One of the things I hear most from entrepreneurs is that securing investment is the key to getting your business off the ground. What I’ve come to realize, however, is that occupying your time with incubator applications, refining your pitch deck, and seeking investment can distract you from what a startup’s main goal should be: creating an innovative and useful product.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve witnessed countless startups render themselves inoperable all because they believed getting investment was the only way to grow. These companies let their focus shift from refining their product to marketing themselves to outside investors. This is in light of the fact that 98 to 99 percent of startups will never secure significant funding.
What is needed is a cultural paradigm shift within the startup community. There should be more emphasis placed on holistic and natural growth when a company is founded with venture capital, angel investment, and incubators being the pot of gold at the end of the startup rainbow.
In an effort to help startups that are struggling to find funding, I have created a “best practices” guide to help them survive and thrive with empty coffers.
- Concentrate on simplification. Taking your novel idea and reducing it down to its core concept will help you get a clear vision of how you want your company to grow. If you are unable to explain your idea to someone in just one or two sentences, then you need to take time to narrow your idea even more.
- Become an expert in your field. Create a personal resolution to educate yourself about every aspect of your product as well as the startup community as a whole. Remain flexible in your approach, and try to apply the lessons that you learn. Inevitably, as you absorb new ideas from leaders in the industry, your end product will undergo several positive changes.
- Don’t quit your day job. An important piece of advice is to keep your startup life and work life separate, at least in the beginning. The birth of a startup is exciting, but after several months of working on the idea, chances are things will slow down and your idea will have changed dramatically or possibly become unviable. As such, it is important to make sure that your idea is solid and has gone through months of iteration and feedback before deciding to quit your job. Plus, once you have solidified your idea or product as a necessity, you will get great satisfaction in leaving your workplace to pursue your dream with confidence.
- Find a mentor to help with your personal and professional growth. You always here people say, “I could never have done that on my own,” and I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Seeking out and surrounding yourself with successful entrepreneurs is vital for growing a company from nothing. Learning from stories of both success and failure are absolutely invaluable, and when applied to your own situation, it can save you a lot of headache and frustration. Mentors can also help you find the perfect work-life-startup balance that so few people attain.
- Create a win-win situation. Be up front with your team that there is absolutely no guarantee of success or monetary gain. If they are still in the room after this pseudo “pep talk,” then tell them there are at least two things you can guarantee them: experience and confidence. Whether successful or not, everyone involved will gain the kind of experience you can put on your resume, and most importantly, you will leave the project with confidence. The confidence is gained through something I like to call “The 3 B’s of Awesomeness,” where you will be able to say to yourself, “I built it, I busted my ass executing it, and I had the balls to go out there and try it.”
My hope is that these ideas will be a springboard for your own creative solutions that will help you overcome the frustration of starting out as a little fish in a big pond.
Never let the difficulty of receiving funding at the outset of your project ring the death knell for your company. Having the patience and fortitude to grow holistically will pay off when you finally see your product in the hands of consumers and realize its true utility and value.
Then, with a successful and client tested product on hand, you will be in a much better position to become part of the one to two percent of startups that receive those coveted, large investments.