I recently had the pleasure of undertaking a formal independent review of
# 1. Stand on a Mountain to tell everyone about your idea
If you think that you have the best idea in the world, you might be tempted to keep it secret but in reality you need to stand on a Mountain Top to tell everyone about it. If you are honest and open, people will give their time and their help is vital.
# 2. Build your team early
The promoter will drive the business and will leverage all their contacts, skills and experience. But these will not be enough. It is advisable to find a business partner with complementary skills and even then to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. Opportunities to upskill should be embraced. For this you need to appreciate both the strengths and areas for improvement in the team. Mentors are a valuable resource that can add to your ‘non traditional team’. The selection of a mentor is crucial and key to the success of the engagement is to spend time building a good relationship with your mentor.
# 3. Seek Help
There is a very strong ecosystem to support startups in Ireland. It is important to firstly understand the role that different Enterprise Agencies play and how and when they can help you. It is also important to leverage their supports at the right time.
# 4. Believe in your vision
Have a vision for your product or service and give enough time for the market to understand what you are offering so that you can develop a brand (reputation). Do not be tempted to let your standards drop in order to justify reducing prices and facilitate making some quick revenue at the expense of your long term brand and sustainable growth.
# 5. Work on the Pitch
It is very important to take on board feedback to clarify the Unique Value Proposition so that it can be communicated clearly and quickly. This builds credibility to get you in the door of potential customers.
From a strategic and day to day basis it is also imperative that the business is ‘clear on what you don’t do’.
It is also vital to secure testimonials from reference customers as these are a signal of the value offering of the business to the rest of the market.
# 6. Listen and learn
As stated above the team has to have a fundamental belief in the end destination but you have to listen to customers and market experts so that you can learn and adapt your short term strategies. Using a recognisable example, this can be illustrated by Facebook whose core value is ‘making the world more open and facilitating people to share among their networks’. This core value has not changed but how it is delivered has evolved as it has developed from a startup to IPO.
# 7. Do your own research
Market research is critical – focus on the pain felt by potential customers in order to identify your market. For early stage companies, research essentially involves talking directly to customers as opposed to using questionnaires. Qualitative feedback will be critical in determining the strategic direction of the business.
# 8. Be realistic with financial projections
The key drivers of the business must be understood if the team is to create a business that is scalable. Planning is vital.
# 9. Manage the books
Sit down at the end of every month to work out key financial figures and also to proactively manage Cashflow on the basis that ‘It is not a sale until you Get Paid for It’.
# 10. Network
Domain knowledge is a vital ingredient in measuring the value of a startup team. It is important to network within your sector and industry. Networking via Sectoral Associations or through Enterprise Ireland offices worldwide with other Irish businesses who operate in your markets can also be extremely valuable.
Having reviewed the list you may notice the absence of any mention of product development or technology. This does not imply that product development is not important. Indeed, product development and development of a minimum viable product is a key part of the process suggested by the programme. In my view, the list illustrates the strong Monetisation focus embraced by the programme as illustrated by one participant’s observation.
‘Work is now divided 20% to engineering and 80% of our time and energy to business development. This is a huge change in mindset for academics. We were always confident that we could solve problems in areas such as BioEngineering or in the Medical Device Regulatory areas. The programme helped us with the third key area – Commercialisation’.
This division of work would probably not be typical of BioMedical Engineers based in a leading University in Ireland.
Finally, don’t I have a great ‘job‘ – talking to entrepreneurs about their stories and then sharing some thoughts with the Tweak your Biz community. I look forward to your comments and additions to these ten points which are intended as a starting point in this discussion.
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