This is what I’ve learned after talking to 300+ startups
The 2 most interesting things in developing our careers are meeting new people and learning new things. Every person we come in contact with in the business world has something to teach us.
But first of all, how did I manage to talk to 300+ startup founders?
- First, I am specializing in business development for early stage tech companies. Simply put, I help them to reach new markets through strategic partnerships.
- Second, I worked for a startup accelerator at Beta-i in Portugal where I was responsible for startup scouting process. My day-to-day activity was interviewing inspiring entrepreneurs. I had to evaluate their ideas, teams, business models, product-market fit and other stuff in order to choose the best teams to participate in the acceleration program. Out of the hundreds of applicants wishing to participate, our evaluation team only selected fifteen.
In one way or another, I am connecting to various exciting tech businesses from different locations.
So finally, what did I learn?
1. Is it a new bubble?
There is no bubble. It’s true that everyone is building apps nowadays, raising millions of dollars for a crazy idea and when it is going to end up…But these are the thoughts of people who are just starting out or are so called — “headline readers”. Obviously, no one can predict the future, but people really influencing the industry, such as LPs or bigger VCs don’t see any bubbles. I would rather believe in them.
In fact, I believe it’s an exceptional time to build a company now. Free and easy access to information, as well as well developed mobile platforms, allow you to build startups incredibly quickly.
2. Team is everything
Your team is your foundation and that will ultimately determine whether or not the project will succeed.
When a founder is pitching his idea to investors and discusses monetization, go-to-market strategy, financial projections, the market size etc., most of the time what sophisticated investors really want is to learn more about your team: whether or not you are going to stick together, your capacity to build the product and to scale it.
From my personal experience, a good example is a taxi app, founded in Denmark. I helped them to expand to the first international markets — UK and Estonia. As I know, after a while it turned out that the business is not going so well, but the same people turned their knowledge into another idea — they are building electric cars now! It only happens when there is a great team that never gives up.
3. Validate your idea before investing your savings.
From what I’ve seen in this industry, 80–90% startups are shut down simply because they don’t get enough sales to keep up the operational costs. It’s even worse when you don’t even reach a significant amount of free users of your product, then you won’t even convince any investor to fund your project.
What do I suggest?
- If you have a hardware product — give it a great design + promo video and place it on Kickstarter, Indiegogo or other crowdfunding websites. Your main goal here should not be to generate sales but rather to validate if people are really interested in your product.
- If you want to build an app or any other kind of software, go to talk to your prospective clients directly and say that you have this solution built and ask if they would be willing to pay for it, create pricing strategy based on their feedback. If you are about to build SAAS — make a Powerpoint presentation of 10 or so slides and visit 30–40 companies, it might be that you are about to build a product that nobody needs or wants, but you will hear the main pain these companies usually have and you will build a product based on that.
Focus on building an audience first and building a product second.
- With all the free information available online, it is the best time to start your own business ever!
- Most likely you won’t get far alone — build a strong team around you. If you can’t find strong people, build an experienced advisory board — people love to give advice you just need to ask. Keep in mind also that this is the trial and error stage. Embrace it.
- Find customers first, build product second.
And don’t forget — learning from your own mistakes makes you smart, but learning from other people’s mistakes makes you a genius!
Being only 25 years old, I don’t feel like an industry expert, but I hope that my practical advice can be useful for somebody in the startup ecosystem or the ones, who are willing to start their own venture.
Call To Action
If you are running a tech company and you feel like your business is at the right stage to expand to new countries— feel free to send me a message, explaining your business model, your target market and expectations. I will be more than happy to have a chat with you!