10 Learnings from my three Startups!
One down, one “on hold”, one alive & kicking.
One new up FTW!
Being a part of a startup is such a rush! The energy from working on that great, disruptive idea does wonders for both your brain & heart.
If you been there, you know exactly what I am talking about. The feeling is awesome, you actually feel and believe you can (it´s a amazingly nice feeling) conquer the world! Reality is that most startups fail, we all know that, but when you´re in the middle of it all, shaping your big dream, it is easy to ignore all “warnings signs” along the way that might shatter your dream into dust.
I´ve learned a lot during my 4 years as an entrepreneur — failing forward is a useful mindset, that has helped me to see what went wrong, how to avoid repeating them and most important — improve myself! This is my 10 biggest take-aways for every entrepreneurs looking for reducing failures and building successful companies.
Pssst! After this list I will tell you more about the companies I´ve been a part of.
1. The Team
There is no doubt your team are everything! You´re the ones making it happen, no one else will do the job needed to be done. Embrace it and lift each other to greatness and glory, every single day.
My experience is, even though everyone is committed to work hard, it´s very, very important that everyone is committed to the same dream and vision. Talk it trough, many times, over and over again. And be prepared to adjust it over time, an open-minded and flexible mindset is a must.
2. Coding stays in da house
Outsourced developing is not a good idea. Not at all. Maybe, just maybe, if your startup includes high competence in-house, it might work out for well defined projects, that´s it. Nothing else. Core competence is core business, period. A no-brainer? Yeah, now it is. Even tough you work directly with the developers each day, you cannot expect them having the heart into it. Just don´t go there!
3. Organic Growth and funding!?
If you think you can sell “something” to fund your product until you earn your money from core business, you´re wrong. It wont work. Just one exception (maybe), if you can sell `something´that actually ads direct value into your product, it might be a good thing. Otherwise, I don´t think so .Just understand from the very start, you´re heading in a direction that without no doubt, will slow down your pace on building fundaments of your future business.
I am not saying it is wrong, but what I am pointing out is, selling consultancy hours (and deliver big-time!) takes a lot of time, time needed building your business, which means you have to be some kind of magician to pull it of. Also, the money you get has to cover a lot, not least to build your product.
4. Dream bigger than B I G
Repeating your BIG dream over and over again, is crucial. Don´t be ashamed saying it load and clear to everyone you meet. But most important, dream that dream together with your team mates daily. You´re in to it because of that big dream! Aiming high or even higher makes your engine run, creates a huge load of creativity and builds your self-esteem to a level where it must be to get there. Going into a startup where the founders misses the big picture of why, leave right away!
5. Culture! The back bone of businesses
Stop pretending to be someone else. It´s a huge waste of time and energy, you have probably done it in your past career, it´s not nice, at all. Creating an atmosphere that makes your team feel good about themselves is what you want to accomplish. When people are relaxed and feel confident in what they are doing and why, when all their efforts is concentrated on the next step towards the big dream — magic happens. How? Well, it´s a big questions, but just make it really simple for once. Make people feel good! After all, we are humans, humans have feelings. People is more important than every business model there is, they are your business.
6. You´re are the Hero!
Who else have the super powers you got? None. Who has come up with all the greatness in your product? You and your team has. You have got an unique talent that is rare among folks, getting shit done! Sometimes, while you´re struggling and stressed out (it is always like that in some sense!) it easily happens, that creepy feeling grabs hold of your mind — you loose faith in yourself. Bounce back right away! You´re a hero.
Don´t worry about failure; you only have to be right once!
Need more inspiration for being an entrepreneur? Yeah, why not. Read this 50 quotes to be back up in the saddle quick again.
7. Trust your gut feeling!
Sometimes you already know the answer, but is to afraid of being right. As an entrepreneur you constantly search for answers needed to move your business ahead. Every single answer, is built on the belief on which way forward has the least resistance based on the position you´re in, right?
My advice, take a step back. Concentrate on the big picture and I am sure you´re gonna see what´s wrong, cause deep down you know the truth. Face it and do what you have to do. It might be hurtful, but it is even wore not admiting it and believe it is gonna fade away. It wont, it comes back and strikes you even harder.
8. Work together — not side by side
There is a major difference. Startups is a building process all the time. It never ever stops. That means there is no chance you can manage the work needed to be done in separate silos and merge them together some where down the road. Working with each other, using everyones strengths in every single aspect of your progress, is where you must end up. I don´t mean everyone has to be involved in every little task, but everyone must feel they have the possibility to impact the work being done.
And even more important. Creativity is proven to increase when it´s shared — 1 + 1 = 3 (if you´re lucky)
9. Use smart tools!
Which ones you chose is more a question of taste, but getting it right is more important than you might think. Keeping track of your overall progress, making it visual for everyone, and getting things done as easy as possible are core for any business, especially startups. For now this is my favorite tools for getting things done and keep some kind of structure in what I do, I only wish we had decided early on in my companies to use them all!
- Evernote — Almost everything starts of here, a must have for everyone.
- Wunderlist — Todo lists as beautiful and great as they can be!
- Pocket — The best way to collect all the reading I need to do. Also really good sharing options, between colleagues and for social media.
- Trello — Keep track on projects and see them go from ideas to execution.
- Google Drive — Comments redundant.
- Hemingway App — A new good friend of mine. Writing is hard, writing good is even harder. This app helps me make my writing easier to read and hopefully, very much joyful to read.
- Buffer — Sharing your own and others content is a cornerstone for all startups wanting to reach out and connect with an audience. Buffer is by far (in my opinion) where it´s done with grace and glory.
- Slack! — What can I say!? These guys just nailed it. This is how team-communication always should have been. Give it a try right away, I am pretty sure you will be amazed of its capabilities.
10. Evaluate your progress all the time!
To have the slightest idea off where you are, and what needed to be done to get into “market fit” or later, fit your customers needs, you have to constantly evaluate your work. If not, you cannot address your limited resources to where it is most effective at the moment. That is crucial.
I am a big fan of “squad-thinking” when it comes to issues and tasks that includes every part of your business. For example, your most important asset — your website. It should not be a one-man show, at all. First, it is a core business functionality, secondly, it´s your most powerful and visual channel for interacting with potential customers.
Add an agile approach and go for it. See your work as experiments that has to be tested before you implement them in your “company-building” machinery, is how to avoid trying to figure it all out from the beginning. It doesn't work anyhow.
You´re in this for a reason! Don´t forget that.
There is no failures; only learnings!
My startup career so far is listed below, but I have to start with the latest in the line — Haaartland.com. This company has the potential to be one of the most interesting there is within marketing technology. Right now we are in beta-mode, testing out what´s needed to be adjusted before making it public.
Haaartland is all about giving modern Marketers answers on 1) Whom is the key influencers in my niche, 2) Which content do they care about 3) Which content formats is working best 4) What kind of language patterns is used and most importantly, on which platforms do they hang out?
Sounds promising? It is. Taking the guessing part out from your marketing is one of our goals. With built in “action” tools, making it easy to produce and share the content your audience crave for, Marketers is given a golden opportunity to be even more relevant and attractive. There is more, but I leave that out this time…
Below, my other experiments in chronological order;
listandtell.com — My very first baby. We wanted to build a brand new social media platform that, by that time did´nt exist. To paint you the picture of what we wanted to create, merge Pinterest and Quora.
Learnings: We actually had a quit good working app and website to launch, but we did not. We thought it was not ready, just almost, we wanted to add more functionality and make more on design and UX. It all ended up with… nothing. Why? No money left, to many distractions and new ideas occupied our minds. The code is still there and some day, I am going to make something good out of it.
ecomote.com — A safety driving app, it was all so promising. We had three really skilled developers in the team and when we added our skills in markeing and business development, this one could take off big time.
Learnings: Well, let me put it this way. Everyone in a startup must see themselves as entrepreneurs and act like it. It turned out, the guys who had the magical touch to put this product together, was not willing to go all in as entrepreneurs. Without a total commitment from everyone in your team, you´re doomed. We decided to close down business.
leadsius.com — The worlds only complete Marketing Automation platform with a Freemium business model. We aimed SMB;s all around the world from the very first day — over 3 000 companies has signed up so far. There is no doubt there is a huge demand for a solution like Leadsius.
This has been a bumpy road, but with a strong believe in what we wanted to give SMB Marketers — an easy, powerful and affordable solution, we managed to stay committed to our vision. If the company will succeed big time? It certainly can, but we have to wait until next year to see if all the fundamentals are there to grow into the next phase… To be continued.