Every startup is unique in its own right. What takes one to the pinnacle of success serves as an inspiration to others. However, it’s impossible to replicate the same success with the exact strategies and tactics.
Yet, it’s possible to create your own success story if you know which are the key areas to focus on when starting a business.
As part of a team that serves startup founders for more than 5 years, I’ve seen my fair share of success stories.
What I can personally testify is that those that have found success work through their plan methodologically. They share common points in the steps taken to turn an idea into a successful startup.
With this experience, I’ve prepared a checklist that will get you started on the right foot when starting a business. The checklist was never meant to be a shortcut nor a guarantee for success.
You’re free to use it as you see fit and innovate upon it. That’s what entrepreneurship is all about.
Now, let’s kick off with the startup checklist.
You don’t wake up with an idea and immediately build a product around it. While it’s true that great ideas are the foundation for startup success, it’s not enough that the greatness is solely your imagination.
Therefore, it’s important to consider if the idea is feasible before following up with concrete action. As exciting as it is, your idea needs to solve real problems or fulfill existing market needs. If it fails to do both, you’re unlikely to be successful if you insist on pursuing it.
Before you fixate on your idea, you’ll want to find out if it’s feasible to move forward. You need to ask hard questions and give honest answers.
- What problems am I trying to solve?
- How do I understand it’s successful?
- How would people feel about my ideas?
After thoughtful considerations, you ought to be able to provide clear answers to those questions. If you can’t, it’s likely that your idea is not viable for a startup. Only commit resources to your idea once it’s proven to be viable.
- Make sure your heart is in it. Bringing an idea to life involves many challenges. You need to be 100% committed to the journey that lies ahead.
- Learn how to start a business. Wearing multiple hats as an entrepreneur is not easy. Beef up your knowledge by picking up the experience of other entrepreneurs.
- Be prepared to invest time and money - It takes time to be profitable. Until then, you’ll need to put in efforts and resources into your business.
According to the latest CB Insights study, 35% of startups failed because of a lack of market need. That’s the kind of blunder you want to avoid when taking your product to the market. It’s important to ensure the right product/market fit before you even start building the product.
Therefore, you’ll need to conduct proper market research to gain insight into your target audience and competitors. Having such information helps to mitigate risks when you launch the product. Market research puts you in a strategic position when selling the product.
- Evaluate the size of the target market. There needs to be sufficient demand to generate sustainable sales and ensure profitability.
- Explore the competitors. Chances are, there are already competitors offering their products to the same target audience. Find out who they are and how your startup compares against them.
- Find out the competitors’ weaknesses. You’ll have a distinct advantage if you can figure out what they are and capitalize against them.
- Look for opportunities for improvement. There’s always room for improvement. The onus is for you to identify them and innovate with the product.
- Ensure that idea’s viability is backed by market needs. Don’t leave room for assumptions because they can be misleading.
Your product’s success hinges on the users. If the users fail to find value in your products, everything that you’ve done would have been for nothing. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that your product is aligned with the user's needs while you’re building it by conducting user research.
Making user research as part of the development strategy ensures that you’re getting feedback early on in the process. Any teething problems can be identified and ironed out at the minimum cost.
By holding regular face-to-face meetings and interviews with the users, you get to know if you’re progressing in the right direction as far as the product is concerned. You need to prove that your product is capable of solving user's problems before it hits the market.
- Get a list of your potential customers. You need to know who’s problems you are solving.
- Create a proto persona to review users’ needs and pains. Proto personas allow you to quickly get an idea of your target demographic.
- Conduct interviews with users. Get feedback with a direct conversation with users who are likely to use your product.
- Create Customer Journey Map (CJM) to review how users interact with your product. User experience is pivotal for success and CJM helps identify opportunities for improvisation.
- Create a value proposition canvas (VPC). It helps to ensure that your startup’s value proposition is meeting the pain and gain of the customers.
- Create prototypes. It’s a cost-efficient way to help you validate assumptions.
- Validate prototypes with user testing. Ensure that design assumptions and hypotheses are tested by real users.
- Ensure that the idea is viable with users. It’s important that users find your product is adding real value to their life and are happy to pay for it.
There’s a limit to how much you can take on as a startup founder. Eventually, you’ll need a team or risk being overwhelmed by a growing to-do list. Of course, starting off with a team of skilled experts is tough, as most founders operate on a tight budget.
If you aren’t ready to hire a team, consider outsourcing some of the tasks or get a co-founder on board. Outsourcing gives you the flexibility in managing expenses. Meanwhile, a co-founder takes a huge load off your shoulder, particularly if he/she has complementing skillsets.
When you are ready to scale, bring in the right professionals to fill the needs of various areas of your startup.
- Find a co-founder. Ideally, you’ll want to bring in someone who’s good at things you’re not.
- Setup communication frameworks. Are you comfortable with sharing information on tools like Asana? Or do you prefer direct calls on Skype? Decide what works best for your team.
- Recruit your team. For most startups, outsourcing to a development agency like Uptech is a viable option as it allows more flexibility in the budget.
Once you have a clear sight of the product, you’ll need strategies to build, deliver and market it to the target audience. Without proper strategies, you’ll be at the mercy of various factors that could derail your startup ambition.
For startups, part of winning the game is to get the sales and marketing strategies right. You need to plan how you’ll reach out to your audience. Is social media marketing the best option? Or should you engage in a long-term SEO campaign?
Strategizing your moves ahead lets you identify opportunities and challenges. It allows you to play to your strengths and weaknesses. You don’t need a thick pile of business plans to strategize. For startups, the lean canvas is a great place to start.
- Determine business goals and objectives. Have clarity on what your startup intends to achieve in the short, mid, and long term.
- Focus on product areas. Set sight on which segment that you want to expand on.
- Determine product features. Research on which features will make the most impact on the users and are less costly to implement.
- Set sales and marketing goals. Identify realistic numbers of projected leads and conversions in the coming months.
- Set up sales funnels. A website is mandatory, but a well-designed landing page can turn leads into paying customers.
- Set up marketing channels. Users expect businesses to be omnipresent. Your startup needs to market on different social media and any platforms frequented by your target audience.
- Develop a brand identity. You don’t want a one-time buyer, but a growing base of loyal customers. Pay attention to how you’re building a strong brand for your startup.
Cash is the lifeblood of any business and according to CB Insights, it’s the top reason why startups met their premature demise. So, part of your priority as a founder is to secure sufficient funding and ensure the startup has adequate cash flow.
Even if you think you could do without additional funds, you should always be on the lookout for funding opportunities. Having a sizable war chest ensures that you’re likely to pull through when things get tough.
- Research on investors. It’s good if you can get investors to support your startup but it’s even better to find investors that have the network you need.
- Get a business bank account and credit card. Don’t mix personal and business. For accounting purposes, you’ll want to have proper bookkeeping systems in place.
- Create a pitch set. You don’t know when you’ll run into a potential investor. Always be prepared.
- Raise money. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting the early fundings from friends and family or VC. Have alternative ways to raise funds.
- Meet angel investors. Look around your local community. Sometimes, you’ll find the capital you need there.
For modern startups, it’s vital to get the product to the market in the shortest time. At the same time, you need to balance speed with the product/market fit. You must keep an eye on the product’s goals and ensure that it is designed to solve users’ problems.
Instead of launching a full-featured product, you’ll want to test the market with an MVP and get feedback from the users. Once you’ve fine-tuned the product and align it with the users’ demand, you can add other features to it.
- Design wireframes. Get a rough idea of the product by setting up the structure or blueprint.
- Prioritize features for the MVP. Only features that have a large impact on the users should be included in the MVP.
- Create the MVP. It’s the bare minimum you need to test the market.
- User testing. Fix errors and make improvements based on the feedback from actual users.
- Set up analytics. Track downloads, conversions, sales, and other user data that help in providing better service.
- Launch. Get your product to the marketplace and do what an entrepreneur does best; sell.
Testing & Feedback Gathering
The only way to ensure future releases remain appealing to users is to conduct rigorous testing. This is particularly true when you’ve just released an MVP to the public. You’ll want to take the opportunity to gather feedback that will dictate the changes to the existing product.
Get your team on the same page when it comes to analyzing the feedback and making appropriate changes. Test again when the latest version of the product is made available to the public.
- Set up a feedback collection mechanism. A pop-up rating dialog or a questionnaire can be helpful in gathering feedback from users.
- Check user interaction. It’s important to identify potential UX problems and fix them in subsequent versions.
- Find possible improvements. Users will always expect better versions of the product and it’s your responsibility to make it happen.
- Update or add features. Be responsive to changing needs and have your team ready to act.
Building a startup was never easy. You’ll have a better chance of success if you could devote yourself to the areas mentioned in this startup checklist. Delivering a winning product it’s a matter of understanding the target market and solving user’s problems.
Your startup will be more resilient to challenges with adequate funding and a strong team to rely on. If hiring in-house is out of the question, do consider outsourcing IT capabilities to our team at Uptech.