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I see the goal, I see no obstacles: six skills of a startup founder

Sigma Software Labs and SPEKA created the series of articles on the development of a startup at various stages of its existence. Leaders of Sigma Software Group share their experience so that every startup finds its place in the digital world.

The author: Andriy Lazorenko, CEO and co-founder at IdeaSoft (member of Sigma Software Group)

When you have an idea for your own startup, you are most likely supercharged with it and immersed in thoughts about how a new product or service will help people and businesses, and lead you to success. However, if this is your first startup, and you have no business experience, you should be prepared for many surprises and sudden changes, and possess certain traits and skills necessary to be able to develop your product successfully.

Persistence

Your idea is your concern. If you want your start-up to hit the market someday (preferably soon), its implementation should be the focus of all your efforts. You are the person who has to drive the product, not some old acquaintances you asked for help or investors who got interested in your idea.

My business partners once told me a story about Ukrainian startup founders that applied for an investment. I won’t bore you with much detail, but they had a cool idea, had, at the time, almost no competitors, the market was in need of such a solution, investors were interested in partnership and were ready to offer consulting and give advice. It all sounds cool, but a strange thing happened. No matter how much the potential investor was waiting for further communication from the young entrepreneurs, it did not happen. That’s how, even with a “warm” contact and an investor who was genuinely enthusiastic and interested in the idea, that startup failed to take the necessary steps to start the cooperation and get a “boost” for its business due to the lack of proactivity and persistence.

Speed

You would be wrong to think that you can endlessly “finalise” your startup. The market won’t wait. Other people will come up with similar ideas. And while you are trying to perfect a product, they’ll already be making money and investing it in developing their start-up.

Speed is also important when you need to pivot and respond to user feedback. After all, your customers definitely won’t wait forever for you to make the necessary changes.

It is also vital to avoid trying to create the perfect product at the first stage. They say that a good MVP should be “quick and dirty”. That is, it must have a minimal functionality, which – it’s important! – brings value to the client. At the initial stage, cut everything that is not vital to this objective to get an MVP out as quickly as possible. Then it won’t be so painful and sad if something goes wrong during the first launch 🙂

Technologies advance all the time, and what was trendy yesterday may become obsolete tomorrow. Therefore, it is important to do as much as possible here and now, so that your startup doesn’t lose its relevance. Sometimes a single software update from a tech giant wipes out an entire startup simply by adding certain new features.

On average, after 3-4 years of operation, a startup must either make an exit or enter into a strategic partnership. It’s a bad sign if, out of those 4 years, you spend 18 months making the first MVP, with neither partners nor customers nor investors.

Startup founders often think that they should reach out to customers when they have a ready product or service on hand. In fact, customer development and product sales should start as soon as possible. This is so for two reasons – firstly, you’ll be able to pivot quickly if your product does not meet the needs of the market, and secondly, without customers you don’t have a business.

So, waste no time and look for those who will support you with money and expertise. Money is fuel for a start-up. Without fuel, you’ll always lag behind.

Focus

To be fast, you must focus on your startup and push everything else aside. It would be a mistake to think that you can make a successful product while having a full-time job. Once you decide to launch your startup, you must focus on it and give it all the time you have: twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, without the usual weekends and holidays, when you can completely forget about work. A start-up founder must be on the move all this time – looking for new customers, like-minded people, investors, people who will volunteer to validate the product, people who can give advice, etc.

It’s vital to maintain focus, because this is the only way you can see what is happening in the market and react to changes in time. It’s quite rare that a startup is free from all competition, as it’s usually present. There are people who get investments sooner, market their products better, enter the market faster, and you have to learn to compete with them effectively.

Motivation despite failure

When starting to work on your idea, be prepared to fail. There’ll be failures, because more than 90% of startups fail. Failures are always sad, but also useful, provided that you know how to see them in a constructive light. It’s important not to blame yourself and others for failure, and make the most of the experience gained to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Dedication, trust and team support play a big role when things don’t go to plan. The ability to look at the situation critically and stop pushing the cart that’s never going to roll is also important.

The ability to give yourself constructive criticism

If you are launching your startup, you need to learn to gauge your strengths objectively, your skills and abilities, and your professional growth. If your startup and your team develop faster than you, then, sadly, you’ll hamper the development of the company as a whole. Such a situation cannot be ignored, you need to work with it, overcome challenges, get out of your comfort zone, ask for help from more experienced colleagues, or… Or, unfortunately, there may come a time when your startup will continue developing without you, or just collapse.

Flexibility and sociability…

Being flexible means making decisions quickly, taking responsibility, not being afraid to experiment and listen to others rather than just sticking to your own ideas. After all, the product you make is intended for others.

On the other hand, being empathetic and able to talk to people is a skill that will help you find teammates and customers, and create a product that the market will buy. If you know that communication is not one of your strong points, develop it and look for someone who will help you sell your idea and your product to investors, customers, and the market, as well as promote your culture to your team and future employees. Overall, the ability to bring together people who are more capable and competent than you (either in one or many fields) is one of the key skills for a startup founder.

Find such people, and go on to build a successful business! 🙂
See the previous article of the StartUp Manual project here.

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