Top 15 tips for startup development in crisis
Great ideas come to us in our sleep, while we drink coffee or commute… In short, it happens all the time, but the ideas on improving some aspects of our daily life quite often occur to us during a crisis, when some limitation or inconvenience becomes blatantly obvious. Besides, as people see a better way to do something and gain immediate benefit our of it, they can form a strong following that will help your startup jump over “The Chasm of Disbelief” between the 10% of early adopters and the rest of the audience, ensuring lasting success for your venture.
However, to attract and retain a strong following and to incite trust and engagement in the hearts of your target audience your need to do the things right — and quite a lot of things at that. IT Svit is a worldwide-leading Managed DevOps Services Provider and the leader of the IT outsourcing market in Ukraine according to the global technology consultancy Clutch from Washington, DC.
Thus said, we have ample experience with helping startups build Proofs of Concept to attract investment and then we provide Minimal Viable Product development. Based on that experience, we have composed a list of 15 tips that can help ensure long-term success for your startup, even if you found it in the time of crisis. The list is given in no particular order, as there is no magnitude with them — they are all equally important.
- Your product must solve a real challenge and do it better than the competition. No matter how creative and imaginative your idea is, how polished, intuitive and user-friendly your product is — if it doesn’t solve a real pain for your target audience, it will not be used. In addition, customers are used to having various features for granted, so nobody thinks much of in-app updates on restart, cross-platform and cross-browser availability, automated cloud synchronization, etc. However, your product or service must have that WOW! effect to stand out somehow in a row of similar apps with similar features.
- Leaders know the way, show the way and lead the way. Bosses can only boss people around. Leaders are the ones who ignite the teams with their vision of the long-term goal and keep talents motivated long enough to go through the milestones, while also adapting to the changed situation (and making hard decisions, which are quite possible for a startup). You should set an example with your daily drive, work ethics, attitude and productivity — and it’s quite hard to avoid burnout while doing this.
- The team rows the boat you steer. You might see the goal and choose the course to reach it, but you need the team to pay the effort needed to reach it. You need to build the right culture and gather around you some people who fit in with your project vision, team culture and business attitude (not to mention they should have the hard and soft skills needed to get the job done).
- Ask the ones who have done it — they are usually eager to share the knowledge. There always are conferences and seminars where you can learn from serial entrepreneurs who made their project successful. There always are ample opportunities for mentorship. It is even better at quarantine, as we concentrate more on remote communication and collaboration and are ready to speak with expert practitioners across the globe. Such people are usually glad to be asked for advice and give it — just the same as their mentors did before and you will do afterward.
- Corporate culture is the soul of business. You know what you want to reach and what shape your future company must become. But other people will have different expectations and ideas, and to align them with your vision best you should build a strong corporate culture of communication, collaboration and mutual respect. This will make all processes more result-oriented and productive and will help reach the business goals you set.
- Do all the paperwork. Establish a business entity to limit your liability in case of business failure. We all know most startups fail, so it’s best to minimize your financial losses in case the project does not take off. It might seem unnecessary during the initial phase of the startup, but setting all legal aspects straight helps immensely in the daily operations of your company. It’s better to pay professionals for a service than file for bankruptcy.
- Sign contracts with all partners. Ongoing legal paperwork is as essential as the documents you sign when founding your company. Signing contracts will enable you to clearly define the expectations all parties have, their contractual obligations, the scope of work delivered, billing terms and all other aspects of normal business operations. Otherwise, you risk having to deal with these issues in the court of law, which is costly from the financial and time side of things.
- IP protection is a must. Intellectual property rights protect your most essential assets. The products you create and the services you provide, as well as the results of your R&D work, are your intellectual property and must be patented at all times. The history knows too many examples of inventors who did not patent their projects and their competitors reaped all the benefits.
- NDA is not always a must. Non-Disclosure Agreement protects your business and must be signed with all employees to ensure you stay on the safe side. However, don’t ask the same from the VC investors, as they have a lot of eggs to fry at the same time, and have to quickly decide whether to invest in your idea or not. Thus, it is much easier for them to invest in your venture if they believe in your idea than to steal the concept and hire another team to implement it. Disclose enough details to persuade potential investors your idea is feasible, but don’t tell them all the details.
- Reaching your goal matters, the changes along the way don’t. When you found a startup you have an idea of some improvement in the world around us. Implementing this idea becomes the goal to reach and transforms into a set of features to create in your product, marketing campaigns to launch, characteristics of process to build, etc. However, everything you do must comply with the goal you are after. Sometimes, market conditions change (they change all the time, actually). Thus said, sometimes you need to drop a feature you spent much time developing, only because the market trends have changed and this functionality is not needed anymore. It is important to be able to adapt to circumstances and change your approaches while always keeping your ultimate goal in mind.
- Competition is a positive, not a negative factor. Many startups are afraid to enter underdeveloped market niches, as the absence of any competition (or too strong a competition from industry leaders) might mean this field is not going to grow any crops. However, if you clearly see that your product can solve some real-world pain and do it better than it was done before — you can quickly dominate a market niche.
Airbnb became a hit in a very stale market of apartment rentals due to an innovative approach and competes with hotels/motels quite successfully. Therefore, competition can be an indicator that your ideas are correct and can force you to focus on improving your services.
- Prepare a roadmap, but keep your eyes open for new opportunities. Startups must be lean, mean, cost-efficient machines. Do you need a glossy office downtown or can you develop the product from home? Do you need to hunt for A-grade software engineers in the vicinity and wait for them for a long time or can you hire a remote team of professionals and get instant access to the skills you need?
Prepare a roadmap of what must be done to achieve your ultimate goal, only the most mission-critical decisions you must make — this will help you avoid distractions along the way. However, sometimes opportunities present themselves — but they must be aligned to achieving your goal, or they can become costly mistakes.
- Be patient and frugal with money. Money is the blood of your company, as securing the investments and spending them wisely is essential for building a sustainable and profitable business. However, not all investments are equally useful, as the money must come from reputable sources and be coupled with partnerships that will help you further promote your business. Naturally, spending your money wisely is the key to ensuring you are able to achieve the milestones set and evolve your business further.
- Innovation means experimenting, not risking. Elon Musk has launched a red convertible into outer space — but there was a decade of experimenting before it — and this decade was paid for by the success of his other projects. To truly innovate you must know your field in detail and be able to go against the grain when needed and show people there is a better way of doing something. This might need lots of convincing, so your proofs must be watertight — meaning you need to experiment a lot and test everything, instead of rushing forward headlong and risking everything.
- Build trust through expertise. People are not likely to buy a no-name product from an unknown vendor. You must couple your product development with marketing to help your target audience learn about the upcoming product and form a positive attitude to it. Showing your expertise in the field of operations and demonstrating you care about the problem the product must solve — this is the way to build trust in your audience. Speak at conferences and events; hire technology experts and influencers to showcase your product; work on your personal and company brand. But most importantly — provide a good product, as the image must be backed up by quality.
Some might say these top 15 tips for a startup development are easier given than followed. However, as IT Svit is a Managed Services Provider, we have a thorough understanding and ample experience of helping startups develop, release and scale their products, and we ensure you — these tips are based on our own mistakes and achievements. We can help your company build successful products even in the times of crisis — so feel free to contact us with your project requirements and we would be glad to transform them into great new products!