If you ever decide to forego a "real" job in favor of starting your own company, you're bound to make at least a few rookie mistakes. If you're lucky, most are the kind that are easy to fix and learn from. But most entrepreneurs, in hindsight, agree that there are some things you're better off being prepared for. Hindsight is definitely 20/20—especially when you're the boss. Consider these lessons you don't have to learn the hard way.
Changing how we approach and build modern solutions to personal dilemmas and satisfying intrinsic human needs is my passion. On my journey to foster and create innovative businesses, I've picked up many, many useful tips and wanted to pass some knowledge along. Below is a list of 10 things I wish I'd known before creating a startup.
Solve Your Own Problem
I have launched many businesses and experienced numerous times. When I finally found success, it was because I created a solution to my own problems and turned that into a business. Seeing that normal websites did not work for an average on people who want to learn more and create games, I created Virtualinfocom in 1998, a gaming studio and technology company which could take technology to another level, blending art and technology together, by creating real 3D characters and launch epic games. I also launched a number of organisations which could provide people valuable insights, knowledge, ecosystem like worldleadersummit.com, 8metals.com, glamworldface.com, deeptechknowledge.com, entrepreneursface.com and many more.
Do Your Market Research Early
Like most entrepreneurs, I am passionate about many ideas and opportunities. I have also launched and funded many startups only to realize later on, as I learned more about the market, that I should have done them earlier, and sometimes I'm too early for the market. It is important to understand the industry you are playing in, your competitors, and the market forces at play. Even more so, it's important to understand your customers–their behaviours, pain points and decision making processes.
Be Extremely Focused
There is a tendency for entrepreneurs to try to do too much at once. But the key to success in the beginning lies within having laser focus. If your product or service solves a big problem, try to focus on a niche instead. Facebook started out as a social network for college students. Only when they were successful with that niche did they open their service to the general public.
Keep It Simple
One may think that offering customers a large number of choices is the smart thing to do. Yet, more choices lead to decision making paralysis. It is usually the company that provides users with fewer choices that wins. Examples include: In & Out Burger's simple and limited menu, as well as Apple's limited number of choices for most of their products. As a startup, resources are limited. Focusing on providing a simple product or service with less choices, less steps, less features may be the way to go.
Bootstrap Whenever Possible
Raising money to launch a startup is very common among entrepreneurs. In doing so, you give up valuable control of your business. When I had to do it all over again with Virtualinfocom, I decided to bootstrap. Writing the software code, myself, doing animation by myself and teaching students to create my own manpower and team, and using strategic marketing resources at my disposal, I was able to launch the business with my own money.
Think Carefully Before Taking Money
Whenever possible, venture capital (VC) money should be considered carefully, except in specific circumstances where VCs can add significant value to your business. Choose a VC very carefully as VC fund needs to earn money as well, and that's their business. Being a young founder in my mid-twenties, I was asked to take on an experienced CEO. Times got tough after the dot-com crash when online advertising went from $20 CPM down to under $2 CPM for one of my other venture into website development. Instead of sticking with my strategy to revamp the company's business model, the VCs got cold feet and decided it was best to shut the business down prematurely.
Since then, I have turned down money from VCs at every possible opportunity for my own baby and grown it to next level of cloud based organisation which works remotely from anywhere in this planet. Easy to grow and work with strategic growth. My suggestion is to choose a VC who can work with you like a family and grow your organisation along with their own ROI secured. That's one of the core reason we created a fund for startups in Entrepreneursface and a close committee for investment in world leader summit.
Focus on Intellectual Property Early On
Entrepreneurs may not focus too much on intellectual property in the beginning, but copyright and trademarks are important and will be increasingly crucial in protecting one's product, service or brand once some success has been achieved. When I launched Virtualinfocom, one of the first things I did was to apply for a trademark. The trademarks which have since acquired secondary meaning, have come in handy as many competitors try to encroach upon our space. All characters and story we did for the games or animation I protected them so that it becomes asset to the company.
Screen Your Hires Well
Some of my worst hires have been my first few employees. Back then, I lacked the resources to perform detailed background checks. I have too experienced many fraud degree holders whom we hire unconsciously and later they prove to be a setback for the company. From that day onwards, I concentrated on creating great team, rather than employee base, today I am happy that our team in virtualinfocom can take bullets for the company as they feel this is their own organisation, as a founder it's a responsibility that they are happy and listen things for greater good to grow the company instead of individual growth approach. If a person is seeking for only his/her own individual growth and not a team player then that's not your team, may be, he/she is good for other works but not at all a team player. You need people who work like "One for all and all for one".
Leverage Free Marketing Opportunities
As an entrepreneur with a limited budget, spending money on marketing can be a very costly proposition. When launching Virtualinfocom, I looked into free marketing opportunities. First leveraging free online resources, then moving onto PR opportunities to get free media coverage for our products. A controversial product or service may shun away investors but it was a gold mine when getting lots of free media coverage. One of the best thing happened is when you work good and doing really well and do have market knowledge, usually press comes to you for a free news coverage, my suggestion would be do good things and concentrate on your work, news will automatically happen. People who cry for media news without work may not sustain much longer in market.
Have Strong Agreements Up Front
One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years as an entrepreneur, is that whenever there is the possibility for misunderstanding put expectations down clearly in writing. A strong agreement with partners, investors and employees are crucial.
Sometime in life I gave lot of opportunity to people who ask for help, usually people remember good vibration and become your friends and help back, but in life be careful with certain amount of people who will take a lot of help from you and then don't even care to give back or even have a mind-set to talk bad in your back, or don't even care for what they got. For me that's OK, as I did my good part, but if that's effecting your organisational growth of behave, my suggestion will be to take care of the situation, your business is your own baby, your first responsibility should always to protect and grow it. People who never run an organisation may not realise that fact.
Above perspective is mainly for startups who just started their business life, for a growth stage company or for a scale-up stage company structure and strategy are different.
If you want to expand your business or looking for mentoring and investment support please be in touch.