Startup entrepreneurs face tough decisions and challenges about their business activities constantly. They are required to be both structured and creative at the same time to overcome everyday problems and find the best solution to take their business to the next phase. However, one of the most important thing when looking at the development of a startup is “thinking ahead”. Don’t just stop and look at what happens today, but rather plan for future developments. Planning is everything and as such with small efforts, we can try to avoid common pitfalls in our adventure.
One of the most common sayings in the startup world is “Fail fast, fail often“. Although I completely agree that startup entrepreneurs need to fail to learn useful lessons, it is also true that we can try to plan and avoid common mistakes that will make our startup certainly fail. After all, we are in the game to win!
1. Making things complicated
Young startup entrepreneurs tend to forgo simplicity to show how sustainable their business is. Keep things easy to make sure you don’t lose sight of what is important for your startup. Thinking about partnerships, agreements, product developments, marketing and so on, usually drag unexperienced startup entrepreneurs into a vortex of confusion and endless paperwork. Keep it simple and focus on what matters!
Start planning, write everything down. Then go over it again, and delete half of what you think is useless at the stage you are right now. Complexity can destroy success.
2. Losing sight of your idea
Pivoting is perhaps one of the most useful concepts in the startup world. Startup entrepreneurs start with an idea and quite often launch something completely different. Why? Because in the “idea planning” stage, we often miss identifying problems that arise only once we start.
Startup entrepreneurs who decide to pivot should always keep in mind the underlying main idea that pushed them into starting their startup. Nowadays, pivoting has become such a “must-do” for early-stage startups, that sometimes entrepreneurs are more focused on the pivot itself, rather than the end result. I have often seen startups wandering in “pivot land” without a clear idea of what they were doing, changing the path so often that led to startup death.
Don’t focus your effort on changing paths. Keep in mind the main idea that started all and works towards achieving that. Pivot with focus!
3. Partners, oh dear partners
As highlighted in another post about startup accelerators, partners play a very important role in the startup life. These can be accelerators, investors or simply co-founders. Startup entrepreneurs need to be extremely careful in bringing in new partners because in a way or in another, they will have something to say about the business and its directions. Scrutinise well new potential partners. Try to understand what is their role and why they want to join. Are they driven by the same values as yours? Are they looking to achieve the same results as you? Will their contribution be only monetary?
Startup entrepreneurs have a tough job ahead. Difficult decisions are going to be their everyday bread. Some founders tend to overlook the “partner choice”, because they don’t often see the threat of it, but rather focus on the upsides of having someone new onboard.
4. Considering the wrong Startup Growth Engine
Most of the startup entrepreneurs, especially those active in the B2C space, often assume that virality will be their key to success. Although some early-stage startups have experienced virality and acquired users without spending a penny, startup entrepreneurs should really avoid falling into this trap.
I am guilty as well. When I built my startup, I gave a clear indication to my tech co-founder (after reading tons of material) to add specific requirements within the website to drive virality. Guess what? No one. Ever. Used. Them!
We assume people will come to our website or mobile app and for some mysterious reason start advocating and doing marketing for us. Well, that doesn’t really happen often. We need to think first of all how consumers will love our products or services and then plan on virality (if it will ever make sense).
5. Funding, funding, funding always sunny in the rich man’s world!
Perhaps ABBA didn’t really think about money in that way. Startup founders, however, tend to focus on fundraising too much, especially in the early stage. Startup entrepreneurs, sometimes, think that funding is a prerequisite to success. You need to raise money to show you have strong partners or that people believe in your crazy idea.
Fundraising is not a measure of success! How many startups do we see every day raising tons of money and then going down after a year? Fundraising is a tough job and will take most of the founders’ energy. Are you sure you want to dedicate 80% or more of your time fundraising, rather than proving traction, finding customers who pay for your product? Think it that way, if customers pay to use whatever you are building, you might not actually need to raise funds, and enjoy higher stakes when your business will succeed.
6. Poor hiring
Hiring for your startup is going to be one of the hardest things you will ever do. You are letting someone else getting in your business and you are paying them for that. Moreover, you know that there is a big probability that they will not be as committed as you are. Obviously hiring is key to success. You cannot think about doing everything yourself. However, hiring can become tricky for startup entrepreneurs, especially in the early stage.
It is important to communicate clearly what is expected from them. Especially at the beginning, new employees will be required to do different activities outside of their normal job. Are they going to be committed? Are they willing to go the extra mile for you? Manage expectations and you will be building a successful team!
7. Launching too late
It is often hard to understand when is the right moment to launch your product. Tech co-founders often fail to understand that sometimes a product will need to be changed quickly and often. If you wait too long to launch your product, you might delay the chances of your success.
In the startup world, the MVP has become perhaps one of the most misused words of all. What is an MVP? How simply
What is an MVP? How simply should an MVP be to be released? What features to include in the first MVP? There are no right or wrong answers. If you launch too early, you most likely going to kill your reputation. If you launch too late, however, you might miss on opportunities and build something people don’t really want.
Find the right core features your product needs. Identify what you need to test in this first phase. Once you have all these in place, you can then launch.