We know that startups at their core need three things: money, customers, and talent. That’s certainly not all they need though, and how do startups acquire all those things? Here are some of the things we think contribute to a healthy and successful startup and those three core goals.
Strong Customer Relationships
Your earliest customers can grow to be one of your greatest assets as a company. These are the individuals who appreciated your product in its ugliest and bug-ridden form. Early customers provide you with the feedback you need to create a product that other customers will flock to, because it fills a need in their lives, makes their days easier or more pleasant somehow.
Don’t stop cultivating customer relationships as you grow, it’s still a vital way to keep a pulse on how your company is addressing a market and how your company is perceived. A good customer interview, if conducted properly, allows holds up a mirror to your organization and reflects back the essentials as your customer sees it, the good the bad and the ugly. The best feedback you can get for your company is “I liked your product but would really love it if…” Those are the comments you can build upon, incorporate into your product, and leverage in future product development.
You won’t get a feature right on your first try, or second, or fifteenth, even. That’s why you need to be able to iterate, move quickly and test everything. Even if you’ve had 15 years of experience, that expertise may give you direction, but the proof is in the test results. That makes collecting feedback even more important; whether this is qualitative feedback through customer interviews, or quantitative feedback through Optimizely or Google Analytics.
The ability to iterate, and quickly in a rapidly shifting market, is often what contributes most heavily to success or failure. Airbnb originally offered little more than blow up mattresses and couches where visitors could crash in others’ homes, but through a long series of iterations, is now one of the most significant players in the sharing economy. Airbnb aren’t the only master iterators. There are plenty of other iteration stories like this, where companies made a series of small changes that led to eventual success.
Analytics From The Beginning
How could you track whether an iteration is successful without the analytics behind it? You need not only the technical foundation for strong data analysis, but also the talent and culture to support it. It does little good if you have the technical background in place if you have no one to make sense of it. Not all of the analysis needs to be in the hands of the data scientists either. If you create the right culture around data analysis, anyone within the company will be able to determine the effectiveness of their programs through data. Below is an example dashboard that we use here at DataHero.
A Stellar Team
This is an important aspect of a successful startup referenced frequently, but it bears being repeated again. Founders won’t be able to fulfill every role within the company, and it’s important to hire people who are smarter than you are, and simply provide the support and leadership they need to do their jobs well. Attracting the right talent means focusing not just on skills and achievements, but also on your company’s values and priorities. Startups are smaller and generally speaking, pretty tight-knit communities. Even one or two individuals can impact the company culture greatly.
Be realistic about the resources (both financial and labor) you have available to you. A customer may request a feature that you agree would add value to your product, but you know that it will take 3 months to develop and there are other, more pressing features to attend to. Similarly, don’t try to be everything to everyone, that’s a surefire way to overwhelm your team and likely won’t make your customers happy either. Find your target market, focus on their needs and how you can address them.
A lot of factors contribute to a startup’s success, and of course this isn’t an extensive list but it’s a solid start. Now we’d like to ask fellow startups: what are some of the factors you’ve found that contribute to startup success?
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