Taking the Scary Out of Startups: Why Startups Succeed
Paying it forward and sharing lessons learned with entrepreneurs and startups comes naturally for all the Trakers. Why keep all this knowledge to yourself?
We are far from being an early stage startup in many ways and we have taken a road less travelled in several cases. Notably, our founder and several of the team members are “seasoned,” and we have the help from our state as far as some creative bank line funding. However, our challenges were the same as we started up and launched software and re-launched software….
An overview of the topics I will be covering in subsequent posts:
Problem: Remove real pain
As a mentor and a judge, I have seen some ideas that just do not solve a pain point or problem for the customer. A funny example is a patent for a bird diaper. Really? Is that needed? Solve a real problem.
Leader = vision + passion + unending drive
Having passion or vision is just not enough. It’s persistence, both professional and personal, that is necessary for success. As the leader, it all rides on you. You set the tone and pace.
Team = key
One of our Trakers, Char, has espoused the concept of “loyal to the soil,” and that is what I think is essential for a team member. Putting the company first but knowing when to put a hand up and say that help is needed is vital. It’s not about background, experience, or age — the best team members are those who roll with it and are open to all opportunities.
Advisory board & mentors
Bring them in early and do not be afraid to swap them out as you grow. People are often flattered to be asked, and it’s about the mentorship and the connections, not the money that they may invest.
Culture as a touchstone
We model ourselves after the giants: Zappos, Southwest Airlines, and our own customer, Infusionsoft. When there is a sticky situation (which can be often in a startup), we use Hubspot’s mantra: team over self, company over team, and customer over company.
It’s not just a formality. Operating without a business entity can put your personal wealth and assets at risk. Seek professional advice always.
More on what may seem like boring legal concepts but actually make or break your venture. Do not operate on a handshake. Lock each arrangement down with a contract that is clear about who does what when, and particularly who owns the work product at the end of the day.
Ideas are just the start
If you never tell people about your ideas, you will not get far. It is good to be prudent about non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) but there is a time and place for that type of protection.
Identify & protect your IP
Startups and particularly software or service companies do not have many, if any, tangible assets. Thus, identifying all the potential IP, especially trade secrets, at the very beginning will shore up chances for success.
Plan & focus
Start with the end in mind and work backwards. This is somewhat challenging for a startup because things change, but you have to have a focused plan to get to your ultimate goal whether that is lifestyle, business, or complete exit.
Competition is a good thing
Being first to market is scary and requires you to raise awareness for the product or service. Having competitors is validation of the problem.
Critical path differentiates a plan from a roadmap. Understanding the dependencies and priorities to translate your plan into a well thought out roadmap sounds like a lot of work because it is. But, it’s critical.
Become an expert
No one wants to consciously purchase from the second best company! Become an expert in your area and pay it forward by speaking, writing, and spreading the word on your industry. Not be confused with selling.
Content is king
Blogging, speaking, and creating great content is paramount to thought leadership or developing a presence. We learned firsthand how much your traffic drops without a daily blog.
We can trace every great thing that has happened to us back to a connection or relationship. It is not about leading with the ask. Do good and you will do well. The power of the network is everything.
Have healthy skepticism
Not only should you make sure that you are always comfortable with saying no, but it is okay to question just about everything.
Walk before you can run
While it is tempting to scream from the rooftops about your new product or website, generally a slow roll is best. We re-launched over a month ago and still have a few gremlins in our site so we are holding off with the grand announcement!
Funding is hard
Bootstrap, self-funding, debt, strategic partners, or angel capital — it’s all challenging. Make sure that you are looking for money that has connections or synergies or so-called “smart money.”
Have focused fun!
Traklight is no different than other places where I have worked in that it is great to have fun at work but we still have to remain on task. Fun is not folly and we have to know when to be serious and get stuff done.