The startup growth journey can be one of the most fulfilling and challenging times for founders. This is the stage where product-market fit is found, testing is rampant, and client bases grow to start producing important revenue streams.
With a failure rate still lingering around 50% within the first four years, there is no golden ticket or path to success when building a new company. Despite this, it is possible to learn from other founders in similar or complementary sectors. One company’s mishap could be another company’s inflection point.
This article highlights ten pieces of advice from founders and companies on must-dos for successfully scaling your tech startup.
1. Apply to Startup Accelerators
Accelerator programs are designed to give entrepreneurs the resources, including capital, to validate early proof of concepts and materialize business plans. These highly competitive programs usually accept just a fraction of applicants, but can help given important validation and branding to help startups attract new investors.
For example, Carnegie Mellon University hosts the VentureBridge program which is a 10-week program in San Francisco that includes a $25,000 cash injection. For Yev Spektor and Maks Khurgin, co-founders of T4.ai, VentureBridge was a chance to expand the company’s network, potential client base, and gain exposure leading up to a future fundraise.
2. Have a Big Picture Vision and Laser Focus
As a lean startup that is juggling the pressures of a short runway and the need to tell a compelling story to investors, it is imperative that you maintain both a big picture vision for what’s possible and a laser focus on a narrow segment in product development. This will help avoid running out of money and delivering a product people actually want.
Christian Shearer, CEO at Regen Network, a startup which makes it easy for insurance companies to make ecological contracts with farmers and ranchers, explains, “The only viable way to get to the next level is to hone in on one very discreet market, get quick revenue and grow from there. In this way, we keep our company funded, learn what our customers actually need, and iterate our product in a user-centric design process.”
3. Hit the Event Circuit
Top events are still the access point to hundreds of journalists, potential partners, clients, and investors. For example, in October, TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2019 will showcase breaking news, award winning startups, and a range of important speakers and guests. To make the most of it, founders can look to secure speaking slots and or simply attend networking events at or around the event.
For Boostchain CEO, Quincy Dagelet, speaking opportunities at leading events have led to many important contacts for his advertising platform that rewards interactions between viewers and advertisers. Dagelet explains, “I have had the opportunity to speak at many top events in Singapore, Malta, Japan, etc. These have provided amazing exposure and have converted to new partners and clients. Your network and building trust are key components for your growth and marketing strategy.”
4. Build Streamlined Processes from the Beginning
During the early stages of your startup, it’s imperative to create written processes for how you tackle things, from developing products and recruiting employees to manage inventory and recording sales. These processes will form the backbone of your long-term success.
Documenting everything consumes a lot of time, but it’s the only way to ensure that you don’t miss out on any of the critical aspects of your business. EagleFX Marketing Director, David Muscat Fenech Adami says focusing on building processes allowed him to create a solid system for juggling the day-to-day tasks necessary to grow a startup. Today, he still relies on these processes to continue improving their services for aspiring forex traders.
5. Look to Incorporate Artificial Intelligence
The global AI market is expected to exceed $8 trillion by 2025. From predictive APIs and fraud detection to personal assistants and augmented reality, there’s hardly any industry where AI can’t apply. Jumping on the AI train right now can give your startup a serious competitive advantage in a couple of years.
For instance, Allbebet, a blockchain-driven betting platform, has proposed a set of AI algorithms that predict the outcome of sports events. The neural network analyses past games, player transfers, disqualifications. The resulting accuracy is expected to exceed 70%. The AI will also learn from the results of past bets made on the platform. This will allow you to increase the forecasting precision to 80%, an unprecedented level for the betting industry.
6. Plan Your Strategy as Early as Possible
While this might sound generic, strategic planning should be incorporated into every facet of your business. It is what will help set you apart from competitors and gives you the advantage to scale if executed properly. This includes who you hire, how you function as a team, what market to target, and various growth strategies.
For Roy Stein, CEO of BabelBark, this strategic foresight allowed him to launch the first and only pet platform on the market. This early mover advantage coupled with the fact that he signed an exclusive deal with AAHA and a strategic partnership with “Fear Free” has given BabelBark significant traction and market share.
7. Know Your Market In and Out
It should go without saying that becoming a subject matter expertise or market expert will have significant advantages compared to companies or founders without niche experience. In some cases, knowing a market well enough can convert into a profitable business. The important thing is to be comprehensive and thorough.
For David Janssen, CEO of VPN Overview, offering valuable content and research to consumers looking for VPN solutions has led to the company’s success. With a precise focus on quality content and transparency, VPN Overview is one of the most comprehensive and trusted websites in the VPN market. Founders should replicate these principles as well as strive to stay as current as possible on their market.
8. Build a Business Using Resources You Already Have
Everyone has resources whether they realize or not, some tangible, some intangible. Focus on what you have to work with along with who you know, your interests and you’ll see how much easier the process becomes. Everyone has something special to offer. Think about what comes easy for you that isn’t easy for most people.
For Jessica Killings, an LA-based model, actress, and entrepreneur, deep personal networks have helped her land campaigns for Anheuser Busch, Postmates, Lyft, and more. Aligning her personal lifestyle focuses on her business savvy opened an opportunity to invest in a vegan Mexican restaurant, Sugar Taco, with other female investors lead by Jayde Nicole in Los Angeles.
9. Fall in Love With the Problem, Not With Your Solution
Entrepreneurs have been known to wear the proverbial blinders when it comes to their businesses. Getting to the core of a real customer’s actual problem is what sets apart good products from great. For Robert D’Assisi, founder of tawk.to, this was a reason he gives his software away for free. He knew that live chat software alone is not where customers derive value.
D’Assisi explains, “It’s the cost of human resources that makes the chat as a channel of communication so prohibitive, not the cost of software. Business owners don’t actually want chat software, they want more leads, more sales and to provide a great customer experience. This helped tawk.to become the most widely used live chat application in the world with customers in 180 countries and 1.8 billion end consumers.”
10. Customer Service Could Make or Break You
Whether you are providing a service or selling a product, any kind of third-party interaction will lead to the creation and calibration of your company’s reputation. This reputation is critical for generating new business and keeping existing customers happy. Companies like Zappos grew to billion-dollar companies with customer-centric strategies.
For Sean Geng, Co-Founder & President of Smoke Cartel, customer service is critical as an e-commerce shop. The company has implemented free shipping, a price match guarantee, and instant returns for all purchases made on their website. They also provide a 24/7 customer service line to ensure every customer is accommodated.