Google Doesn’t Have The Answers: Expert Advice to Help You Avoid Common Startup Pitfalls

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I have an unusual job. Like, really unusual — unless you’re a venture capitalist (which I’m not). I’ve written about my work here, but let me give you a quick recap.

I’m a growth strategist for Appster, which means I listen to thousands and thousands of startup ideas every year.

I help, advise and qualify our clients for the next stage of the development process. I also talk to many aspiring founders who are just not ready to create a viable product or service.

Why do I turn these clients away? It depends. Some haven’t lined up the necessary finances and capital to transform their dreams into reality.

Others don’t have the time or energy to build a successful business. And, quite honestly, some ideas are not worth pursuing. You can’t spin hay into gold — at least 99% of the time.

Poking holes in your own business concept is not easy, though. If you’ve spent even a small amount of time developing your idea, you’re probably too close to its flaws and failings.

That’s where I come in. After listening to thousands of startup pitches, these are the six biggest mistakes that I see among aspiring entrepreneurs.

1. Rushing the timeline

Impatience is common — and it’s understandable.

When you’ve got a great idea and you’re eager to get it out in the world, any time lapse feels too long. But building an incredible product takes some time.

Trust the process and keep pushing forward. Just don’t expect to disrupt an entire market in three months. It won’t happen.

You’ve got so many ducks to line up in the meantime, anyway. Time will fly while you’re building the business. Enjoy the process and do it the right way, not the fast way.

2. Being possessive, restrictive or inflexible

Building a product, service or app requires ongoing change. It’s an essential part of the process.

Even the most killer idea needs to evolve and adapt as it moves toward the market — and then it will probably need to pivot again based on user behavior and feedback.

When founders are rigid about even the smallest details — long before even a line of code is written — that’s a massive red flag.

Stay true to your values, be passionate, but be open to change. With the right team on board, you’ll end up somewhere even better than you first imagined.

3. Staying exclusively in your lane

If you’re a personal trainer, it might feel natural to focus solely on the fitness industry — and if you have an incredible idea, then go for it.

Just don’t let a lack of experience stop you.

If you’ve noticed a real, pervasive problem and you have a smart solution, you can acquire the knowledge you need to make it work. It’s far more important to answer these three questions with confidence and certainty:

  • How many people have this same problem or pain point?
  • Who are those people (my target market)?
  • How motivated are they to ease the pain?

Elon Musk didn’t know anything about batteries before he built Powerwall. Look at the problems that you can effectively solve rather than relying solely on the expertise you already have.

4. Jumping to conclusions

Many people have a great idea, but a limited technical background — and that’s fine. You don’t need to be a software engineer to build something incredible.

You do, however, need to understand your limitations.

For example, clients often come to us dead set on building a hybrid app. When I dig a little deeper, it turns out they followed the first five hits from a Google search and now worship at the altar of hybrid development.

Or, a developer friend casually laid out a plan and they’re determined to stick to it.

I’m sorry, but what? If you don’t have a technical background, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. Most online sources are just opinions.

No one else knows the intricacies of what you’re trying to create, the market it will serve, and what form it should take. There could be 10 different solutions to the problem you’re trying to solve. Let’s hold off on the native versus hybrid debate until it’s time to make that call.

5. Outsourcing your app development

Three words: Don’t. Do. It.

Creating a digital product, platform or service is expensive. That’s the hard truth. I often talk to clients who are daunted by the cost of creating an app, so they hire a smaller shop that outsources product development to contractors or third-party firms.

Every approach has its pros and cons, but in the long run, is the cheaper option actually less expensive? Nine times out of 10, the quick-and-dirty route runs off a cliff and the client gets burned. They’ve wasted time and money by chasing after cheap.

Outsourcing can also threaten your intellectual property. Keeping the concepts, development, marketing and other product elements in the same place can prevent leaks from unexpected sources.

To be clear, I’m not trying to set off alarm bells. It’s important to talk about your idea, validate the concepts and get prospective customers on board.

Almost no one would have the time or inclination to race you to the finish line, anyway. Once we’re talking about code and strategy, however, it makes sense to keep the details close.

6. Building an app, not a business

Your final product is just a small part of the full rollercoaster ride. Yes, the app is the public or enterprise-facing point of interaction, but if you imagine the scaffolding that will need to surround and support it, we’re talking sales, marketing, distribution, HR, customer support, and much more.

Clients who think about building and growing a business are setting themselves up for success. They see the whole, big, messy picture instead of one little pixel. That’s a good thing.

Get ready to roll the dice — with a smart plan in place

My final piece of advice is not a mistake, but a motto:

Have a healthy appetite for risk.

Building an app or launching a startup will take more time, energy, resources, sweat and self-discipline than you can probably imagine.

It’s not easy. It’s not fast. It’s challenging, and there will probably be moments when you wish you were still grinding it out at the law firm, or installing electrical fixtures, or looking after the kids all day.

The good news? If you’re ready for the ride, it’s totally worth it.

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