Stephanie Vozza has spoken of the six lessons gleaned from entrepreneurs’ experience (Fast Company). It was illuminating to evaluate how our startup company (FundingSage) and its founders dealt with these business improvement issues.
Lesson #1: Don’t have too many “Irons in the Fire”
The real issue is the “Shiny Object Syndrome.” It is easy to become enamored of peripheral opportunities. We looked at a significant number of possibilities before we focused down on our current project, a software program to assist in the Due Diligence process for businesses looking for funding.
However, it is also important to be able to “pivot.” We decided to create this website, FundingSage.com, that provides valuable information and resources to entrepreneurs seeking to start, grow and fund a business.
This operation was designed as a “Sales Funnel” to our ultimate product, LaunchXL. While it did divert some resources from our core product, it acted as a potential multiplier in driving potential customers to our site.
Lesson #2: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of the Team
Unlike many start-ups that begin with an idea then develop the resources to build a company, we started with a team of seasoned entrepreneurs, brought together initially through our mutual participation in an Angel Investment group. We then evaluated numerous concepts, even made several abortive efforts to get some off the ground, before we identified the “right idea.”
In our case, the management team was the key to creating a successful startup business.
Lesson #3: Don’t Overestimate Your Abilities
As experienced entrepreneurs, this was well understood but still a major challenge. Entrepreneurs are inherently self-confident. Starting a company requires an inordinate degree of faith in one’s idea. You don’t start a company if you don’t believe you are smarter and more knowledgeable than your potential competitors.
However, we clearly understood our limitations. A considerable amount of effort was expended in becoming well versed in the nature of the demand, a degree of potential competition, and paths to market.
In many respects, preparation is key the key to success. “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
Lesson #4: Don’t be Passive in Hiring
Understanding your limitations helps you understand the holes in your capabilities. In our case, we lacked an in-depth knowledge of the marketing and sales of our specific product. In the initial phases of bootstrapping, we focused on attracting to our Board of Advisors someone with that specific skill set.
Lesson #5: Don’t Start Too Big
One key to success is understanding what is feasible within your initial resource limitations. In addition to creating attainable intermediate steps toward our ultimate objective, we revised and scaled back the specific Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We did this in order to ensure we had sufficient working capital to undertake an initial marketing campaign to validate the viability of our concept.
Demonstrating the monetizable demand and generating an initial revenue stream is critical to attracting venture funding.
Lesson #6: Don’t Be Afraid To Share Your Ideas
There is a balance to be struck between guarding your Intellectual Property (IP) and creating interest in your product. Given the nature of potential competition, we were initially biased toward caution. We enhance the protection of our IP by applying for Trademarks which included a search for similar business processes.
Once we created a working model of our MVP, we solicited feedback in order to improve our product.
Clearly, there are a number of viable paths to the successful launch of a scalable, fundable company. A careful consideration of these six key factors for business improvement can help enhance an entrepreneur’s chances of success.