Upon graduating, a couple of my really close friends felt the urge to initiate something impacting. You can say, to begin their life’s work.
I Joined The Tom, Dick, and Harry Crowd.
It is safe to say, I made the mistake of joining the bandwagon of attempting to initiate a startup like all the Tom, Dick and Harry almost with zero knowledge of how to go about it. It is true, we were inexperienced and naive in thinking startups are easy to set up but it really is the opposite.
We found that the hard way.
In the Literal Sense, we Failed Before we Even Began the Journey.
To give a little context, my co-founder and I made an earnest attempt to target the fitness market in our country. Although hitting the gym and maintaining a fit lifestyle is an established routine in most developed countries, it is only a rising trend prevalent among posh areas in Pakistan.
Tapping into this sea of potential customers never was the difficult part; however, it was the execution part of the plan that was what brought about significant hurdles along the way.
We began with the 36-day challenges which gained momentum as we got several signups but after the first session; in a nutshell, our resources were drying up and to continue towards the second session since we needed signups which we failed to achieve.
Hence, to make our product stand out, we tried to pivot by making our product more female-centric, but that too did not go as well as we planned. Eventually, the startup fizzled out and became a thing of the past.
This experiment was not as much of a loss as we thought it would be -- since we learned a great deal out of the whole gig.
Through this personal experience, I felt it necessary to write down and list and really explain only the MOST essential problems that came up. As we now know, the traps my friends and I fell into are the ones that many entrepreneurs and startup-would-be's need to be aware of before deciding to take the big leap. The big world of entrepreneurship is a great place.
But make sure you internalize these lessons I learned. Please learn them wholly.
1. Remember: Thoroughly Research Your Customers.
Before even beginning to think about creating your own business, you need to keep customers ahead of everything. You need to know your customers very well. Research into them. You must utilize time and energy to study the important demographics, the culture, social and financial class of your customers.
Plus, you cannot make any assumptions -- because most likely, they might turn out wrong and erroneous. They are the key to revenue generation and eventual positive ROI for your investors.
During the ideation phase, ideally, you would talk to your potential customers. You would ask about the problem that they seem to face. Ask them how they go about the process of reaching their goals. Identify and let them explain in full their "pain points."
These customers can look at your product and know how your product will provide leverage to help solve their problem. Listen. With the initial data you gather, you analyze and start creating your business model before proceeding towards building your minimal viable product.
2. Design Your Startup’s Blueprint, Top To Bottom.
When I say blueprint I am referring to your startup’s business model. Several tech writers and serial entrepreneurs stress upon this point -- and rightly so. If the founder does not know what he is building, then they might just as well pack their bags right now.
You need to know certain elements relevant to your business such as your customer segment, revenue streams, cost structure, value propositions that your product is offering, the team, channels and potential partners.
Once you compile them into document or chart form (whichever is easier), you will have a reference point that you can revisit if you feel some form of deviation from the line.
The main gist is to have the tenacity and focus to generating original ideas and building a viable model over it. That’s the first step, though a hard process in itself which is not to be taken lightly.
Then with that model, you execute the plan with full swing. In the world of entrepreneurship, remember that timing is crucial and a number of people may have the same idea as yours. How you execute the blueprint matters and how you express it in the form of a story is discussed next.
3. Teach Yourself To Be A Storyteller.
Even if you are a coder who has confidence issues, you can still train yourself to become a speaker. You should develop this ability. Work on this skill so much that you know for sure that you are on the level to sell even the most normal looking vegetable or stationary.
You have to grab your potential investor’s attention through a popularized practice called the Elevator Pitch. Even if you have to rote learn that story -- memorize this story deeply -- and practice it, even if only to your mirror.
Make this story as appealing as you can and try not to use cliched terms that the investors have already heard a thousand times before. Investors are very bored with these overused terms and you will see their eyes get a type of glassy look in them when they hear you say these tacky words.
Know that a story can be and should) be personal, inspiring, out of the ordinary or a mixture of all three. There should be an element of surprise to pique someone’s interest. Make it so that your audience at least remembers the gist of your product.
On a lighter note, your story should be such that your potential investors/customers are literally like this gif.
4. Launching Your Product Is Just The Beginning
You got the blueprint ready, you have begun coding or developing the next disruptive product but when the time comes to launch, be ready to listen to feedback, bug reports, possible faults or loopholes in your product.
You will run into obstacles that may range from logistical to financial to operational.
Startups usually follow the Lean methodology; to iterate over several sprints, in order to release only the product with the most necessary features. The point is to gain traction in the initial stages.
Snapchat can be taken as an example. Initially, the mobile app’s most distinct feature: being among the first social apps to open directly to the camera and the photos captured and shared self-destructed on the time set by the user.
Over different updates, features were regularly added such as face filters that became the main source of planting Snapchat as one of the fastest growing app to date.
The point of including Snapchat as an example was that more features have to developed, tested then rolled out with the passage of time.
If your product is not gaining enough users, chances are you might pivot and/or start from scratch (which is an extra pain) in order to drive your business forward.
5. Find Different Forms Of Social Media To Spread Awareness Of Your Product.
Know that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram might be the giants in social media especially when it comes to marketing but what matter is how effectively they are used. Content is king when it comes to social media marketing and the way you do publicity of your product matters significantly.
More typical ways to spread awareness is through word of mouth. Talk to your family, friends and acquaintances. People are kinder than you think and are ready to help out. Network, network, network! I cannot stress enough on how important this is to get your product across.
Attend conferences, hackathons, open mics and startup competitions. Sooner rather than later you will notice that you have successfully created a ripple effect, after which you’ll place your product on the radar.
With these different techniques, make sure you back up all the hype. Combining all the points from above, you should be ready to take the plunge and ‘Go Live’ with your product. The rest is good luck and timing.