Entrepreneurship is exalting, satisfying, and a complete roller-coaster ride with adventure built-in, if you look at it that way. It all starts with an idea, of course, but it soon becomes a mammoth task with entrepreneurs wearing multiple hats, constantly juggling from one kind of responsibility to another.
It’s insane, relentless, and unforgiving. It can also be immensely rewarding and a life-enriching experience.
In a nutshell, you should go and take that ride.
It so happens that it helps if you know a few things beforehand. Here’s what you need to
A startup is still a business
When you launch a startup, you tend to think you belong to a separate group of modern-day entrepreneurial cult.
A startup is technically a business that just started off – so in all essence, composition, and functionality, it’s a business.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll do well if you run a business like it should be run.
- Invest first and expect returns later.
- Hire experts when you need to
- Grow on the basis of real revenue and not on imaginary forecasts
- Scale up when you need to, and when you can. Don’t start hiring because it gives you a “big company” feel when you go on a hiring spree.
- Your product is never complete. Your service basket will change.
- Marketing is continuous and necessary. It’s not a necessary evil; it’s the only thing there is.
An idea means nothing by itself
You are thrilled about the idea, and that’s understandable, but it’s time to throw some sand into the fire. I don’t like to take up the role of a wet blanket here but your idea means nothing if it can’t bring in traction, and then revenue at some stage.
New ideas don’t even lend themselves well to traditional market research so you’d need to validate your idea quick, and launch only based on the real feedback market gives you.
Setup a landing page, run Google or Facebook ads for about a week and see if your idea sticks. Are people signing up? Did you get your first customer yet?
Your idea has strength if your initial validation works. Everything else is secondary.
VC or No VC, that is the question
It almost seems like there’s a cut-and-dried approach to startup growth now-a-days: Every startup wants to seek funding from investors.
“Startup > Look for funding” is as true and common as “study well > Get a Job > Grow old > Die”
It also looks like startups spend more time chasing venture capitalists than focus on crucial aspects like marketing.
First, do you even need funding in the first place?
- If you have a revenue model, and if your startup is scalable, proper marketing and customer management could setup up for a cash flow that your business can depend on.
- Bringing in outside investors makes you give up an equity stake in your own business. More often than not, they stand to gain more than you do if your startup takes off and hits the growth trajectory fast.
- With investors on board, if they hold the majority stake, they’ll call the shots. They are the real decision-makers. Your role will only be supervisory or managerial. As an entrepreneur, will you be comfortable with that?
Marketing is important; not only product development
Consider a SaaS startup: both co-founders are technically inclined to code and to develop a product. They sit and code all day long, and since they are bootstrapped, they don’t even seek outside help until they are ready to make their first hire.
Too many startups, however, focus on the “product” side of the story. They spend days, months, and years trying to develop the product but put little or not effort in marketing. Most startups either do “binge marketing” or no marketing at all.
If you ever hear a founder or co-founder talking too much about features to add, code improvement, and reinvesting in making the product better, you’d do well to know that’s the non-important half of the story.
The truth is that marketing should take centerpiece (even if you have no product to begin with).
It’s going to be a long, pot-hole ridden ride
As exciting and promising the startup journey might be, you’ll never have it easy enough. As they say, “starting, running, owning, or managing something of worth is never going to be easy”.
Launch is hard. It’ll be more work than you cared to imagine. The hours will be long. The labor is not always rewarded. You’ll be turned down. Rejections are your middle name. You might as well win a chance at lottery than succeed with a startup.
You need a product or service. You have to market it well. Your clients will be demanding. You have to hire and manage people. People will always leave. You have your taxes, compliances, and paperwork to keep up with.
You’ll put in a humongous amount of effort just to get off. Problems will continue to pour in and every entrepreneur is tested, grounded, lifted, and tested all over again.
If you emerge successful from the clutches of startup troubles, you’ll see the light. If you don’t, you’ll start all over again.
If you ask me, starting all over again isn’t a problem at all.
It’s just that the entrepreneurial spirit is so hard to live up to, with ever-increasing demands on entrepreneurial standards, management excellence, creativity, much-needed entrepreneurial hustle, and also the management of “you”.
Emerge through this chaos, however, and you’d have this little lapel pin on your head that announces ‘success” to the rest of the world.
You’ve arrived. But wait, are you prepared to start yet?