“As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried.” Ben Horowitz
Many friends of mine who are startup owners have told about the familiar story of failures and pitfalls. Indeed, keeping your startup afloat in the sea of competition is no easy feat. Checking in with Nulab Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Toshitaka Agata, and Studentpreneur Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Adhika Dwi, we find out how they keep their startups going and to finally see the light of success at the end of the tunnel.
“There are three important elements that make your startup successful: a good product, a well-defined culture, and a strong team.” Toshitaka Agata, CTO, Nulab
A good product
In order to create a good product, it is important to challenge yourself to think about how your product appeals to the mass. Consider purpose and functionality; is your product useful to your target market? Does it help to improve the lives of people? Does it provide a more convenient alternative to other products that your prospective customers are already using?
Nulab’s products such as Cacoo and Backlog were created for the very reason that there were very few alternatives that existed in the market that were able to provide the necessary functions that our founders were seeking. From the perspectives of product users, they developed these tools that served a well defined purpose and that were centered around user interest.
A good product can easily pick up traction even without much marketing and publicity. Conversely, a bad product will struggle to get going even with the best publicity.
A distinct culture
What’s a strong, distinct startup culture got to do with anything? Well, pretty much everything. It provides direction and motivation for employees.
Adhika, CEO of Studentpreneur magazine, Indonesia’a largest business magazine for young people which currently also syndicates its articles to Yahoo! News Indonesia, shares: “I strongly believe that in establishing your startup culture, always make your first move good, because the fourth employee will be copying the first, second and third employees’ behaviours. The commitment and attitude of your employees in future will depend on how your culture is moulded.”.
However, a strong and defined culture should not mean an inflexible one. Your startup culture should evolve along with the company as it grows. Nulab CTO, Toshitaka, thinks experimenting and improving are the key to a healthy culture. Reflect on your culture often, identify shortcomings and make necessary improvements, and introduce new elements to help your culture stay relevant to your company’s goals and objectives.
A strong team
A strong team is a made up of good team players, and that means hiring the right people for the job. Of course, having the right skill set is crucial, but beyond that, your potential employees should also possess a proactive and a cooperative attitude. With limited human resource, employees at startups should be the managers of their own domains. This means that they need to be self-motivated go-getters, as well as good team players who work well with others and provide necessary support at all times.
“Be quick to admit failures and fix them.” Adhika Dwi, CEO, Studentpreneur Magazine
“Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Henry Ford
As Adhika has observed, many startup owners are unable to recognise failures in time, or are often in denial when they come to learn of them. Many do not realize that the best products in the market are the outcome of a long, tedious process of trial and error. After all, business acumen is not innate, but acquired through experience. Coming to terms with failures early will spare you from the dire consequences of channeling and wasting precious resources on a fruitless project.
Finally, financial discipline is something that many new startup founders seem to lack. Many are often caught up with the desire for rapid expansion and huge revenues at the expense of making profits. From the start, startup owners should draw up a clear set of financial objectives and allocate priorities reasonably. Expansions and growth should be planned and executed at a sustainable rate that also allow for profit goals to be met.
What do you think is important for startup owners to know but is not on this list? Share and let us know in the comments section below!