I must admit, that I have a thing for startups. I have had the luxury of being a part of a few startups. In fact, my first “real” job was with a startup in the IT field working on a 3D printer. This was back when most people had no idea of what a 3D printer even was, and here I was building one from scratch.
And what an accomplishment that was. I can tell you from that experience, that there are not many things in life that compares to that feeling you get when you build something from scratch.
A lot has changed over the years. But one thing remains the same, the dreams of starting up a company still exist. The good news is that every day, along with everything else we do here at Digicode, we work with startups so that they may too see their dreams become a reality.
Now back to the subject.
Compared to 10 years ago, modern technology startups today require minimal to zero investment into tech infrastructure. I remember the days when to launch your technology, you would first need to buy a server, then find someone to host it for you, and then figure out how to manage it on an OS level. All these things resulted in substantial upfront costs. Sometimes costing up to 5 and 6 figures. Today, it’s as easy as scraping enough free credits from cloud operators to launch your business! People back in the ’90s would have thought you were crazy if you were to describe how it works today.
Back in the day, if you needed to manufacture a part or design your own circuit board, it was quite an ordeal. Not only was it costly, but you would have to wait between 6 to 12 months before your order was even delivered. Not that way today. Currently, there is an army of manufacturers and designers that are waiting to fulfill any order in half the time. In just mere weeks of placing your order, your order will be delivered at a fraction of the costs.
There was once a time when you would need to involve the skills of a hardcore programmer. It would also take months and sometimes years of development before the launch of your product. Today in just a few weeks you can put together a working prototype using one of the latest technologies, and in some cases, you don’t even need to be a programmer. In the past, to get the appropriate feedback from your customers, you would have to spend days reaching out to them and hopefully get some feedback. Today you can instantly get feedback via so many social media channels. In some cases, many users will volunteer to provide that feedback to you.
Same goes for so many other aspects of a new business – marketing, sales, payments, shipping, customer support and much… much… more.
But is it really that easy to be a startup entrepreneur?
Yes, more people are attempting to start a technology startup because it has gotten a little easier, but there are still some challenges.
The same fundamental questions remain:
- What is the product?
- Is there a market and need?
- Who are the users?
- How will you make money?
- Who will be the right partner/co-founder?
- How will you build the technology?
- Who will build the technology?
- How to fund the company?
- Who is the right investor?
- How to sell?
- Who is going to sell?
- How to provide customer support?
This list can go on and on…
What has really changed since the late ’90s is the ability to access information via the startup community. There are many online resources, meetups, coworking places, incubators and accelerators that are available to answer your questions. But here’s the catch – you need to know how to ask the right questions.
Community is a fantastic tool, and every startup entrepreneur should use it. However, the sheer number of community members often creates a noise that may distract you from your core tasks. And while there are plenty of members who provide extremely valuable advice, there are some that don’t. I attended a meetup not long ago (I do that from time to time. I love the startup spirit) that had “Outsourcing for Startups” as a topic. Now take a moment and think about the topic. What do you think should be discussed?
Unfortunately, an hour-long conversation boiled down to: “you can find on xxxxx platform somebody for $5/hour to answer your emails, consider paying $6 if you like them”. There were seven other questions submitted prior to this meetup that remained unanswered.
Here are a few things I usually bring up while talking to someone who has decided to start his own company:
- Focus on what’s most important – there are so many different ideas and tasks that surround the core of your business; you need to learn how to choose what is the most important task for that particular moment.
- Remember that any successful business outgrows everything it was built on. This includes its founders, mentors, advisers, leaders, team skill set, business model, and technology. Be ready to switch, replace, walk away from anything/anyone (including yourself) that may be holding your business back.
- Don’t hire until it is absolutely necessary. Outsource anything that requires specialties that are not in line with your business purpose. What will eventually suck the life out of your business is regular and repeating financial commitments. Cost of labor is usually the highest expense that you will encounter.
- Choose your partners wisely. A bad partner or investor can crash your business easier than external factors. At the same time, finding the right balance between the desire to own as much as possible and giving yourself the best possible chance to succeed is important. Remember that 100% of zero is still zero.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your ideas – I have met so many new entrepreneurs that demand NDA’s before they are willing to discuss their idea. Unless your idea is subject to a patent, there is no reason to be overprotective with it. Think about what it is going to take for you to turn your idea into a business. The chances of someone putting themselves through the same hard work, sweat, and stress just to implement a stolen idea are very slim. Talking to more people and sharing your vision will help you gather feedback and be able to see it from other points of view before it is too late, and you have invested too much.
- Bootstrap wisely – it is great to be able to make more with less. Just don’t forget about time. The time it takes for your idea to get to the market is critical. Taking years to implement your ideas instead of months can undermine your ability to capture your market. Something that you envisioned as your core feature can now become just another small addition for somebody else’s product (and not because they heard of you). Another thing to think about is your own emotional state can change over time. It is not uncommon to burn out and become even more stressed when not much is happening.
The bottom line is that it is still not easy to build your startup. But if you ask the right questions, if you believe in your idea, and are determined to bring it to the market you have a better chance to succeed than ever before. And I am convinced that nothing compares to the joy and satisfaction of seeing your idea turning into reality.
Please, do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out our other Thought Leadership pieces: https://mydigicode.com/blog/ .