. We believed that because online backup is something everyone needs and we provide the service in the 11 most common languages in the world. Backblaze
7. Just do it! Planning & modeling your business is always a good idea, but don’t get stuck planning too long, build something and push it out to your users as fast as you possibly can. If your product is getting good reviews and people are willing to pay for it, you’ve got something good. Improve it !!!
8. Beating the Goliath. On a macro level, one of the most daunting challenges was the prospect of entering a market with a fairly large entrenched player. Our strategy was to not even attempt to take them on head-to-head by trying to offer everything they did. Instead, we sliced off a piece of the solution that we believed we could do better and that addressed a critical pain point for small businesses. Freshbooks
9.Working with & under-standing your Co-Founders. “People often say having a co-founder is like getting married. What they don’t say is few people know how to date well. The five of us that started Backblaze had worked together for over a decade. Even so, we realized we weren’t clear about each person’s goals. Tip: Talk to each other about your expectations about work hours, funding, exit, decision making, etc.” Make sure you document who owns what, how you’re going to pay yourselves, and who makes what decisions. Personally, I believe in having a clear majority holder to make decisions easier (
“Develop your product enough to get attention, launch as soon as possible, and make changes as you get feedback from customers & others”.
10. Building the right Team. “Finding, motivating & retaining good people, has always been a challenge. I think we’ve done a good job at this and it shines through in our product & customer experience. I don’t have much wisdom to share beyond acknowledging that it’s difficult. One Tip I can offer is to be incredibly passionate. Hopefully your passion will inspire other like-minded people who are smarter than you to jump on board. Hire great people (smarter where you need them), train them, then get out of their way.–
11. Not Hiring soon enough. If you like having control over your work and being involved in all aspects of a product operation, running your own business can be a beautiful thing. The flip side is that the work can quickly pile up and overwhelm you if things take off. I had the bad tendency to try to do too much myself, when often stepping back and figuring out how to delegate or out-source some of the effort would have been the best move.”
12. Stay lean, but spend on the good paybacks. If you’re bootstrapping, or don’t think you’ll be able to raise a lot of funds, you’re probably better off starting a business when can feasibly make actual revenue early on, Stay lean for as long as possible. Figure out what your milestones are – customers, page-views, revenue, etc. – and work towards hitting them as soon as possible. Be creative. Spending a ton of money early on, can be a liability down the road. Scale rapidly. When you start seeing your metrics turn up, be prepared to invest and grow rapidly. Success can creep up on you, and you need to be prepared when it hits. Tip: Staying lean early on will help you, when you need to scale.”
13. Finding Funding. “Dribbble is what I like to call a “boot up,” or “organic startup” – a company that lives & breathes on Cash Flow (and us). For us, getting cash flowing in sooner than later was critical to give us resources to respond to our site’s rapid growth. I think we erred in letting our traffic and operational concerns outstrip our business model, where simply maintaining what we had, was preventing us from advancing our product.”
14. Under-Estimating your potential. Probably the biggest mistake we made early at Envato was, not believing the business was going to be a big success. So we did next to no planning ahead, instead just making decisions as they were convenient. But we survived & grew.
15.Nothing is Impossible. Never take “no” for an answer. Starting a startup isn’t easy and there will always be people who tell you that something is impossible. Don’t listen. When I started Shapeways, complex software needed to be built. When I first reached out to developers, a lot of them laughed and told me it was impossible. I never took “no” for an answer and eventually found a great team that helped me build what it is today. Tip: Always push for the “yes”.
Comments: Do you know any other Tips from successful Startup Founders that have impressed you?
from The Next Web 22 Sep 13 enhanced by Peter/CXO Wiz4biz