6 lessons I learned in the year after Techstars program
We finished the Techstars Cloud program in February of 2016 and kept operating to meet potential customers to reach our sales goals. Within one year, we faced many obstacles, difficulties, and most definitely fell down like many startup founders, but I still learned a lot from Techstars and about myself.
- Building Connections
We all have a country we call home, our own language and unique culture. When you enter a new market, it takes time to build up your connections especially if you are not a native speaker in their language since language is the foundation of any culture.
After the program, our mentors continued to connect us with relevant influential networks. Their connections allowed for easy icebreakers to occur rather than simply a cold call or email to your potential customers. Good investors will help you get more useful connections to keep high company performance.
After attending the Techstars program, I would still recommend teams who are interested in entering the global market to join Techstars. At the end of the day, it’s all about networking and connections!
2. Momentum is Power
Keeping everyone on the same page is really hard especially when your company hasn’t been doing this very well. Working is important but marriage, family, and friendship is just as crucial.
How one creates momentum to keep the team active and energetic is really important. Momentum for me, doesn’t only mean technical achievements but also keeping mental health, getting revenue, and generating business opportunities. Don’t lose sight of any opportunities for the team because that is the real nutrition. Dreams are great, but for me, survival is the first priority. After that, you will have the power to grab your dream.
3. Reorganization is the core value
Around 20 years ago, we didn’t have smart phones, apps, or IoT devices. But what is the core value of the internet industry and how do you evaluate yourself if you have a technical background? For me, it’s reorganization. I have worked for big enterprises before, specifically telecom, banking, and the internet industry, and I figured out deficiencies and inflexibilities both influence the company very deeply. So in my mind, if you just come up with new ideas, we don’t need to think of “fighting” or “replacing” the original key players in the beginning. Just sit down and interview the people who work in the specific industry and start to identify the problem you want to solve. After this, begin meeting key personnel to look for any further collaboration.
4. Win-Win with your Partners
From time to time I hear from friends who make the argument that big companies or government don’t give access to their data via open APIs and that limits the growth and creativity of the startup ecosystem. However, it is neither the obligation of the data owners nor it is the right of the users. What needs to be focused on is how to achieve the win-win scenarios between the two parties. If the users can think of how to help the data owners to create efficiency or increase revenue, a partnership can be easily formed based on the demonstrated values. Value creation should be the centerpiece and the vital thinking process of every collaboration.
5. Diverse abilities are the core in the beginning
Running a company is not easy. In the beginning, we thought that as long as we had ideas or a cool product, we’d be fine. But in reality, operations, taxes, legal, marketing, and sales are all important factors to building the foundation of a company. You can’t only have one speciality; you should at least have two! Learn fast and try to do things by yourself first, then find any resources which can help you later. For example, I never knew how to set up a company in the US before. I just learned and communicated with our attorney. I also didn’t know how to do social marketing and use tools to generate leads to send cold emails then tracking the performances. I learned all of this from friends and the internet. You see, don’t always say that you can’t do it when you haven’t even started yet. Just try it.
6. Communication skills are your best weapon
Everyone has different backgrounds and speak different languages. Make sure you can communicate with different positions and professions. Making the sentence simple and using easier words to make sure different audiences understand you can help you communicate effectively. If someone can’t comprehend you, it doesn’t mean you’re right or you’re smart. It just means that you never want to collaborate with others. I was not familiar with any technical terms when I started this company, but I kept trying to better my understanding when communicating with others. You can start from how to introduce your product to your friends who are not working in the same industry. Furthermore, spending time to hangout with different people from different backgrounds allows you to widen your knowledge base and develops your creativity.
Hope my experiences can help everyone who wants to expand their market to another country or who is interested in Techstars. Leave your questions or let me know what I can do to help you. :D
Aldrich Huang, May 16th, 2017