As we start to sift through a new round of startups looking for guidance on their road, it’s worth going over again the challenges that every startup faces. This isn’t to say that all founders need guidance – some people are extremely capable of navigating their way. Those folks are rare enough and opportunities are plentiful which is why we run our programme, why we supplement it with resilience and mental health sessions and why we build a network that we hope is as much family as it is about equity.
“First-time and experienced founders face these challenges all the time.
None of these or others are impossible to overcome.
Take it one step at a time.
Startup success is the sum of small wins.”
As a founder you’l have to deal with:
It’s never been easier to start something. The world is awash with resources for the budding founder – but it’s still not a garden path. Open source tech, free cloud vouchers and hugely powerful mobile devices mean it’s just great for anyone starting something. But you still need skills and to get skills you need money and that’s becoming challenging in a world where developers earn more than CEOs (Seriously). The thing is – whether you’re bootstrapping it with savings or raising money to buy skills, you’ll need to have enough to actually pay for what you need. Capital limitations are going to be your biggest challenge.
Studies show that founders who have a mentor are much more likely to succeed. A mentor will guide you through there experience, they’ll connect you with good people and most importantly they’re the shoulder to cry on when things get tough. And they will get tough. The thing is to avoid the feeling of creeping dread and talk to your mentor. The only sin here is putting your head in the sand and not communicating. At Raise, we have broad shoulders for exactly this reason.
We operate a rolling intake at Raise, but we do specify two separate intake events because people need deadlines. And one thing becomes clear – there is no shortage of ideas. But having an idea and having the right idea isn’t the same thing. Sometimes it’s a simple as while there’s a gap in the market, there isn’t enough market in the gap. And sometimes it’s that the idea simple isn’t investable (and by that I mean the likelihood that an investor will get their money back isn’t high). This isn’t the end of the world and it’s very possible to take an idea and pivot it into something that has a large addressable market or is investable.
We know from experience that being a founder is a lonely business and also that founding teams are more resilient and more likely to succeed than loners. But whether there’s just you or you and a couple of trusted colleagues, you’re going to need to start hiring and managing people. You’ll ned to get used to what they do – so it’s worth a non-tech founder getting her hands dirty and learning about the tech. This is why we run our DECODE events – technology made easy for non-tech founders. Understanding the pipelines of other disciplines within your startup will not only improve relations but it’l help with retention.
At some point you’re going to have to sell something. You’ll need to attract people to purchase the product and work hard to get the idea out. There are a hundred ideas out there going nowhere for free, so you’re going to have to work especially hard to get money for what you’re doing. How you attract and retain customers is going to be vital to how you attract later stage investment as well – should you need it to scale your efforts. If you know your customer and you know their needs, you’ll succeed faster than any competitors.