We’re releasing Launching.io, a new community to discover young tech startups. While we built it, we asked startup founders what was something they wish they knew before launching. That question brought in thousands of stories from tech startups. We read them all, curated 116 of our favorites and want to share their insight with future founders.
When we started talking to startups, three themes continued to come forward:
- We didn’t see any responses about picking a development stack or choosing the right domain name. Instead, we saw larger, non-technical findings. It shows us that as much as startup founders may stress with a lot of the technical details, they do not determine the success of a project.
- Marketing user acquisition ended up being significantly more difficult than expected. We saw responses from hundreds of startups that admitted to spending too much time working on a product and not enough time finding users.
- Persistence was the toughest hurdle. Startups take much longer to build than anyone expects when they start. And when startups are not an overnight success, it takes true perseverance to stay positive and focused.
Every startup learns something before they launch. Here’s what they said.
- Find an Advisor
- Choose Your Co-Founders Carefully
- Market Fit First, Then Everything Else
- Scope Out Your Competition
- Prioritize Every Task
- Execution is Everything
- Focus on the Frontend
- Collect Feedback from Your Users
- Fail Fast
- Just Ship It
- Stay Focused
- Don’t Give Up
- Your Startup is Only as Good as its Marketing Plan
- You Need to Develop a Sales Skill Set
- There’s Power in Networking
Find an Advisor
Startup founders underestimate the number of people who are willing to help. Family, friends, and other startup founders will more likely than not be willing to offer a point of view. Find an advisor or mentor to help you think through challenges and focus on what matters most.
I didn’t realise just how much help is available. Everyone in the start up space is so happy to lend a hand or just chat. The one thing I’ve learned is that the one’s who succeed are the ones willing everyone else to succeed. Adam Hobson, Everpresent
First of all that you should probably sign up to beta lists prior to the launch date!
Secondly, meet regularly with an advisor to see what’s going to be worth your time. Even if it’s not an advisor, just SOMEONE outside of your startup. It’s unreal how much a fresh view can teach you and you most likely won’t get that insight unless you ask! Talk to people.Shana Thompson, Chatterplot
How much other startups and people in the startup scene are willing to help and support you without asking for money. This is something I haven’t experienced in 15 years of my international management consulting career. Joerg Fehlinger, ARTIST RADAR
The key difference between my two failed startups and my successful exit was that I learned to ask for help. I remember the turning point in my successful startup was when I cold-emailed the Assistant Secretary General of NATO for advice on our security-tech competition. To my surprise Marshall Billingslea’s secretary replied to schedule a meeting in Brussels. In the meeting, we discussed the initiative, and then Marshall said THE phrase that changed my entrepreneurial career: “How can I help?”
Marshall became the first public supporter of our cause. He connected us to many people, but his leadership position at NATO gave us the credibility we needed for our idea to gain traction.
Lesson: Never hesitate to ask for advice, and don’t be afraid to reach out to industry leaders.Simon Schneider, Zyncd
Choose Your Co-Founders Carefully
Co-founders split the workload and bring in new expertise, but choose these alliances carefully. Visions need to be aligned, and working with a co-founder means giving up some control (and equity) of a startup.
I learned that having a business partner can be one of the most stressful but rewarding things. It’s important to be able to rely on your partner for tasks that their strengths are best suited for. At the same time, this means that the partner karma bank needs some deposits you can’t just withdraw – so when you’ve got someone counting on you to get things done… do it, and do it better than anyone else could! It’s been great – and sharing small victories has been the most rewarding part. Rob, Wall Hop
As someone with CS and Harvard Law degrees and what I hope is a good product idea, I thought it would be easy finding technical co-founders. I was wrong. Finding capable, smart co-founders was far and away the most difficult part of launching a startup. I recommend not even trying until you have first built a prototype and raised some money. Jonathan Frankel, Nucleus
Personalities matter in a startup. In a startup, the founders and early employees work closely together. Personalities have to be able to get along, not just work together. Because of the personal investment made in launching a new startup, the founders not only need complimentary skills but patience and understanding with the others since external issues may have a larger impact on the company than in a more mature company.Doug Berman, Keyword Aspects
In starting form circle, I learned the importance of really getting to know your co-founder. My initial co founder was a great guy, but I realized quickly over time that we had completely different perspectives on how to run a business. Once I decide on something, I keep after it, no matter what. I make a series of small bets in the short term to minimize my risk, but in the long term, once I have made up my mind, that is it. If I commit, I am committed. That doesn’t mean I won’t iterate or change my startup, but it does mean that I am going to use every resource generated by that startup to get it to the next level and never stop until it is all the way there.
My partner on the other hand, looked at startups like gambling. Build an MVP, submit it to one site online and if it doesn’t go crazy overnight, give up and build another one.
I cannot tell you which viewpoint is right or wrong, but I can tell you that I learned a lot about launching and partnerships through the process.Bob Graham, Form Circle
Be careful who you go into business with. Look at people professionally as opposed to how much you like them personally. Be careful with who you give equity to based on friendly promises as opposed to clear & measurable guidelines that are in an operating agreement.Tyler Ward, WTF Prank Candles
Market Fit First, Then Everything Else
The most perfect startup website without a market isn’t a startup. Before deciding to begin a startup and getting distracted by the technical details of launching, vet your ideas.
Finding Product Market Fit is the most challenging aspect of starting a business. You may have a great idea with supportive feedback from industry professionals, however getting a product into use within that industry is an entirely different process.Wayne Helman, BackSpin
Solving a real problem that resonates with people is hard. You can easily get caught up trying to solve something very clever, but people don’t care if what you are doing is clever, unless it solves an actual problem they have.Srini, R3lish
In a marketplace where you have supply and demand, the users (demand) are the most important thing. You can have the best business models for your supply, but all the product effort must aim to give value to your users, or you’ll just build a huge supply that nobody will use.
There’s no chicken and egg problem. You need the chicken or you won’t have any eggs.Giovanni Casinelli, Asteroid
Startups don’t cost a massive amount of money nor do they explicitly require backers or investors if you are willing to put in work to research your preferred market, potential demographics, and get one-on-one with potential customers and assistance.
Research on various market and startup sites and forums – not only can you find great resources and advice, but you may also find your ideal market niche may be taken, overpopulated, or simply unprofitable.
Don’t get discouraged but also don’t overwork yourself when you are starting out. I tried to pack my entire day full of work behind a computer and on the phone, but after a week I found taking breaks, getting outside (even just a short walk), and finding time-efficient ways of relaxing can increase your productivity and lower your stress.
Most of all – avoid stress. Make or find ways of alleviating your stress if you feel it when you start working on your store or talking to suppliers. Mental stress can easily turn into physical symptoms, and this only worsens your ability to develop and manage the startup.
Overall – do your research, be prepared to do work, and be prepares to make time to relax and get away from work. Benjamin Sanders, US Trail Gear
You’ve got to pick a hot market! It’s smart to target a niche segment, but make sure it’s a hot niche!
This is so important, or you’ll be fighting a gruelling up-hill marketing battle. When you push your product to the source of your extreme case users, they sure as hell better be begging for it and become your biggest advocates. Because if the hunger for the product isn’t there, you’ll run out of steam pretty fast. But if it is there, your product will sell itself. Guillaume Borkhataria, Gaze
It is not something that we didn’t know, but instread it is something that it is easily forgotten. Whatever is the idea for your product, the customer and the market are those who decide if you succeed.George Psistakis, Apirise
Founders should not spend any time in the early days worrying about fundraising, operations, legal stuff, etc. What will make or break their startup is whether or not they’re building something people will want. This is obvious advice, but the most important thing founders need to do is talk to as many users or customers as possible, and be their own devil’s advocates – always challenging and questioning any idea that might seem like a bright one.
At Banter, we’ve been able to evolve our product and value prop as we’ve gotten closer and closer to our goal of reaching product / market fit. The only reason this has been possible is because we’ve never spent time building anything before validating that it’ll be useful with at least a dozen current or potential users.Diego Villarreal, Banter
Scope Out Your Competition
Your competitors have gone through the same issues as you, and they may be your best sources to learn from. Track down your competitors, watch them closely, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and adapt your startup.
I didn’t understand my competition very well, which means I couldn’t articulate exactly what my startup needed to offer. Design inspiration (or any inspiration) websites have changed over the years in the way that we search and discover inspiration. Pinterest has worked so well and Creattica has fallen by the wayside. But why? This is the question I needed to ask right at the beginning, but instead I asked “How can I make something big like Pinterest?” – since asking the right question I’ve been able to tailor my startup into something the world needs.Daniel Schwarz, Airwalk Design
Before I launched a startup I never knew that there were so many other startups that existed in the world. Usually you’re just trapped with the big guys until you take the plunge to become a small fry too.Shubham Naik, HubYard
Escape the competition.
We launched Euro Taxi as a Windows phone app in late 2013. There was a lot of competition in the iOS & Android marketplace but Windows phone market was pretty naked and it still is. The problem with Windows phone is the user base which has not grown to an extent where anyone can model their business just relying over it.
We thought that Windows phone user base will increase but it didn’t and we had to launch either iOS & Android apps or a responsive website where users can book taxis.
So, considering the lean startup methodology, with low budgets, we launched the responsive website.
There’re a number of taxi services including Uber, Lyft, Blacklane etc, in United States & United Kingdom (the 2 major markets) but middle east is a region where there still is very little or no competition in taxi booking services.
We’re targeting these regions and are getting pretty good traffic just by escaping the competition. Waqqas Alvi, Euro Taxi
Prioritize Every Task
You will never finish every needed task before you launch. Before spending any time on any task, prioritize. Your time is better well spent spending an hour prioritizing and eliminating tasks from your list than spending an hour on a low priority need.
Instead of worrying all day about the possible problems you can or will encounter, you should start planning. Life consists of making small decisions every day and so is any business. It is that simple. Focusing on these series of decisions and moving in baby steps will not only ensure that you will stop worrying but also will mold the backbone of your business.Cem Jack Saftekin, Viraloid
I didnt know that i will be a new version of myself, after launching the Startup. Before… i didn’t know the importance of time management but i learned it. Being the whole and soul of the company, i have to take care of the admin, legal, HR, productivity tracking aspects of the business.
Overall i learned that one has to be mentally and physically fit. Hitherto, being physically fit was nowhere in the pecking order. However after doing the multitasking all day out… one has to exercise in order to keep the balance. Abhishek Raval, teamgum
I was surprised that despite my best intentions to work hard an be productive, sometimes I didn’t know what action to take next. I wanted to stay busy, but it was complete guesswork at first which things would lead to results. There was a lot of trial and error before I came up with short and long term goals that fit my business. That led to creating my daily and weekly to-do lists, but I still sometimes feel that deciding whether a task will produce measurable results is complete guesswork.Laura Fredericks, Describli
You want me to limit it to one thing?! I’d say a large theme that my co-founder and I have been grappling with is letting go. In the beginning there were only two people so we got to do everything. That may sound daunting and difficult but we could ensure tasks were done the way we wanted at the speed we needed. Now that the task list has grown considerably and we’ve hired up to a team of 6 full time employees we’ve had to relinquish control of large parts of the project.
Which parts should you continue to do yourself? Maybe you should stick with the job functions you’re particularly good at or the ones which are mission critical. No matter how you cut it more and more of your preciously held responsibilities need to be given to new care takers. So, what have I learned through this process? Start shedding tasks when it’s cost effective to do so, like when you have a bunch of similar work in one field and your time is more valuable in another. Don’t make excuses to hold onto your pet projects because it’ll only bog you down in the end.Steve Shwartz, Roundtown
Deciding what to do each day has been difficult, there is no project scope, no contracts. Maintaining an up to date fairly detailed backlog in Trello has really helped me focus on what must be done and defer those things that are nice to haves.Jonathon Rossi, Feedrabbit
I learned the difference between activity and productivity. I didn’t understand what successful businesses did on a daily basis to drive results. I wasted too much effort on bells and whistles when what my companies needed were nuts and bolts. If you’re building a startup, this is a critical balance which can be the difference between success and failure.Aurie Philipchuk, Iustus
It was unbelievable how blind I was for the magnitude of priorities. Prior to launching we could spend hours polishing some little detail that no one would even notice while business critical things were often just rushed through. Before you launch, you’re somehow blind to what’s a big thing and what’s a small thing. Jay Myllyrinne, Trained.io
Execution is Everything
Your idea is only the beginning, and coming up with an idea is the easiest part. No matter the amount of pre-planning, the way you execute matters most.
One thing we knew but didn’t expect to be so difficult was related to the execution of the idea. We believe we have a great service and knew the marketing end of things would be difficult and time consuming. We grossly under estimated how difficult it would be to get any traction. Great ideas or just ideas without great execution.Brett Atkin, Tallisto
Never underestimate the power of the following components when starting up a tech company:
- Top notch programming talent (you get what you pay for – ALWAYS)
- The importance of streamlined project management to avoid scope creep
- How critical the marketing side of your start-up is. You can create the most amazing service/product in the history of ever, but it’s the whole “if a tree falls in the woods” analogy. If nobody knows about it, you might as well just saved yourself the time and trouble of creating it
- Capital is another critical factor – it solves a LOT of problems like bandwidth issues … but being over funded usually comes at a price too. You can lose your drive and hunger, and more deflating than that is that you can lose control of your own project. No bueno
- The sheer amount of hours, blood, sweat, tears and stick-to-it-tiveness, needed to investMatthew Lutz, Appzine Machine
It can be counter-productive to get caught up perfecting a feature (especially optimising for performance) before it’s been released to users. No matter how confident you feel about your intuition, there’s nearly always something new you’ll learn when you start see real users interacting with it. If it turns out it’s not as popular as you thought it’d be, or users would prefer something slightly different, the time spent polishing and making it scalable could probably have been better spent elsewhere.
The tighter you can get the loop between user feedback and releasing iterations, the easier it becomes to create an engaging app. The features which turn out to be widely used can then, in retrospect, be perfected to your heart’s content.James Isaac, Nach
Having a good idea is just the start of the process. Applying it to real-world situations, talking to potential customers and finding out the process that customers would go through to use your product is key to making it successful. Look at your demographic. Even though smartphones are prevalent, if your service relies on them, make sure your users are comfortable with the app they are presented. Not everyone with a smartphone is a techie.Debbie Pinard, InitLive Inc.
Focus on the Frontend
When we surveyed startup founders, we didn’t see many mentions of mistakes made on the backend, but startup founders underestimated the impact of having a great frontend has on a product.
We’ve learned countless things going through the process of getting our company off the ground, but something that really stands out is the primacy of UI/UX design. Not in the sense that the app needs to look good, though that’s important, but in the sense that the UX is your product. Nobody cares about our clever backend db structure our how robust our RESTful API is. It’s all UX, and getting that right takes empathy. You have to put yourself in the place of someone who’s never used your product before. We don’t have all the pieces yet. It’s an iterative process, and we try to learn something from our users and improve every week. Every day even. Matthew Helm, Petrolr
I have two points to make here.
The first one is on the importance of a good user interface. The average user doesn’t care or are not aware of the technologies you app use or the security features you have built in. All they notice is how enjoyable the user experience is. You may have the best startup idea in the world, but if it is not presented in the right way, all efforts go down the drain. Invest in an experienced UI designer and iterate the designs till it offers the best navigational experience among all your competitors.
The second pitfall to avoid is not to overdo on the features. Focus on one main USP for your app and build complementary features around it without overwhelming the user. When your app tries to do everything, you are spreading your idea too thin. Look at all the successful startups – Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Whatspp… they all have minimal features, but are extremely well executed.Ramesh Nair, Weta
Usability is probably more important than anything else. We can go out and find new users easily but getting them to stay, that’s a whole different matter. If they can’t even work out how to use your product it’s not going to get very far.Sam Bell, ChartBlocks
That someones attitude does not reflect their behaviour. There is a huge difference between what people think and what they do. The importance of truly understanding your users, what drives their behaviour and what makes them your biggest fan is paramount. Getting out and interviewing people, finding the real motivations and solving the actual problems has been the single biggest thing for Bundll. Iain Rorison , Bundll
How much dogfooding your application can make you blind to how a new user will experience your application! When we launched Matterhorn we had been testing and using it internally for several months, and added some functionalities based on this internal testing.
A big part of our approach to Matterhorn was speed, so we had combined “select existing” with “add new” functions in many places, which sped up our workflow significantly. However, we failed to realise how confusing this might be to new users, and ended up redesigning all of these features based on our first rounds of feedback.
We had all become expert Matterhorn users and it had become very difficult for us to imagine ourselves in the shoes of someone who was just starting out with the application. As a result, we now test all new feature additions to Matterhorn with external users and beta-testers to make sure that our UX decisions don’t suffer from tunnel vision. Linnea Strid, Matterhorn
The importance of carefully prototyping a mobile app. There’s a lot that goes into the design of an app and it is crucial to consider screen-by-screen, action-by-action how the user will experience your app. I suggest using Proto.io to develop a blueprint for your app before you start.Dan Mullaney, nspHire
Collect Feedback from Your Users
Startup founders make a lot of assumptions when building their product. Validate those decisions through ongoing user feedback at every stage of the process. Collecting feedback early makes it easier to make significant changes before launch.
When you’re just starting out, every customer feels like life and death. And for them, you’re just another random service provider. And so, even if you do your absolute best to connect to someone through email/phone, sometimes, because people have so many other things on their plate, it’s just not possible. Sometimes, it’s better to just quit trying to sell one customer and move on to the next. Josh Goldstein, underdog.io
Its all about sales! whether you go with a Minimal Viable Product or a fully featured stack, Its all about sales!
Get your product in front of as many people as possible
Get their feedback
Agregate their feedback and incorporate the best into your next release
No sales = No businessJohn Mullen, PurchaseControl
When we first started txtMovies our target customers were doctors offices who were giving movies as a form of patient appreciation. We quickly found out that major universities with large student populations wanted to use txtMovies as a survey incentive. Within the first 9 months of our launch nonprofits were using our service for volunteer appreciation.
If you have a tool that solves multiple problems, spend as much time with your early customers to understand WHY they’re using your product. It may lead to new markets and larger opportunities.Blaine, txtMovies
Build a close relationship with your beta testers and first adopters. Having a small group of passionate users can be vital to your success. Listening to their feedback and making them feel like they’re on the journey with you will turn them into brand advocates.Dan Leveille, Equaldex
Through launching Pickle, I learned the value of letting our users lead the direction of our startup. We originally intended our app to be used just for choosing outfits. When users started uploading different types of photos, we initially tried to prevent them from doing so – we couldn’t imagine that our app wouldn’t be used for fashion. However, after an overwhelming amount of people were using Pickle to help make non-clothing-related decisions (and loving it), we realized we needed to pivot. In the future, we’ll be sure to look at people using our app in unintended ways as opportunity, not a problem.Evan Katz, Pickle
We really didn’t know enough about what our customers wanted. We knew they wanted an easier way to sell a thing online, so we focused on that and released the product. Now we’re able to open the feedback loop beyond our network of friends and iterate on things paying customers actually need to run their businesses. Gerard Ramos, One Page Sale
This is my second startup. I spent the last 6 years as CEO/Co-Founder of Fugazo, an independent video game studio. We developed over 30 titles across PC/Mac, iOS/Android, and other platforms and grossed over $15 million.
I have learned two things:
- You have to constantly innovate and keep your eyes on the changes in consumer behavior. Fugazo was very successful with PC games, but we needed to be better prepared for mobile games.
- User traction and customer validation are everything. With DEANA Fit we are constantly thinking about ways to recruit new customers. We also track and celebrate successes of our customers.
Andrew Lum, DEANA Fit
I learned that you should never underestimate what you don’t know you don’t know! It is very easy keep working on a startup blindly, but until you have users talking to you every single day, you won’t know your blind spots. You might focus on useless parts of your software when another one is so much more important.
Make sure to make any person using your app comfortable enough to tell you exactly what they have in mind. They are the one who will help you know what you did not know!Guillaume Fradin, PrintMosaic and Everytime
The most important thing we learned when we launched SlidePick was how important is to have the right channels available from day one to speak to every user that you can. The feedback, suggestions or comments you can have from them is the key factor to build a solution to their problem in the best way possible.
The things you learn after hearing people who have used your product are much more real and raw than any thing that a mentor, VC or other entrepreneur can try to teach you about your product.Matias Honorato, SlidePick
Starting a startup, I learned a lot of things. Things about myself, about the market, team work, coding, investors, economics and even about PR and marketing. However, I think that the most important thing I learned as a CEO and founder of my startup is one of the most important skills of an entrepreneur – to Listen. Listen to your team, co-founder, other entrepreneurs and investors. And most importantly, listen to your users. They know best what are their pain points, and if you listen very carefully, you’ll find answers and solutions, that will lead you to design the perfect product for them. Illai Jacob Gescheit, Mobifile
Startups need to know how to quickly validate their business idea by getting feedback from their audience at the soonest. Most startups are more focused on their idea than on the need/perception of their audience. It is very often that one gets into a lot of detail effort on the business/product idea, and then realise upon launch that the audience does not see the same value/need that you perceived in your startup idea. We learnt that for every idea that we have when in a startup, the first thing to do is put it in front of the audience that you think of the idea for and get it validated before you do anything on the idea.Sanjeev, Light
Something I learned that I didn’t know before I launched ArtPort is it’s vital to user test your assumptions before you jump into building features or updating your product. Spending weeks on a feature that no one wants or needs can be a serious waste of time and energy. Instead, clearly define your assumption, build the simplest prototype for your solution to the assumption, and then user test the prototype to validate. Garrett Houghton, ArtPort
The power of being with users in their natural environment when using our product. We find qualitative and quantitative insight valuable, but as we are creating a new experience of recipes, there’s nothing more powerful than spending time with people in their kitchens and seeing how they ACTUALLY use, or don’t use features. We try and be with our customers in their kitchens at least once a week. It’s the most powerful way of getting human truths, and also helps that we get cooked a delicious meal at the same time. Han-Son Lee, LOAF
Sometimes ideas, teams, or entire startups do not work. By launching quickly, you give yourself the option to learn quickly, fail quickly, and rebuild.
The power of the pivot. In my previous startup experiences, especially the startups from 5 or more years ago, we didn’t really embrace the pivot. We threw everything we had, including the kitchen sink, on an idea on trying to force it to work. In this startup, we’ve had many pivots, and with each one, we re-orient ourselves to realign ourselves together, and we move forward towards that new clearer vision together. Pivots happen together as one whole team. I’ve also learned that you don’t divide and conquer in a startup. It is “all hands on deck” and about team alignment.Arry Yu, Emotiv Labs
Listen to what the Lean Startup guys preach about failing fast and exposing yourself to customers as soon as possible. If you’re like me, you read all the books, gather all the data and then you think “Nah, that doesn’t apply to me anyway. My idea is so much better than everyone else’s. I’ll add some more features and publish when it’s perfect.” This attitude nearly killed us twice. My first startup took 18 months to launch, 20 months to fail. My second took 3 months to launch, 6 months to fail (I failed 75 % faster!). My third took just 2 months to launch and I finally think I got it right.Fredrik Bjurström, TidyCMS
Just Ship It
Startup founders said they spent too much time working on their product. Is it perfectionism? Is it the realization that a finally product will never quite match the vision? Is it a fear of launching? Aside from marketing, investing too much time preparing to launch was the most frequently mentioned lesson learned from founders.
I’ve learned that the devil is in the details. You can have the most complete and beautiful business plan on your spreadsheet but when you start facing customers, partners, service providers and the Real Life – well, you’d better be ready to make some tough decisions and hang in there even during the direst moments.Silvio Porcellana, mob.is.it
Just. Ship. It.
Get the product out the door as soon as possible. If you think it’s too early or that you haven’t put enough polish on it or that it’s missing features, you’re wrong.
Get the product in front of your audience as soon as possible, then iterate like hell based on the feedback you get.
Ship early. Ship often. Launch the damn thing.Mike Khristo, OverLook.io
Don´t overload your product/SaaS with to much features. We cut down more than the half of the features cause we realized that our customer were overstrained with. Our product was just too complicated for an easy use. We wanted our it to be perfect, but reducing the features helped us to focus on the main functions and to improve them constantly. Caro, Owlster
Theres a fine line between being a perfectionist and being procrastinator.
Don’t get too caught with small details, maintain focus on the bigger picture and launch already. Time is a limited resource. Use it wisely.Anthony, Vounter
Release early and release often.
Before elevio, we were too focused on being polished before anything was released, which only served to hold us back or worse, not release things.
During the elevio build, we decided to release things early and et early feedback on them which helped tremendously in what we should continue working on, and what wasn’t actually relevant for users.Chris Duell, elevio
The product is never finished.
Attempting perfection will only lead to failure.
Also, advertising is like shouting in a night party. Lots of people, no one hears. Takes lots of effort to get noticed!Alexandre Sallum, CrowdPainting.com
We all come in to this thinking we have a great idea. But the majority fail. And it is almost impossible to predict which ones will succeed. Even experienced VCs, who should know better than most, have a very patchy record. So you should launch a minimum viable product and get feedback the moment that you have something somebody somewhere might find useful. This means resisting foul urges to endlessly polish your product before launch. This is harder than it sounds! Andy Brice, Hyper Plan
What I learned after having a startup is that you have to “gengi genbutsu” which means you have to “go out and see”. Prepare a minimum viable product and show it to your potential customers. Do this from the first day and from the first feature, else you will end up making which might be amazing but it wont get commercial on a large scaleParas Batra, Leaf labs
Do not be afraid to launch! This is the biggest takeaway from our launch. The fear can be paralyzing, especially if it’s your first big startup project. A lot of stuff goes through your head, from “will it break when the first user creates an account” to “will anyone actually create an account”. Of course everything works and people sign up but one tends to delay launch because of various fears and the more you delay the launch the fears become bigger. Your product will never be perfect and never be done. That is kind of the point. You’ll continue developing according to feedback you receive and that way your product becomes better and better.Mihael Konjević, BitHub
There will always be too many distractions, whether personal life, work life, or just a lack of motivation on your part. If certain tasks aren’t important, re-prioritize. If they are important, stay focused and power through them. The especially painstaking and laborious tasks shouldn’t keep you from launching.
Well the best thing I learned afterwards is that patience and effort are rewarded, although fear will always be there, moving forward is what we all should do. There is no better feeling than accomplishing something that the world acknowledges on your own.Jonid Bendo, Website Optimizations
One thing I never expected was how much perseverance and focus is needed to build something great and later on to spread it around the world. At first we started with multiple products but had to pick only one in order to make it happen in the best possible way. Ivor Bihar, Mediatoolkit
A personal thing is what ‘hard’ work really meant. When I was starting out I constantly had people tell me this was going to be the hardest thing I had done. I didn’t fully understand what this meant till. For me it is the emotional side of the work, taking it everywhere you go and it becoming part of your entire life. It is mentally difficult, the long hours are a given, but dealing with how much it affects you is truly staggering. Once you understand that point it is also what makes it the best and most rewarding experience you can have! Iain Rorison, Bundll
How difficult it is to not do everything at once. Trying to keep focus throughout development of the project has been really difficult and we’ve had to cut back on features more than once in order to stick with our core concept. Lasse Hedegaard, Leado
Just how complex web applications are. From setting up database servers to designing the application in the framework. It’s a very time consuming process that makes one appreciate the hard work that went into the outcome of something that you are proud of.Sean Walker, HTML5 Web Apps
It’s important to always look around for advice and help. Use it to do your rapid experimentation more efficiently and quicker, but always trust your self. Be resilient – as an entrepreneur it is probably your most important feature. Nikolai Fasting, Syncano
HelpMonks is my 6th startup now. One very important thing to know is that you need to believe in yourself day and night.
Many will tell you that it is impossible to do what you do (my first startup sold Apple online in Switzerland in 1995 and everyone said I will fail and no one buys computers online! (eventually I became the most successful online apple retailer and sold the company) ).
I also saw the other end, where I was almost bankrupt, but then literally one day before not being able to pay my bills anymore, I got a huge contract from a customer.
This and many other experiences showed me that you need to work hard on what you do and believe in everything you do. If you fail, you want to say at least that you have worked as hard as possible to make it work!
Nitai Aventaggiato, HelpMonks
It always takes more time than you think. Doing a product always has this temptation to add a few more improvements and despite the fact that you will retrain yourself from adding new features, you will always end at doing more than what you might have planned.Sandeep Kaul, Work as team
Patience is key. You want to have the best start possible so it is always best to maintain a good level of patience not taking any shortcuts and not releasing any products that are not ready, even in private beta.
Having launched a couple companies in the past we always missed the initial ‘request an invite’ type private beta. Deciding to adopt this route with our new startup RatePanda and the results are amazing. Growth is much faster and much easier as it generates ‘hype’.Milo, RatePanda
I’ve learned to absolutely never give up. Before I started working on Smoothic, I was so unexperienced, I thought it was very easy to get a startup up and running, but I had to learn it isn’t. Furthermore, I’ve learned to enjoy everything I’m working on, and in a startup you have the possibility to try out everything like Design, Development, Management, etc., it’s so much fun to do this.Filipe Laitenberger, Smoothic
Staying focused is equally if not more critical after launch as it is pre-launch. There are so many directions that one can take it comes to marketing your startup and it is easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged.
Remember that there is no wrong or right way to launch a startup and it’s important to explore what works best for you, your startup and all the resources you have at your disposal.
Continue to grow your resources which includes your network and funding alternatives, at a pace that feels natural to you, especially if you’ve self funded your startup and still own 100% equity after you’ve launched!Sandra Panara, HireQ.com
You have to give your full time in it. We have been creating apps in the past as part-time and even though the ideas have been promising, none made it through. When we started Chip’n Ship, we went all out for it. We treated it as our full time job even if we don’t have salaries. We followed schedule, set strict deadlines and prioritized tasks and issues. But no matter how immersed we are on development and research, we never forgot to take good breaks especially on every milestones we reach.Monna Lissa Raja, Chip’n Ship
We should have shipped even with less features.Most of the features are not being used.so we should have launched with less features.The current notesmartly app iPad version that you see .1.02 v is the result after stripping it down to less but useful features.The response is great in iPad.The users are asking for iPhone,Android,Web and Mac version.We are coming to these platforms very soon.Private beat signuo link is there for respective platforms in our website
www.notesmartly.com Hunter, notesmartly
Running a start up is a full day job, you never really stop working and your head is always focus on the next task, even when you should be resting. It’s intense, stressful and incredibly exciting. It pushes you against your personal and professional limits, forcing you to improve you every single day. The lesson I learned is: stay focused, face one problem at the time and there’s always a better way do to things. Davide Nastasi, Kobrin
Focus on dominating one small market at a time. When you spread yourself too thin by going after several markets at once, you will end up creating a mediocre solution for everyone and will create a great solution for no one. Adam Hoeksema, ProjectionHub
You will wear many hats. So many different hats you might start to think your start-up has something to do with hats. It doesn’t.
Stay focused. Wear one hat at a time. And change hats only as often as necessary.Travis Doherty, TixTime
Don’t Give Up
Smaller startups fail because owners give up or forget to evolve them. Startup founders told us that simply continuing to work on their startup made them more successful. It’s easy to give up on a startup. If you’re feeling discouraged, understand that it’s a common feeling and not a problem with you or your business. Stick with it.
One thing that I learnt after I launched is that everyone is doing what you are doing. Everyone is trying to sell, everyone is trying to get as many customers as they can. But I think it is those who are persistent, those who are relentless, that will win in the end. If you don’t see subscribers right away, change something. Work harder than everyone else.Antoine Martel, Partner Hunt
Dedication! You will never go places if you run your start-up in your spare time or as a side project – There is apoint when you need to put full dedication and commitment in it – sooner rather than later!Jan, brdge
Keep trying and never give up. Don’t say: I can’t, it’s so hard, it will never happen, or, it can’t be done easily!
Imagine that your startup is like your baby! make your startup unique and useful, take care of it, focus on it, support it, raise it up in the right way. then your startup will grow quicker, better, faster and it will take care of you in the future.Marcus Al Khatib, Exchangle
You can not give up and you can not give up. After working on our startup with our team for close to 20 hours a day for 5 months straight I thought come launch day it would be time to rest but now we realize that was the easy part. You must be in love with your idea or product or you will burn out.Jeff Brokaw, APPVESTED
There are many times you’re stuck, you simply dont know what to do next, what’s the best way to go or you maybe think you’re not “ready” enough to do something, you wanna put it on hold
Do it. Do something, get going and something will pop up – A new idea, a new connection, the best things that happens to your business comes from the most unexpected way,Eran Helft, Meeple
As a Marketing Director at a startup, I’ve learned that you need to be resourceful like you’ve never been before in your life. At big companies, you can easily hide your competence behind other colleagues and large advertising budgets. At a startup, you are left to your own devices and you will quickly find out how good you really are.
You will spend countless hours finding anything “free” you can get your dirty hands on. I used to rely heavily on paid research tools when I used to work in advertising agencies, which I no longer have access to.
Forget about hiding behind others, pushing off deadlines, and throwing others under the bus. There is none of that at a startup. As a small team, you need to do whatever it takes to keep the peace. The happiness and cohesiveness of the team is what will make or break your company. Be resilient, be strong, be tireless.Lindsay Buescher, Uberchord
1.Manage your time:In college, because of the abundant stretches of free time, you could enjoy leisure time and also make up for any goofing off.
That won’t happen at a startup.
There is no free time. You’re going to be working essentially 24/7, no matter how tired you may be. So while your friends are enjoying happy hour, don’t become upset about finishing up a business plan, doing research or having a late-night meeting with employees. That’s just the nature of the beast.
2.Thinking Outside The Box
Often in school, there’s a right and wrong answer. But in the startup world, ambiguity rules.
“If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original,”Panth Mehta, The Mobo
While launching a startup you need to have 3 things:
Persistence (to not quit your dream when it starts to be more like a nightmare), coffee (to stay awake and stop dreaming) and really comfort chair, so you feel like in the fancy restaurant when you chew your desk after you get 107th rejection.
And one more – to rule them all – sense of humor so you don’t get bitter after reading something like that!
When you have it – you’ll succeed, it’s inevitable Alina, itemz app
The most important thing that i learned is that inevitably there are going to be ups and downs along the road and so an important quality to have is to take advantage of the momentum.
Whenever you feel motivated set new goals and work hard on achieving them, the more you succeed at this the less “down” moments you’ll have.
Your Startup is Only as Good as its Marketing Plan
Out of every theme we saw from startup founders, marketing was the most challenging and most frequently mentioned. We saw submissions from hundreds of startup founders who spent months, even a year, building their products but neglected to put together a marketing plan. Your user acquisition strategy matters more than anything else.
You have to start marketing your product before even starting developing it. If your efforts pay off – you’ll have plenty of beta testers right when you launch, if it doesn’t work out – you’ll have more time to rethink your idea.
Late marketing takes much more time and force, which you don’t actually have.Igor Kuznetsov, PocketGuard
Market to the early adopters. Thing about it, how many people around you are enthusiastic about new apps? So for initial marketing, our job is not just promoting to everyone but to find people who are ready to take out some time (may be 5-7 seconds) to listen to you, and understand what you have to offer them. I know its a short span, so its crucial to first give them the big picture in one line and dig into details once you grabbed their attention. Few interesting platforms around to find them, Launching next for one! Beta list, startupli.st.com and go ahead and google for the rest.All the Best!Abhilash, Nefow – Need for Now
It is fun and entertaining creating the product. But the life of a startup starts when the product is done and you need to push it out, get traction, get noticed, get funded,… Most of the startups fail right here. Thay have the experteese in building/making the product but a product is nothing without customers.Jaka Verbič Miklič, Sharealine
Planning a strategy about how to grow from 10-100 customers is useless. All you need to think about is getting your first customer, then your second, then your third, and so on. We all underestimate how difficult it is to get the first customer.Gideon Baldridge, Attribution
A regular product with a great marketing campaign is much better than a very good product with a poor marketing campaign. Don’t try to create an awesome product from the very first minute. Launch fast, create a greate marketing campaing and evolve your product based on your user’s feedback.Jorge Alvarez, Happy Mood Score
Everyone was telling us that, but believe me, it is really true: marketing is the most important thing. We learned that if a market really exists, making a product is easy. But selling it is really something else.Florent Galland, Dougs
Actually building the software is only a fraction of the work required to launch a product – you need to pour so much effort into writing, marketing, measuring and speaking to potential and existing customers.James Adam, Harmonia
I learned that if you try hard, and stay persistent, anyone one can be reached. The internet has broken trough the barriers of communication and allows us to reach whoever we desire, both in the personal realm and in the business world.
This is really impactful for startups when looking for mentors, advisors, investors, etc. etc.
I was really surprised by the sheer number of websites dedicated to “spreading the word” about new startups. I thought I would be shouting into a dark room, but sites like this really help me feel like I’m making progress. And I’m already seeing results!Alexander Winn, FlitterWeb
The hard part is not creating the product, it’s hacking the market. Although a great product counts for something, you still need to get the right audience in front of it to make it a useful product too.Ian Wanyoike, Uber Duka
I didn’t know the value of content marketing before launching this startup. Writing high quality content and posting on highly targeted websites and forums enabled us to reach thousands of users we would have never been able to reach. Christopher Gimmer, BootstrapBay
If you are running a crowdfunding campaign you must, must, must have a landing page pre-launch with a signup form. Drive traffic to that page and get a big group (at least 50) people who are committed to backing your project the minute it goes live.Mark, swivelCard
I had read about how hard starting up was, but didn’t really realize it until I experienced it. I also hadn’t realized how hard it was to get users in today’s age and how important marketing is. Also, how important it is to keep your first 100 users very very happy.Mayank Sanganeria, JamSnap
I knew most people were linked to social media and informative websites like Launching Next… But not to this scale!
I do a lot of work B2B work, and I must say… Every single business I have tried to contact was accessible online. This just comes to show how important it is to get your website, app, or startup some attention online, which is most easily done through websites such as Launchingnext.James Foringer, Freelancy
It is no longer “build a better mousetrap and people will beat a path to your door”. You need to have the best door, the best walkway, a nice mailbox, and a “free money” sign to get people to come to your door. Demand generation is key. Jason Maloney, diffr3nt
If You Plan on Selling a Product, You Need to Develop a Sales Skill Set
Along with attracting visitors to a website, startup founders realized they needed to hone their sales skill set: how to write compelling landing page copy, which product features will drive the most conversions, and how can you convince shoppers to pull out their wallets? If you don’t have any experience in sales, start now.
Selling is everything, even more than features. We have a product that have a lot of improvements, but it didnt start growing till we add a person in charge of sales. A good salesman is really important.Bruno Alassia, Kuesty
We learnt the hard way, how long sales cycles in Software Business are, especially in mid-size and large companies. We checked for their interest, but that wasn’t enough. The way from interest to the buying decision can be endlessAndreas Schmidt, Yasoon
A great product is not always enough to convert skeptical customers. Previously I’ve always built free products where it doesn’t take much marketing to convince customers to try you out. Provided your product actually delivers, the product itself then does most of the selling for you. With a subscription SaaS product, you’re asking customers to take a huge leap of faith and give their credit card info to a company they’ve never heard of before. Doing so requires an entire ecosystem of trust-building signals to be in place before you can even start impressing with your product: a killer website, reviews, case studies, active blog and social media accounts, press coverage, pictures of your dog, etc. For us, investing in growing that ecosystem in addition to our product has proven critical to attracting paying customers.Matt Bentley, CanIRank
Your future users or customers don’t care at all about features. They can be as sexy, awesome or whatever, users don’t really understand them to the full extent you do. They care about stories, emotions, pains and benefits. Focus on this when you promote and create your product or service.Mischa Steiner, Rakepage
Launching a startup requires you to be fiercely promotional. And as a journalist, that’s not in my DNA. But I’ve learned that if you believe in what you’re doing it’s not difficult to become an evangelist.Ben Wolford, Latterly
Education matters. No matter how simple you make your product, you’ve got to educate people on the how and more importantly, the why. With a startup, you’re always behind on everything. So, don’t take on too much at one time. Instead, focus in hard on a few things. Knock them out, test, iterate, improve, and then move on to the next. If you can do this, you’ll have some time to work on the education portion of your product. While doing that, also think about automation. How can you setup a user flow that gives your users the info when they need it and proactively be there for help when they don’t even know they need help.Zack Swire, eGood
I didn’t understand how much of a grind it would be in the beginning. I never would have predicted how much you have to fight to close sales in the first couple of months. Then it is all about moving fractions of a percentage up in the conversion rate through tons of tinkering and testing. There is much more behind the scenes that goes into creating a healthy business online than I thought.Gerald, Date to Door
I’m learning how difficult the customer acquisition process actually is. Before I started to get busy to research and build the website, I spoke to several restaurant owners and managers if my proposed solution seemed like a viable purchase decision that they would make. They all said yes so I happily got to working.
Now that I have an operational website, none of those managers have gotten back to me, or if they did, they said it’s on their to-do list, but it doesn’t seem like it’s advancing.
I still believe in my solution for restaurateurs and am now looking for those qualified clients that can make a sound purchase decision and invest into their business once they understand my value proposition.
For that to happen, I need to promote and let the internet know my company exists.Said Martinez, Modern Diner™
There’s Power in Networking
When you build a startup, it can often feel like you’re alone, but you never really are. Startup founders had significantly better outcomes when they left their work and went out to meet other founders. Even founders in remote locations are able to meet others on online tech communities. Startups rarely last a lifetime, but relationships can.
Twitter is powerful. I met my cofounder on twitter. I was in San Francisco and he was in Ithaca attending Cornell University. Twitter has allowed me to build partnerships and attract funding for our very successful crowd-funding. Jason Vitug, Phroogal
How important is to build networking and own personal brand for that purpose. Everything is a brand, more people now about yours, is easier to get new users for the service, potential partners and VCs.Marek Ciesla, Sher.ly
How enthusiastic and friendly everyone is in the tech space! Everyone is trying to help each other and give a little to your own personal idea – everyone wants to leave a mark either by giving advise, helping with designs or introducing us to relevant people in the fields. Anouska d’Abo, Tripr
“Dig your well, before you’re thirsty.” It is always important to network, develop relationships, and anticipate what you need to do before you launch your startup. Everything doesn’t always go the way you think it should and it is always great to have network of mentors, advisers, other entrepreneurs, and friends that can assist you in your journey.Early Boykins III, Rouge Reel
I think it’s best to reach out to similar startups or established websites and see if you can network with them. You might be able to launch your product or service to a wider user audience. I think the #1 problem of startups is marketing to the right audience.Derek Woodside, Find A Therapist
The one thing I wish I knew before launching my startup was that every conversation you have is a sales pitch for your startup. In a normal job, when someone asks, what is it that you do – you can get away by giving a one line response or going into detail. You are not selling your job to them.
When you are a co-founder or launching a startup, when someone asks, what it is that you do – just saying “I’m working on a startup” isn’t enough. Treat this as an opportunity to pitch and sell your startup. Every conversation should be a sales pitch. Get people excited, tell them why it is that you are launching a startup. Don’t be afraid to share, thinking they will steal the idea. Engage with them. Everyone will have a different opinion or take on your startup – you will learn a lot. Vedanta Kumar, [email protected]
I did not realize how important it is to have a strong network of experienced contacts you can go to for advice. It is invaluable to be able to reach out to another entrepreneur, particularly one in the same field, and be able to connect with stories, questions, or advice.
I’ve found that the new relationships I’ve built have helped me greatly, and the ones I had before starting my business have become even more important to me. With all of the help I’ve received from peers and professionals, I can’t wait to pay it forward and begin helping those that come after me.Zach Howard, Playtrix LLC
Never eat alone! When launching our startup, we met awesome people working on their own startups from all over the world. Each person had something to share with us: from tips and hacks to incredibly valuable suggestions. Find those with whom you can “eat” together, these engagement benefits are the reason why you have to promote your startup not to get only early adopters, but partners and friends for good!Alexandra, KUKU
What do you think?
Which insights were the most helpful? Which insights were left out? Leave your thoughts below in the comments, or submit your own insight for our next post.