Three secrets to cost-effectively launching your startup

Every month there are increasingly more people looking to shake off the shackles of the standard 9 to 5 life and embark the exciting journey of launching their own business. But as every seasoned and experienced entrepreneur knows, launching a business is one of the most challenging yet rewarding endeavors that you can undertake.

Social media and the hype around startups have made heroes and superstars out of successful founders, but hasn’t really focused on the challenges, mistakes, and setbacks that these successful, and many other failed, founders, have made that have cost them time and money.

Below is a list of the top three things to keep in mind when first launching your concept to market which will help you avoid potential pitfalls at the early stages of launch.

1. Keep it lean

You may or may not have heard of the lean methodology, but I personally am a fan of the core ideas of lean and the principles that it preaches. Lean is essentially a scientific approach to creating a startup that aims to help you avoid wasting time, effort and cost by going down the wrong direction too far. Lean is a build-measure-learn model that supports an iterative approach to quickly finding the right product-market fit.

This is critical at the beginning stages of launching a startup as you want to reach that magical moment of finding product-market fit and valuation through paying customers as fast as possible.

2. Listen closely and understand your customers

To be successful in your startup you have to not just solve a problem for your customers, but solve it in the right way. The people in the best position possible to tell you whether you are delivering value to them is your customers.

Your primary job as a startup founder is to so deeply understand your customers and the problem space that you can predict the needs and pains of your future customers before they even realize its a problem for them.

3. Find the right delivery partners

Lastly, find the right delivery partners to make magic happen. Find someone who is more than just a resource but a “trusted delivery partner or adviser” who can be trusted to be a subject matter expert in their field and can not only deliver but provide insight and value from their field of expertise.

As a founder, you most likely won’t have the time and/or know-how to deliver on every aspect of your business, especially more low-level tasks that make up a component of your business, so finding the right people you can trust to distribute your workload is key to a fast and efficient journey to launch.

-Lee Jiang

Top 2 things non technical founders should do to launch a tech startup

You know the old adage “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Well this is exceptionally true for non-technical startup founders who want to build a technology-based startup, of which we are seeing more and more of each week. The challenge for founders in this situation is that they need to somehow have, or obtain the know-how to successfully execute technology projects which is a major component of their business.

So the real question for these founders are; how do you successfully manage and execute medium to large scale technology development projects with limited experience. Especially when considering that you are most likely competing with other startups or established businesses with more technical experience and capability. How do you gain the edge to get ahead?

The first reaction for most founders would be “I’ll learn it as I go”, this is admirable and ambitious, and definitely part of the journey, but without external help or guidance, this learning process would mean a steep learning curve that results in costs and mistakes that will hinder the process of your startup. There are two alternative solutions that non-technical founders could seek to get a step up on this problem.

1. Get a specialized mentor

Ongoing learning is definitely part of the process for all founders, especially in areas they lack the most knowledge. But to speed up the process and minimize mistakes due to inexperience, the founder can seek to bring an experienced adviser into the fold as a mentor to help make decisions and provide guidance on an as-needed basis. This adviser should be someone senior with relevant technical experience in your business, and ideally also have relevant industry experience. This would mean networking and seeking individuals known in the industry and then pitching and selling these people your dream and vision for your business. The exchange would most likely be equity for time.

2. Engaged experienced advisors as consultants

If equity is not something you wish to part with to non-investors and non-employees, then the second option is to engage the expertise of people with the experience you seek as consultants. This opens up a wider pool of people you can reach out to, as providing consulting services for a fee reduces the risk and perception of a time sink from experienced professionals, as well as alleviates the need for you to pitch the success of your dream and vision as a means of (future) compensation. The challenge here is then ensuring you are engaging this right professional with the right relevant experience with a passion for your idea.

Of course, there is no single magic bullet solution and every startup has a unique situation with different needs and challenges.

Within the Tech Ready Community, we have mentors to which you can reach out and get one to one coaching, you can find more about them on our expert section.

– Lee Jiang

Co-Founder of UpSpot

The Essential Panacea For Founders

As the expression goes ‘Success has a thousand fathers, but failure is an orphan.’ Failure is inevitable if you are unable to listen, absorb & assimilate feedback. You then must incorporate that great feedback to make your venture better, stronger and potentially unassailable. You need to do this every day.

In 2018, everyone wants a dashboard, a GPS hack, a shortcut to success. But who will sift through the dross and distill the deluge of information to extract the essential information for your business? You will.

You are the arbiter of your business. The buck stops with you. If you want to be great, you have to understand the basics and get them right. A start-up often uses the metaphor of a rocket launch, so I will borrow that to remind You — the pilot- that the mechanical failure and ensuing explosion was due to a failure on your part to pay attention to the signals. Trust me, if you crash and burn this time, lining up some more founders, funds or a team at your next launch will be a tough ask. To avoid the crash takes hard work, continual honest introspection combined with unshakable self-belief.

During the last 20 years in business, I have worked through a lot of different problems, perhaps twenty thousand of them. Why? Twenty thousand problems other people bring to me to solve has driven me to be better at what I do.

Clients, staff, friends, families plus new and world-class entrepreneurs are my people. My Care Factor is off the chart on my imaginary DIST diagram. People say a wise person learns from his or her mistakes, but a wiser one learns from the mistakes of others. Resolving a multitude of problems every day has improved my ability to predict, avoid and resolve problems.

If you are a founder looking for someone who can help guide you and help you focus on the critical issues for your business, drop me a line.

Advisory’s Panacea aka the checklist/tool/life hacks for navigating your journey.

1. Pick the best possible subject-matter experts in your network. Love them (in a platonic sense).

2. Ask questions that will help you to move forward, don’t just seek praise. Your dog and your Mum will give you unconditional love, you need some tough love and brutal honesty. Now. Urgently.

3. Read widely, (listen to talking books if you don’t like reading) but really absorb, evaluate and reflect. Write notes too, underline and disagree if appropriate.

Look at companies 18 months ahead of you. But also look at the Masters regardless of them not being in your space/market/ whatever — great is great. But remember to differentiate the hype from the facts — Don’t believe marketing hype of a high flyer. Everyone has their good and bad days.

4. Look at your problems and challenges from different angles. Then come back and look at them again. You can’t solve every problem in one sitting. Michelangelo took 4 years to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

5. Do it with music, or meditation — find what fuels your creative juices at the time of writing. For me, Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark is blaring as I write.

6. Decide…then have the courage of your convictions.

7. At regular intervals, repeat steps 1 to 6.

This too is no formula; YOU have to work it out.

Did I mention 30% of your time will be spent thinking about managing money and resources? By managing money, I don’t want you to picture a banker, VC or financial planner. I want you to picture a Great Founder. You want to be a great entrepreneur, step up.

The high-five moments make all the struggles worth it, for me at least. If I have invested in the company, that’s a bonus. Lunch this week with a founder was a Kodak moment; his usual facial expression, cool as a cucumber was more of a nodding know than a cringe. He was lucky to have survived the first 18 months. I give you Hartley Pike of Construction Cloud. He was green as grass (commercially) when we met. We were discussing an oversubscribed next round of capital over some great Middle Eastern food. Hartley and the team are reinventing the way worksites work for Engineers, Foremen and CEOs. This Angel investor loves it too. Simple, cost-efficient safety at your fingertips and at scale real time. The verdict: a game-changer for the building and construction industry.

I certainly didn’t choose to amplify founders’ weaknesses for some cheap laughs. Everyone started somewhere and if they applied themselves, they transitioned. If you see yourself, or others, exhibiting these traits, I hope my article is a panacea to be shared with new founders.

My message is simple: Power is knowledge, or should I say knowledge is power?

David Kenney

Start-up mentor and investor