Launching a startup, especially for first-time entrepreneurs, can be a rollercoaster of emotions. Something that contains excitement, success motivation, fear and many other things. While many live the startup dream, only a handful make it a reality, making the journey even more challenging! For most of us, it starts with an idea that has the potential to become a viable business. An idea that becomes widespread and forces us to follow the path of entrepreneurship.
In my case, building a digital solution for Wills, Estates and Succession in India resonated with me right from the start. We all know someone with a story where they had a hard time because a loved one died without a will. As we began to scope this solution, I remember thinking, “Why hasn’t this been done before?” and “What could be the hidden problems?”
Since then there has been no turning back. Just as the law has no set format for how to create a will, I have found that there is no set rule book for navigating one’s startup journey.
Here are 5 personal lessons I’ve learned along the way that may be valuable to other first-time entrepreneurs and help them navigate the uncharted waters of launching their first venture.
Tap into a trusted inner circle to validate not only your idea, but your personal journey
Start by having a real conversation with a small but sensitive inner circle of people who understand the business idea. This circle should include several experts in the field and people from your emotional support system. The second category of people are just as important as the first category because they give you honest answers based on their intimate knowledge of you as a person.
Understand your potential customers – Invest in research and getting to know them better
From day one, we did a lot of research with potential customers through informal conversations, moderated long video interviews, and comprehensive surveys. I truly believe that the best credit you can get on the concept itself, the pricing and the willingness of people to adopt a potential solution is from your potential customers.
In addition, you must consistently show respect for their intelligence and ability to make your own decisions.
Prioritize talking to customers, being in the field, understanding their problems in real time, and then creating a solution to address those challenges without any selfishness or preconceived notions. The last two years of the pandemic have shown us how important it is to be flexible in incorporating changes and course corrections.
Use your range of experiences to continually improve your ability to solve problems
A core team with a wealth of experience across industries over time makes organizations more resourceful and flexible, which I think are some of the most important attributes for anyone involved in the early stages of a startup.
The more you encounter different situations, the better you can find new ways to solve them. Strengthening your ability to not panic and stay calm while taking apart a messy problem piece by piece is invaluable, benefiting from the holistic perspectives and experiences of your team.
No person is an island – focus on assembling a team you can be vulnerable with
Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, gave his commencement address at the University of Houston in May 2017, noting the fact that “when you realize that you are the product of a lot of help, you will acknowledge that you need to help others.”
For me, this reiterates that you can never have enough support, and while this comes from your inner circle I mentioned earlier, it also comes from the team you assemble. A lot of the difficulties in the early stage with a startup is that you are in the so-called stealth mode and you don’t have a website. So, how do you convince people to join you?
You pitch to potential employees and consistently put yourself out there over and over again. I think being clear with people about what we’re trying to achieve, the problem we’re trying to solve, and who we’re solving it for ensures that we get people who are very aligned with the vision. It’s the collective energy of the team that keeps you going, and when you have a collection of good people who are excited to solve a problem, you get inspired and motivated by each other’s passion and energy.
Think through your answers to the “what next” or “what else” questions that come your way
While everyone will have an opinion about your startup idea, I’d say most people give their opinions when they’re really coming from a good place. It’s quite possible that some people who are aware of your plans to develop a scalable solution will be skeptical because they wonder why no one has come up with one before, or want to know how different your solution is from existing solutions. While others expect to hear an idea that fits the current buzzwords and falls into the fintech category or technology stack.
Many people, including potential investors and business partners, the people you’re trying to team up with, want answers about the different formats and shapes of your business model, your revenue model, and how you’re going to do it in multiple ways. Earn money in the first year after launch. .
Take the time to think and at least partially articulate where your first step into the world of potential moves is and what your bigger picture vision is.
The opinions expressed above are the author’s own.
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