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The 10 Startup Tips No One Tells You

Mihir Gandhi

Getting a startup off the ground is an all-consuming affair. With all the advice out there around building your business plan, defining your market, and raising money, there are a few tips you don’t hear often enough. Here is our top ten list.

1. It’s Way Harder than You Think
It’s the reason only 1 in 4 startups succeed. Success is not born purely of doing everything right, at the right time.

2. Ideas ≠Easy Execution
A great idea is just that: an idea. The most creative and original idea in the world isn’t worth anything if it can’t be implemented relatively painlessly.

3. More is Not Always Better
There’s value in focusing on a few products and features while you establish your startup’s viability and market. It’s tempting, particularly in the tech world, to get dazzled by a dizzying array of potential features that are oh-so-cool. But there is a big risk they will dilute your real value.

4. Design Matters
Investing in the design elements of your startup is never a waste. Your logo, brand guide, web presence and the look of your product and features are all critically important. Functionality isn’t enough. Period.

5. Teamwork Trumps Talent, Every Time
Your brilliant team members with their long impressive CVs and huge contact lists aren’t going to save you if your team can’t get along. The ability to work together, in harmony, is far more important than brilliance.

6. Cultivate Empathy, Torpedo Ego
Okay, it’s impossible to completely get rid of ego. But not keeping it in check can be fatal to your startup. To help ward off an ego torpedo, focus instead on cultivating empathy.  Concentrate hard on listening. Listen to your customers, potential customers, and your competitors, and be ready to let them challenge what your ego tells you is right.

7. Track Organic Traction Above All Else
Organic growth is the measure of whether there really is a demand for your product or service. Spend on marketing to build your brand exposure, of course, but at a certain point, there should be a level of excitement and natural, organic demand growth.

8. The Power of the Pitch
You won’t need a presentation in the same way as you used to, but you still need to have a good “pitch” that you can pull out when you need it. The quality, including design and user experience, of your pitch will tell potential investors that you know what you’re doing. They should be able to visualize your startup as a successful entity with your pitch alone.

9. Prepare for a Pivot
You set off planning to deliver product “A”. But what happens when demand for product “A” never takes off, levels off, or tanks much earlier than you anticipated.  Instead of going down with the original idea, be prepared to modify your business.  A pivot doesn’t have to be a complete change in your business, so you won’t necessarily lose all the hard work you put into developing product “A”.  Don’t be afraid to pivot if you have to; many great companies are doing things that are different than what they originally set out to do.

10. Opportunity’s Knock is Often Unexpected
Getting a startup off the ground takes everything you’ve got – all of your focus, energy, creativity and talent. Still, you need to make sure you’ve got the intellectual room to recognize an opportunity that might come from left field.  The Hall of Business Fame (if there was one) is populated with entrepreneurs who took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself when they least expected it. Just be careful not to spread yourself too thin chasing every opportunity.

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