Running a startup is all about the risk and excitement. We all hear many startup success stories that circulate around the web, but starting a startup can be quite a daunting and stressful experience. That's why we decided to reach out to some of the best industry experts and owners of successful startups to ask what is the single most important tip they would give to prospective startuppers. Prepare for some of the most unique insider knowledge you’ll ever get.
"Most startups are so focused on launching their product, that they give no foresight to proof-of-concept around that product, which is what most professional investors are looking for, when making their investment decisions. So, before you invest one penny into developing your code, make sure you have raised enough seed capital to not only build your minimum viable product, but to do preliminary customer acquisition and marketing testing around that product. Hopefully, that helps you to demonstrate a quickly growing monthly user base and profitable customer acquisition cost, which should get investors excited."
"I would suggest that all would-be start ups ask themselves one question: Would you still do it if you knew you wouldn't be paid? Your answer to this question will reveal just how passionate you are about your business idea. In this new era, business is about much more than making money - it is about creating products, services and experiences which help others and transform lives. When you have that level of desire to serve - and would be prepared to do it even without being paid - that is the way to know whether your business will be a success."
Award winning entrepreneur, creator of the market leading £ multi-million turnover experiences brand Red Letter Days, 'Dragon' in the original and second series of BBCTV's BAFTA nominated business show 'Dragons' Den', professional speaker, author of 'Business Nightmares' and award winning business mentor, creator of the acclaimed mentoring programme 'Business Alchemy'
"My #1 tip is watch your cash flow. At the startup stage it’s all too easy to spend money you don’t yet have, based on the hope (or even promise) it will be coming in. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket - you need to diversify your client or customer base. You also need to be flexible enough to know when you’re straying off course, or when the path you first thought you would be following (or should be following) turn out to be the wrong path."
"If you have an idea that sounds totally crazy, go for it. All of the easy ideas are taken. That said, make sure you do the work to back up your idea so other people don’t think you’re as crazy as the idea."
"Keep a very close eye on finances. Push suppliers down on MOQ so you don't have cash tied up in too much stock. Try get cash quickly into the business through doing events. Events/markets are also great ways of testing out your ideas and getting valuable market research."
"Start small and think big. Focus on finding customers and meeting their needs. Keep testing, refining and get your business as perfect as possible for a small niche before you think about expansion and major investment."
"Do your research, speak to the people in the industry, don't just ask family and friends; and don’t ignore the results! If there could be the start of something, start small, start simple and just get the idea live without pouring everything into it and then see what happens from there. If you are in the position where it is taking off and you need to dedicate more time and finances to it then that's a great position to be in. If you don’t try, you’ll never know!"
"The best thing that an entrepreneur can do is surround himself or herself with great friends and mentors. This can take the form of an experienced entrepreneur, or a friend with good business sense. Even the local coffee shop owner would have good advice. The more of these people the better, because the key to avoiding repeatable mistakes is having an entire network to tap into. The more of these relationships are formed (big or small), the bigger the network."
"Think big, start small, release fast."
"Setting up SalesGossip has been the most difficult and most exciting thing I’ve done in my whole life. I’ve learned tons and keep learning so so so much. The one tip I would give is to ‘Watch – Learn – Innovate’. Watch what is happening in your sector, in parallel sectors, what your customers are doing what your target customers are doing. See what is working and what the impact of that is going to be on your business and innovate accordingly. The best part is that this process never stops, it’s always new and exciting."
"It's all about people. Smart, committed people will dramatically improve your chance of success. In our case, that has involved seeking out investors who have successfully built similar businesses, allowing us to learn from their mistakes. We've also recruited a senior team who are deeply committed to being the best at what we do, and that passion is invaluable."
"Leave no stone unturned, follow every path and lead as you really never know where it could take you or what connection could arise….I would also encourage openness to advice and feedback but ultimately it's your passion and instinct that will carry you the furthest."
"My one tip for someone starting a startup is to make sure the company is setup properly from the get-go. Without proper structuring, future investment can be really difficult."
"Don't build a company for yourself. Build it for someone you love. I say this because people are usually okay with letting themselves down, but they'll do everything they can not to let down someone they love. Trust me, you'll work even harder when you know in the back of your mind that this "start-up" journey isn't solely about you."
"Take the time to hire the right people. It’s imperative that you hire the right people. If your teammates' goals aren't aligned with yours, your company will be pulled in the wrong direction. As a startup we're working non-stop, so it’s important that you believe in your team and enjoy working with them on a shared mission (you’ll be seeing a lot of them!). After setting your ideas in motion, it’s your teammates that you'll be betting on."
"Don’t place too much emphasis on venture capital funding. The lure of going public like Facebook is attractive and most founders believe that you must raise significant capital to get your start-up off the ground. But don’t forget that self-funding your company (a.k.a. Bootstrapping) can be just as lucrative. May take longer to achieve your goals, but the probabilities are a lot higher to get your company to a $20M valuation with you making $16M (assumes you retain 80% of the company) on an exit vs. having to grow the company to $160M to make the same $16M (10% of the company after multiple rounds of investment)."
Chip Royce, an early pioneer in internet technologies, consumer online media and online marketing, now leads business development, marketing and corporate development / strategy for technology companies ranging from start-up to Global Fortune 500.
"Know Your Customer. The single biggest mistake first time entrepreneurs make is assuming they know what consumers want. Talk to as many potential customers before you spend any money developing your business. Two things will come out of this process. First, you can validate and refine all of your assumptions. Make sure these are real consumers, not friends or family that wish you well. Too many startups are ruined by false praise instead of empowered by valid criticism. Second, you may discover a better business model that only someone studying the customer-base in depth would ever discern."
Serial Entrepreneur & Host of the Wall Street Journal series Startup of the Year
"My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to start with something you love, in a domain where you already have some experience. Too many people try things that other people recommend, or seem like a great way to get rich quick. These don’t work."
"Just do it! It’s far too easy to talk about things and never get around to doing them. Do as much research as you possibly can and write a business plan, which will help focus your mind. Websites such as gov.uk and startups.co.uk have a wealth of information and advice so invest time in reading and finding out as much as you can. Then write a cash flow forecast for three years – a pessimistic version, realistic version and blue-sky version. If you require funding your investor or bank will want to see what you are predicting and whether it’s really feasible. Finally, don’t be afraid to approach entrepreneurs and brands that you admire to ask for advice – lots of entrepreneurs are so passionate about what they do and entrepreneurship that they will gladly happily spare some time for a chat."
Commercial Director Turtle Tots Ltd
Finalist - Western Daily Press Awards 2014
Winner - Startups Awards 2013
Winner - Bristol Post Start UpAward 2013
Finalist - HP Smart Business Awards 2013
Finalist - What's on 4 Awards 2013
Listed in the Startups 100 2012 & 2013 & 2014 - the top 100 new businesses in the UK
"My biggest tip would be to think about the culture of your organisation from day one. Whether you are a team of 1, 10 or 1000, culture is most important thing you can get right. It is the glue that holds everything together and helps get the most out of both teams and individuals."
"Be honest, and ask for help when you need it. Too many entrepreneurs fall into the trap where they think they have to hide any failure, but the successful ones are those aren't afraid to communicate their pain points.
A startup is not a job, it's a life choice. If you're not 100% committed to it, you have no chance of success."
"Successful startups find ways to increase the speed at which they can test new ideas. You can't predict what will work, you need feedback from the market. But as soon as you find something that works, transition quickly from broad testing to refinement of a single concept."
"Aim high, be agile and take risks. Outside of your comfort zone is where the good stuff really happens - in order to grow and become successful you have to raise the bar. It won’t always go your way, many things won’t go to plan and you have to learn to be adaptable, ride the wave and change your plans to fit the circumstances in which you can make a difference."
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