What is needed most in the earliest stages of a startup?

We’ve never thought of Switchyards Downtown Club as just a building. As a matter of fact, we’ve never thought of Switchyards as just a B2C and design community. While we have our hands full right now curating the B2C/design community in Atlanta so the building is filled with the best possible people, we’ve always known that this was just the first step. The real magic (and hard work) of Switchyards begins once the building is filled with the best consumer and design-focused talent in the city.

Once the building is full, how can Switchyards help create more B2C winners?

To create more winners, we need to focus on what matters most in the earliest stages of a startup. To get a sense for what founders think is most important (and in what order), we asked some of our favorite local founders.

So last week we asked eight founders this question…

“If you were having coffee with a new founder who just started working on an idea, what do you think are the top three things this person needs at the very beginning of their journey to give them the best odds of success?”

With twenty-four possible responses (three responses each from eight founders), we assumed there would be lots of variation in their replies. Much to our surprise, we only had eight unique responses with four responses mentioned by multiple founders.

Here are the four responses that were mentioned by multiple founders…

#1 Idea validation

This one was mentioned by all eight founders. It’s the notion that the single most important factor in startup success is product-market fit…do customers really (really) want what you are offering. This includes all of the initial customer interviews, industry analysis, conversations with trusted advisors, business model changes and testing that’s done before a line of code is ever written.

“Really, truly understanding the problem you’re solving and really, truly listening to potential customers, verifying that the problem is worth solving.” — Jesse Maddox, Founder & CEO at TripLingo

#2 Team

The next most common response was assembling the right team, particularly finding the right co-founder. This means understanding your weaknesses and surrounding yourself with the right team to build your vision. With very limited resources in the early days, this is particularly challenging, but the best founder can weave a powerful vision that can really engage early team members.

“A good co-founder will motivate you, validate that you’re onto something and make working a lot more enjoyable.” — Stanley Vergilis, Co-Founder at Hux

#3 Like-minded Community

The third most common response was being in a community of supporters, mentors and advisors who can do everything from help you figure-out how to acquire customers (tactical) to helping think through a business model change (strategic) to being emotional support during the tough times (psychological). The day-to-day swings in startups are many and varied, so having a strong community is what these founders recommended to manage the inevitable challenges.

“It’s vital to have a community of people to bounce ideas off of and to know that there are others on the same roller coaster as you are. You’ve really to got to believe in your idea and capacity to bring it to life. The day in day out uncertainty can really take a toll if you don’t have that community of folks to relate to. Staying power is vital.” — Jason Seagle, Co-Founder & CEO at Vayando

#4 Building the Product (MVP)

The last response that was common among multiple founders was getting your initial product built in the right way (ie quickly, cheaply and laser-focused on a customer need). Many new founders consider “getting my product built” to be the most important thing. While it’s important, the experienced founders that we asked believed that idea validation, team & community were first and then tackling the product.

“Get to MVP quickly…talk to users and prototype rapidly.” — Andy Blechman, Founder at Southfork

We believe that it’s our responsibility at Switchyards to support all B2C companies in Atlanta in the ways that create more winners. We began this effort by buying a building where the right people (#2 above) can gather together to support each other (#3 above) to create some truly amazing B2C companies.

But what about #1 (Idea Validation) and #4 (Building the Product)?

If validating your business model and developing an initial product are the other main early-stage founder needs, what will Switchyards do to help in those areas?

We have some big plans and couldn’t be more excited about them, so please stay tuned!