6 steps towards startup progress
“To reach a port we must set sail. Sail, not tie at anchor. Sail, not drift.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt
Following the conclusion of The Lab, our new online-enabled program for transforming ideas to ventures, we asked our participants to highlight core steps towards the progress of their startup that they identified during the program.
The results? Admirable. In fact, we are very proud to see that all participants reveal a clear understanding of the critical steps they went through. They focused decidedly on the progress steps that helped them shape their ideas and obtain the appropriate venturing mentality, which will indeed help them build a competitive startup.
Step 1: Realize the difference between having an idea and executing an idea
To the minds of many, where concepts such as “someone will steal my idea” exist, the difference is unclear; yet those of you who have gone down the stormy road of venturing, already know about the chasm between. The surprising to the crowd truth: startups are not about ideas. They are about execution. After all, in the free market it is only those who Do things that get the share they seek. And in fact having thousands of ideas and day-dreaming about them is the big catch for a lot of people.
Ideas are easy. Executing them is what requires strong commitment, hard work, and utter perseverance; executing them creates the value and makes the difference. The Lab participants learned how to organize their work and set forward all the necessary actions in order to overcome this common issue.
Step 2: Become confident in exposing your ideas to people
Having an idea is one thing, whereas talking about it is another entirely. Not everyone is used to presenting ideas and pitching in front of experienced professionals. Not everyone is in fact able to clearly and succinctly communicate their idea and their action plan – or have one. What may be grand in our minds, may sound poor or confusing when put in words. Not everyone is prepared to accept negative or constructive feedback – or, even more, be able to use it. Also, not everyone is prepared to accept that other people might have better business models or are better prepared towards the strains of entrepreneurship.
Exposing the way we think in front of others, putting effort in organizing our ideas and work so that other easily and quickly understand, can indeed be very frustrating. However, startup founders at The Lab learned how to fight this mystifying process, feel comfortable with themselves, and confident in their business ideas – the secret: preparation, practice, and continuous re-work through feedback!
Step 3: Learn how to make best use of feedback
Feedback is not a mere buzzword or an optional activity for entrepreneurs to simply consider. It is something to actively and unceasingly seek. And it is not the act of receiving ideas to entertain or indulging in hand-holding about our ingenious business concepts. It is the act of receiving market-driven responses to what we present, be it a short 1-minute elevator pitch, a full business presentation, or our product itself.
It comes from experienced business people, it comes from investors, from potential customers, from the family, from friends; each one of these sources is significant in different ways and with their different perspectives. And it can be both positive and negative – with the latter being the most important, contrary to common belief! A sharp venturer will always benefit from consolidating and evaluating all types of feedback from all sources. Τhe Lab participants indeed came out with a renewed understanding of the above – and this became increasingly visible in their resulting work.
Step 4: Validate your startup idea the “Lean” way
Interacting with potential customers, investors and partners on the business idea and product prototypes, and receiving feedback from them, has yet another extremely important use for venturers. It helps them towards the validation of their concept in the most reliable way for this very early stage.
The Lab participants were guided through this process from the very beginning of the program. Not all of them were fond of the idea at first. It requires preparation and active reach-out to people you have never interacted with before. However, at the end all were grateful – and some surprised – with the findings and results. The latter alone usually marks the onset of so much that remain to be done or that need to change. As one of participating venturers shared, “It is important here to be prepared to avoid disappointments and be flexible enough to do immediate changes – the goal is for the idea to stay alive!”.
Step 5: Build the MVP, not an MP
The development of a Minimum Viable Product that will work effectively as a “pilot” is an integral part of the idea validation process. It is one of the steps that our venturers clearly identified as a uber-critical. And of course they are right. The MVP is a lot more than just proof of progress or ability to develop something – anything. It is the minimum product a startup team can build in order to demonstrate the full potential of their concept and help others recognize the true value of their endeavor.
The most critical of all, though, is selecting exactly what to develop. This is the most frequently missed and misinterpreted element of the MVP. And The Lab participants were guided to identify, not what they wish or what is cool to develop, but what will be most valued and most distinct for their customers and the market.
Step 6: Design and implement a results-driven strategy for business development
As they begin to validating an idea and build the MVP, first time venturers at The Lab recognized the need to create a proper results-driven strategy for developing their startups. A solid growth plan. The concept and vision is there, the business model as well, the validation under way – yet how does all this come together in time, for the execution part that truly matters?
Obviously the point here is not to craft just any plan, but a strategy: a results-oriented and market-driven roadmap that will allow the founders to identify what they are doing right and wrong along the way, from the short-term to the long-term, to better evaluate opportunities, and to make better decisions. And although in theory this might sound like a simple process, it is exactly what a lot of founders are doing completely wrong, if at all.
Progress is a word with multiple interpretations
Startup founders often misinterpret what progress really is. Often they rely on limited feedback and they trust biased results. Or perhaps they buy into a hype and lose sight of their initial plans, changing their focus and burning their teams. As a startup accelerator we are always deeply aware and actively concentrated on this. Progress for a new business is not just about finding a quick way to make money. It is about creating the foundations for solid and efficient growth with a unique potential. And that is exactly what we are working towards at Metavallon, through each one of our programs and every one of our enterprising participants.
Thank you venturers at The Lab – you keep inspiring us!