4 Secrets to Build a Successful Start Up
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Hi! 👋 I am Arjav Dave, co-founder of two successful start ups Royale Cheese & Wellnest. I have graduated from University of Texas, Arlington with a Masters degrees in Computer Science & Engineering. A social person who loves to meet people but yet I am a man of few words. Learning guitar 🎸 for a few months now and still feeling like a beginner.
At heart I am a hardcore Software Engineer. I love to write code and create technical architecture for various products. In addition, I experiment with and try out a lot of new technologies to see what fits best. It is my comfort zone.
But, running companies require doing things outside of your comfort zone.
Hey Dave, I have an idea and it’s super awesome. Can you create an app for me in exchange for an equity?
I can’t tell how many times people have approached me with the above question🙋🏽♂️. People come to me with some crazy ideas thinking it will disrupt the market. But in reality it’s just a bad clone of something already in the market. e.g. “I want to create an event management app but just for people who dance. Can you help?”. I was like “Why don’t you use any other event management app? 🤔”. “But it will have other event’s too. I want the app just to focus on dance event to create a niche market.” I had to politely decline the offer. To know the reason check the Conviction section below.
What is a Start Up?
In simple terms, you have an awesome idea 💡, you create a kick-ass🤟🏻 product and become a billionaire💰. Sounds simple, right? In an ideal world it should be.
Misconception: You work hard and show perseverance you will always achieve what you aspire.
In reality, hard-work 😓🥵 and perseverance 🤛🏽 💪🏽 are a bare minimum to run a start up. People love ❤️ stories of sudden success. Hence, they make-believe that successful start ups are created over night with a fair share of luck. No one is interested in behind the scenes. So, what does it take to create and run a successful start up?
I would love to share the below insights I gained from my experience.
Photo by Katrina Wright
One needs to have a strong belief in their idea. This is one of the most important but an easily overlooked 👀 aspect of a start up. Let’s consider the above example of a dance 💃 event management app. It wasn’t the worst idea. But, the level of conviction a person should have to pursue the idea was not visible.
I would rather say it was a decent idea💡. And, in fact many apps start with a niche market and then grow into great platforms. e.g. Instagram started as a photo sharing app. Eventually, Facebook bought it for over a billion dollars💰. So, no idea is too small but there should be a strong conviction to pursue the idea
Secondly, in addition to the founder’s conviction, the team 👥 should also have a strong belief in the idea and the product they are working on. In the initial stages of a start up it is very important to create a team based on their belief about the founders, the product, & the vision of the company. Otherwise, the team would lack motivation and would drag the company down with them.
Lastly, having a strong conviction in your idea helps when fund raising. The VC’s 🧑🏼💼 do consider about how passionate one is about their company. And, passion comes with self-belief and conviction.
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros
In a start up a lot of decisions are made daily. These decisions can range from one of the most trivial ones to the most critical ones. Some are as trivial as purchasing merchandise for the team. While some are as critical as selecting an office space.
Categorise and prioritise the decisions into trivial and critical for faster decision making.
To be frank, a start up doesn’t have a whole lot of time to run at a normal pace. There will be a lot of other companies having the same exact idea as yours. So decisions needs to be made as fast as possible. In order to do so one must prioritise decision making based on the criticality. For trivial decisions, much thought shouldn’t be put in to it. On the other hand critical decisions should made after planning and strategising.
Secondly, trivial decisions need not always be correct. One can take the trial and error approach to finalise on the trivial decisions. Let’s say you have to purchase some office supplies like cutlery. Without putting much thought, go with a decent one. It doesn’t have to be the best one. It can always be replaced as and when the company grows. On the other hand, hiring a team member is a critical decision. Do thorough interviews, learn their interests, have a security check and so on. One doesn’t want a bad team member to start with.
Lastly, decisions will decide the future of the company, not only in terms of success or failure. But, it will also define what type of a company you are. For example, do you want to have a flat or hierarchical team structure, do you want an open floor plan or one with cubicles etc. Decision makers should prioritise and categorise any and all decisions for faster and better growth of the company.
Photo by erica steeves
A start up is started by a very small team. No more than 2–3 people are involved in the very initial stages. But once the idea starts taking concrete shape tasks starts to pile on. To officially create a start up requires a lot things to be done. Some examples include registering the company with the authority, creating a brand image, checking legal matters, developing the product, etc. As the company grows it needs sales & marketing, support team, human resources and so on.
As you can see it can get overwhelming for the company to handle so many tasks to start with. If the founders try to accomplish all these by themselves they would lose their focus. They will be distracted by things they are not experts in. Secondly, the overall growth of the company will slow down as the founders distract themselves. As a result other competitive companies may take the lead.
To alleviate these problems one must learn to delegate work.
Work Delegation is a form of art where one must know what, whom & when to delegate.
Let’s discuss each aspect in a bit of detail below.
One must be very clear about what work should be delegated. First, decide if it’s something that you can do it on your own. If not, define what needs to be delegated. Describe the scope of work to be delegated with an input and an expected output. Doing so, makes life easier for all the parties involved.
Being a start up one might not have all the resources in house. Hence, some work can be done in-house, while some can be done by a third party. As a general rule the core expertise work will be delegated in-house. While other tasks can be delegated outside of the company. Even within the company the person should be given proper authority and a clear communication channel to complete the assigned work.
Time is critical in a start up. It is one of the start up’s most fierce competitors. As time passes company might lose its mojo. Secondly, the right time to launch the product might pass due to delays. Hence, in order to keep the company on the decided roadmap, work needs to be completed in a timely manner. And for that, work needs to be assigned in a timely manner. To do so, firstly, gather estimates from the involved parties. Secondly, try to get the involved parties in the discussions as early as possible so as to get better understanding. Lastly, assign tasks with clear timelines.
Photo by name_ gravity
For founder’s, a start up is like a long term relationship. And like any other relationship it needs nurturing. It needs care and love to grow. One must also put in a great amount of dedication and attentiveness like in any other relationship. So, how can you nurture your start up?
Any aspect related to or comes under a start up needs to be nurtured🌱.
To start with, nurture the relationship with your Team👥. I use the term team to not just include the core members, but anyone who is a part of your start up like your employees, office help etc. Respect your fellow team members. A simple gesture of asking for their input in various critical matters will go a long way. Not only will it create an inclusive culture but you will be surprised at how creative and useful the ideas💡 might be. Secondly, provide your feedback on a regular basis. If your team is doing good appreciate👏🏼 them. If they are lagging somewhere provide them help. This boosts the confidence of team implying that no matter what your are there for them.
Another set of people you will need to nurture are any service provider, vendor or contractor👷🏼♀️ who are working directly with your start up. It is possible to click with any of them in one go. Alternatively, there will be issues with some of your providers. Nurturing🌱 the relationship with a provider is all about finding a synergy to work with them. It is tempting to start with a provider with the lowest cost. But, if there is no synergy it will do a lot more harm than benefit. As it usually happens, the cheaper the price of a product or a service the lower the quality. That shouldn’t mean that one must go with the costliest one. Rather, one must find a nice balance of synergy and cost depending on your requirement.
Last but not the least, nurture relationships with your clients, customers & end users. Without your customers you don’t have a business. Listen to your customers. Like with your team, listen to your customer’s feedback. If a certain aspect is valued, focus on promoting it. If the customer complains about any difficulty with your service or product rectify it at the earliest. Based on the feedback, if a certain aspect is unnecessary remove it.
Creating and running a start up is not just a matter of hard work and perseverance. Rather those are a bare minimum. I have tried to jot down some of the most critical aspects of a start up. Hope these suggestions are helpful to the young budding entrepreneurs and help them build a great and successful start up. I would love to get in touch with everyone out there. You can contact me via my website.