Startups are exciting, but they also can be scary. There are a number of things that you need to be aware of in order to navigate the path to getting your company off the ground.
Most of my experience comes from startups that have been born outside of the incubators in the valley, so if you are like most with an idea and want to get it to market without the support they provide, take note! Just in time for Halloween, here are the 6 scariest things you need to know about getting into the startup space.
1. It will take longer than you expect
Having worked with a couple of dozen startups and early stage companies over my career, both as an outside consultant, and as a partner getting them off the ground, there is one thing that you can rely on. Things will take longer than you expect. This is probably the most important thing for everyone to understand going into a startup together, from your partners to your investors. Manage your internal expectations and don’t make the mistake of making a commitment to external parties or events that you are not 1,000% ready for.
2. It will cost more than you expect
Even with having “expert” business plan writers on board to help develop your business plan and put together your budgets, there will be things that come up that you have not expected or anticipated. From things that the CTO missed to the cost of printing the tickets for your launch party, there will be small things that come up and you need to be prepared for. So make sure to keep things lean and plan for the unexpected as you are getting things ready to go to market.
3. Not everyone you start with will be there when you finish
This one, you are probably not going to believe. When a group of people come together with an idea everyone is pumped up and excited. I have had people leave companies I am working on (some I really wish who hadn’t). It happens. You are thinking about how your idea is going to change the game… help people… the big payday. It’s a long road, and not everyone will make it. People fall apart at many stages of the game: some decide that they bit off more than they expected, people’s personalities clash and they can’t work together, and more. Blending creativity, technology, marketing with the pressure of lots of work and not much money, not everyone will make it.
4. Competition will appear
Be ready to have other people take your idea or version of it to market. We launched a company and, within 2 months, there were 3 other players in the market doing a version of what we were. It happens. Take your idea to market and plan a rollout of features that will keep making your product better, and better, and better over the next year. It’s always great to have new things to talk about, and sometimes holding things back will keep your competition from seeing everything you have up your sleeve when you launch your company. This is especially true if your idea can easily be duplicated by another company that has the financial power to market the heck out of it.
5. Changes will happen with other companies API’s and platforms
Just when you think you have everything figured out from a technological standpoint, be ready to get the rug pulled out from under you. It will happen when you are ready to launch or roll out an awesome new feature — everyone is excited and you are ready to go… All of a sudden, your cool new Twitter feature no longer works, your Facebook integration is busted or the standards for an app submission change because of an iOS update. It’s really important that you are watching what all your partners and 3rd party APIs are planning and have coming down the pipe. You really need to know what can change and be prepared for it so you can plan around it.
6. Kevin Costner is not on your team
Maybe he is, but too many people in the space fall back on the “If you build it, they will come” mentality. You need to be ready to market your startup and get people talking about it in order for it to take off. Finding the right marketing and PR people is critical to getting the word out, so people can learn about what you are doing and be interested enough to want to try it! Build the relationships with influencers and writers in the space so they can help you, especially if you can’t afford to outsource your PR. If you can get a publicist on board, do it, but ask for some references before you start writing them checks. A good publicist is worth his or her weight in gold — or in this case, users!
There are a lot more little things that can scare you and your team in the startup space, but these are the top 6 in my book. There is nothing I find more exciting or fun than creating something from nothing and having people start to use it, and seeing how you have somehow added value to their lives. In order to avoid the scariest startup nightmare of all, make sure you are working with great people, as you will be spending almost every waking hour of together. Follow these tips and you will be off to a good start!