Wednesday, May 4, 2016

8 Secrets To Pushing Your Startup Ahead Of The Crowd

David-Rose-from-idea-to-realityIn my view, starting a new business has never been easier, and according to reports from the Kaufmann Foundation, the numbers are finally here to show it. The number of startups rose in 2015 for the first time in five years, with the largest year-over-year increase in two decades. Over 500,000 new businesses were created last year, or about one per minute of every day.

Of course, that’s both the good news and the bad news for aspiring entrepreneurs, since it means more competition, and the business landscape is changing faster than ever. But for founders who do their homework, the cost of entry is lower and the opportunity is higher than ever. Who would not want to joint the unicorns (recent startups with a current valuation of over $1 billion)?

Even the homework is easier, with free access to more opportunity details and competitor data on your mobile device from anywhere in the world. Excellent detailed resources are everywhere, including a new book, “The Startup Checklist,” by serial entrepreneur and founder of the New York Angels, David S. Rose. He nails the current key startup parameters, including the following:

  1. Crafting a lean business plan as your road map. The days of lengthy, text-heavy, business plan documents prepared by expensive experts are behind us. Investors and partners now look only for a framework of your business essentials, within the context of your opportunity, solution, and financials. Just make sure you can fill in all the details.

  2. Building a minimum viable product, with customer validation. Years ago, it cost a million dollars for a new e-commerce site, one that you can now create for almost nothing with current tools and technology. Minimum viable products (MVPs) are recommended for validating the market, with iterative enhancement to quickly meet market feedback.

  3. Incorporating a business entity early through online services. Before you bring on partners, develop intellectual property, raise capital, or generate revenues, you need to establish an official business entity. These days you can create a C-corporation online quickly at a low cost, which will serve you well, without waiting for an outside attorney.

  4. Establishing your brand with interactive social media. Building your public image and presence should start even before product development, through your website, logo, and blogging. Early customer feedback will position your solution, and help you make pivots before critical time and money are lost. The cost of social media done well is low.

  5. Using new tools for recruiting key players and advisors. Networking no longer is primarily a face-to-face serial activity. Online “dating” sites, including Founder Dating, StartupAgents, and CoFoundersLab, as well as LinkedIn and Facebook, give access to the people and skills you need, without the time and cost of travel and small talk.

  6. Rounding out the team with employees and freelancers. With the Internet and modern video communication tools, including Skype and Google Hangout, you can find the people you need, from anywhere in the world, and sign them up quickly. Successful startup teams today have a mix of remote employees, freelancers, and contractors.

  7. Fundraising through online platforms and crowdfunding. Professional investors now look for startups through popular online platforms, including Gust and AngelList. Non-professional investors now use crowdfunding sites, like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, for similar access. Angel groups, accelerators, and incubators are pervasive. Use them.

  8. Measuring progress with big data and analytics. You don’t have to be a heavily funded later stage startup to get access to “big data,” customer analytics, and metrics dashboards. Remember that early and consistent measurement is the first step leading to better control and quicker improvements. Set milestones and manage to those targets.

While these tips, and many others from experts like David Rose, may seem like common sense, it has been my experience as a startup advisor that perhaps two thirds of the startups I see are built initially on creaky foundations. Later cleanup can double your costs and risks. It’s a lot more fun to do it right the first time, making it easier for you, and tougher on your competition.

Marty Zwilling

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