9 Essential Lessons as a First-Time Founder
From pulling off an idea to evolving in the market.
True, the whole path of founding a startup is nerve-wracking. Trust me I’ve failed two products, sold one & currently building one. But nothing is more fun than continuously moving forward. At least you’re building your assets in someway.
So, here’s a little tour of my history arc as a founder.
1. Not every idea requires validation.
Speaking of this, actually, there is no perfect time, type or form in which you can see the future. You can’t tell today if your idea will be successful tomorrow. Yes, it’s true, if you have a little bit of understanding that your idea is worth giving a shot, you should work on it.
Try to capture or sustain in the market & see if there is a potential for growth.
It’s good to validate your idea but it’s also important to understand why you need it — is it because you need more information about the user or target audience, or you are insecure about the idea.
The idea validation can go up till you soft launch your product & it keeps going further when you decide to build more features. Work on the product & feedback together, otherwise, you’ll keep validating & won’t work on it.
Few ways to validate your idea:
- By creating a landing page
- Building a waitlist
- Getting paid users or making pre-sales
- Building an MVP
- Talking to potential users or buyers
2. Before a founder you’re a creator.
As a founder, you are the creator of everything that’s get done in your startup. Not just building the product but also marketing it, building a culture, building a founding team, writing, designing, building brand image, etc. You become consistent in improving, connecting and producing more.
You become a creator of how you preserve and distinguish your product from the competitors. Starting by designing the idea into a concept, turning it into the market, growing both users and team, selling and bringing the direct value.
3. Build a community
Communities have become a strong player in the startup world. Entrepreneurs, creators, and founders are finding that building a community not only helps build and sell a product but also builds a solid foundation of a marketplace for the long run.
In a community, people build more value by interacting with each other on a similar topic along with helping you shape your initial stage product. They are more bend towards trust & building each other, and, tell me, would you buy something from an ad or the person you trust (from your community)?
That’s also true that not every product requires a community. But having a community is like never going out of business. People are always rooting for you — and your marketing works more like word-of-mouth.
Look at two different types of community: Launch house — built to connect and support the world’s most ambitious entrepreneurs and creators, and TikTok — a community-driven social media.
4. Building the right founding team
Usually, when a startup gets funded founders immediately try to fill positions. They focus on hiring the best team than building the product & culture, this leads to cash out quickly.
Based on your founding team, you’ll be judged everywhere — reputation, competition, co-founders, product, hiring other talents, etc.
Rather than looking for someone who’s the best in the industry, try to attract someone who works with the same value, intent, goals, determination and is committed to growth as you.
If the founding team isn’t on the same page then things won’t work out right.
- Hiring isn’t easy for early-stage startups as no one know you. When no one knows you, why would someone like to work for you? Your startup has no reputation or brand identity, so it’s you who build trust and brand awareness. People will want to WORK WITH YOU and not FOR YOU. And that’s where you build a solid foundation and it all starts with building culture and value within.
- Delegate tasks only if you don’t enjoy doing them or need experts. Also, don’t hire people with the same skillsets, it will only create conflicts.
- It’s better to look for generalists who likes to figure things out on their own but have a sense of specialist that their role is unique.
- Build the right team. Your founding team will reflect the culture and values of your startup. Think of each role as not just a skillset but with the approach, personality, and methodology.
Hiring is like investing in your product, only through others skills. If you don’t hire the right person they can damage your potential & go downhill.
It’s true to grow faster, you need to hire more people to help you build the product but knowing whom and at what stage is still important.
5. Start small — build MVP first
Once I decided I want to build a tech startup, building it fast and putting it out was my biggest goal. Things went wrong when I spend thousands of dollars on building the complete product with a variety of features that my users didn’t even want.
Lesson learned: build small, try and test market & users & then add more features.
Start small, don’t put too much time or money in the early stage to build a full-functionality product, because you don’t know yet if this idea will work or not. Your only goal should be to have a decent product and get paying users. Don’t run behind perfectionism or have a fear of missing out.
That’s where MVP plays a crucial role.
The concept of MVP is important to expand our ability to reach the right audience at the early stage & test the idea with core features (which shouldn’t be more than 2–3). It should not take a lot of time to build and get into public. Quick market testing & getting the users should be your first priority.
6. Keep them (users) coming! — Retention and holding on to users is as important as adding new features.
In the beginning, most founders think about how to get more users. Well, that’s important but what’s your plan to keep them coming back.
User retention is very important, a high churn rate can damage your brand identity, revenue and future investments. How you plan to keep hold on your old users and keep bringing the new ones will be the greatest challenge.
Keep these things in mind:
- Monitor what you create
- Listen to users but keep the balance of what your users want and what is better for the product — think strategically.
- Don’t just follow the competitor for the sake of bringing new users.
7. Growth isn’t consistent
You might find that 1 month has more user sign-ups or sales and the next month wouldn’t even hit a dime. It’s a myth that growth is consistent or accumulates each month. Yes, if you do marketing & sales better you’ll at least be constant or have steady growth.
For this, it’s better to understand your audience & their purchase behaviour. Each industry type has different users and their users’ requirements. What makes them purchase other’s products over yours (and vice versa) can be a tricky question but the answer can be found through some research.
Carefully spread yourself on the thinnest part of the funnel. As closer you niche down your audience, you’ll be able to understand your users clearly. The more you understand your customers, the better the result and growth.
8. Growth out of the product-fit market
Not everyone thinks their idea is a billion-dollar idea, they start by thinking how they’ll survive in the market or enter into it. This means you think about the average, which only describes a small group of product users, small potential to grow and never-ending fight with competitors — unless you belong from scarcity niche.
This is the part of your early stage, but what happens next?
Are you still thinking about surviving the product-fit market? Or you’re thinking of evolving without affecting your existing presence? A great example for this is course producing platforms such as Teachable, Skillshare, etc.:
- Firstly, be grounded with what you already offer by maintaining the content for existing users. This will bring more users.
- Secondly, collaborate with other creators to bring their users and expand your radius with different categories.
- Next, let your users create their own course and sell.
9. Mapping a user story will help you funnel down every task.
You know what makes the product sell easily — you being your own buyer. When you know what you want and you search for it, land on the site, see a very convincing pitch and you immediately decide to buy — it’s easy to sell.
That’s a fair point because you know how you buy something. But what about the users’ using your product?
On every step of your product building product — may it be designing, creating a landing page, creating a marketing strategy, etc. — you think of your users first. What will make them click this link, what will make them visit this page or buy this plan?
Once you create how will they move from one point to another on your product you’ll understand the complete framework.
Thanks for reading.
👋 PS: Ritika is a founder, product marketer and advisor for early stage startups, find more here or connect with her here. If you’re a first time founder looking for curated resources, download here. If you enjoyed this post, read the past issues here.