Nowadays, the startup mania is spreading across the globe like a wildfire. New companies, products, ideas, jobs – the abundance of “new” is overwhelming. And this is good because the rules of the game are equal for both business veterans and yearning newcomers. The lack of experience or funds is no longer an obstacle for newbies. In theory, everyone can have their own piece of a pie, and that’s what we love about startups.
First of all, we have to find the definition of a startup. Although, in most cases, the startup model can be either Internet-based or brick and mortar one, here we talk about online businesses. I’m pretty much sure you can describe this notion in your own words, adding some thoughts from your personal experience and knowledge, instead, let’s just have one opinion as for the starting point of this narrative.
Me personally, I like the definition by Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur and academician, a reputable guru in the world of start-ups. He described a startup as “an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model“. That’s it. It has nothing to do with Hollywood cliches romanticizing the real picture or the popular belief of “a startup is a place to turn nerds into millionaires”. It’s just a clear definition with a clear goal. But what happens along the way before this model has been found? What does it take for a startup to survive the initial baby-stage and go further from meetings at Starbucks to become a solid business with (again) a repeatable and scalable business model?
In order to find the answers, let’s discuss 4 cornerstones each startup must be standing on.
Cornerstone 1 – Idea
Everything starts with an idea. No matter how it is tempting for you to proclaim yourself an entrepreneur (and tell the whole world about this fantastic change in your life), don’t put a cart before the horse. Wait for the moment when you will be ready to work on a specific idea, and then start your own company. If you come up with multiple ideas, choose the one that has a special place in your mind (and heart too).
Remember that your idea will evolve and become more ambitious over the next few years, so what you really need is a long-time planning. Obviously, you can’t predict each and every step towards your goals, but at least you have to outline some basic points to start from. In other words, you need to define the core of your idea, the initial point you will be able to develop in future.
The next thing to do is to explore the demand and competition on the current market. Is there any demand for your idea? Will people show the same interest in your offering as you do? It’s great when your idea is unique. Nevertheless, if there are similar ideas, don’t be upset, but try to think about competitive advantages your startup may use to stand out of the crowd.
What exactly does it take to get started? Is it just a website that sells your product or an app providing your service? And, by the way, how much money do you need to get your idea off the ground? These questions are more than important. Be sure to spend an adequate amount of time on research and having conversations with industry experts to obtain some valuable info.
And, finally, intuition. When talking about ideas for startups, your gut feeling is something not to be neglected. Trust your feelings and emotions. In fact, who else knows what’s best for you?
Cornerstone 2 – Team
The way you build up your startup team in the first few years before/after going live may have a big impact on the entire path of your company.
Therefore, when creating a new business, you need to be sure your company has one solid competitive advantage – the team of professionals sharing the same attitude as you. Just imagine: you, as an aspiring founder, need to solve various issues, distribute tasks for team members, continually evaluate the productivity of the team, identify problem areas etc. I do not even mention marketing activities you have to undertake at the same time. Therefore, a trusted and professional team behind your back is a must. It’s similar to a remake of your favorite movie: the idea is the same, the script is the same, but a different cast of actors may spoil the feel. Nothing can lead you further from what you want than unmotivated and “don’t-really-know-what’s-going-on” people on board.
Anyway, it works fine when you have the budget and experience. But if you don’t, think about partnering with a company which has sufficient expertise and knowledge to develop your idea. A professional technology partner behind your back has all it takes to guide you throughout the pre-launch period and solve any issues you may face during the development phase. After all, it’s just a common thing for startupers to do, especially, at an early stage. You may even employ the hybrid model – a mix of both in-house and partner teams working simultaneously.
Cornerstone 3 – Product Planning
Okay, so you got an idea and a team.
Now it’s time to think about creating a proper prototype. Because if you don’t, it’s too early to talk about anything other than that. Stories of the most successful startups are almost always centered around two things – the creation of a product and communication with customers. If your time is spent on something else, well, you have to rethink your strategy. Most of the questions related to attracting money from investors, being busy with marketing and business development will be resolved in a much more effective way if you have already created a good prototype.
Things to consider:
- Prototyping helps to explore and try out functionality or/and design ideas aiming to increase innovation, creativity, and attractiveness of the product;
- Prototype development validates design and functionality requirements;
- It reduces risks and costs for developing poor designs and extra functionality;
- Coding rework is being kept to a minimum.
Cornerstone 4 – Product Realization
Now you have 3 parts of your puzzle. What is the final one? Product realization. Go live with the most basic version of your product that will test out your product/service and put it in front of customers. Pay attention to how they evaluate it and use these insights in the second (third, fourth, etc.) version of your product. Stick to this procedure until you have an active customer base using your product on regular basis. You should think of your creation as of something to be updated and continuously evolving.
You need to have a clear vision of your product’s features, so when you wake up in the morning you know what things will keep you busy through the day. Your product will keep on changing, and that’s all right. In fact, it’s essential to maintain flexibility in your implementation plan.
It is important to offer something that will appeal to your customers. You may have lots of energy and confidence, but without creating anything capable of causing a positive feeling in your customers, you will fail. The importance of this sympathy is unquestionable. If your product is “average” meaning that it’s hard to tell if it’s really good or desperately bad, chances are it will lead to failure. If the most common answer you get when asking for product evaluation is ‘Well…I don’t know….It’s…it’s okay, I guess“, it’s high time to do something about it and real quick. You must understand the fact that the development of the project is more effective if you are lucky enough to have a dedicated audience. If you have their opinion, it is possible to accomplish a lot more at an early stage. It’s no use trying to be nice to everybody, you must know YOUR customers and give them what they really like.
These are the points to consider when thinking about building your startup. But there’s also one secret ingredient – luck. It gives a solid boost to any business, well, to just anything in life. So good luck, guys, and do no forget to leave your comments and share your opinion on startups’ cornerstones.