Every startup wants to succeed beyond all imagination – everyone dreams of unicorns. The unfortunate truth is that most startups fail, or at least never go so far as to achieve the success originally envisioned. Startups can fail for a whole number of reasons and the causes behind failure are often unpredictable and in many cases beyond any one person’s control.
To succeed, a startup must pay close attention to and focus on those aspects of the business that are within its control, aspects that can be revised, tweaked and improved as circumstances change and as the business develops and grows over time, or inversely finds itself on the rocks.
Below are five key aspects that we at Whyable believe constitute the foundations of a startup. Each aspect serves its own important purpose or function and changes to any one of them can either directly or indirectly affects the others. Focusing on and giving adequate attention to the following five aspects will not only strengthen each aspect individually but will further reinforce the foundations of the business which in turn this should increase or at the very least improve the chances of long-term startup success.
To succeed, a startup needs a motivating mission statement.
Most startups begin with a bright idea to solve a major problem or create significant change in the world. Such ideas are more often than not accompanied with a particular mission. For example, Facebook’s mission is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected”, while Tesla’s mission is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”.
A strong mission statement is important for two reasons. Firstly, it articulates in one or two sentences exactly what you are doing and/or what the company is aiming to achieve. Secondly, a strong mission statement communicates your idea in a clear and concise way to other people who know nothing about what it is that you are doing.
At Whyable our mission is “to help build and launch startups”. This statement not only reminds us (not that we ever forget) of what we are aiming to do and achieve each day but it also tells you, the reader, who possibly knows nothing about us, exactly what we do as a team.
In short, a strong mission statement should clearly explain (ideally in one sentence) what it is that you are aiming to do.
To succeed, a startup needs a clear vision of the future.
Whereas a mission statement explains what you are doing, a vision statement will explain why you’re doing it and what the long-term intended benefits or outcomes will be as a result of your mission.
It’s worth noting here that the distinction between a mission and vision statement is often misunderstood. The way we understand the difference is this:
- a mission statement explains what it is that you are doing while a vision statement explains why you are doing it, to what end or purpose.
For instance, at Whyable our vision is “to harness the power of technology and make for a more peaceful, soulful and sustainable world.” To elaborate, we firmly believe that technology has the power to overcome and resolve many of the world’s major problems such as food waste, air and water pollution, workplace inefficiencies and combat global warming and climate change, just to name a few. To overcome and resolve these problems we need to harness the power of technology as a means of creating innovative new solutions which in turn should lead to a more peaceful and sustainable world.
In short, a vision statement should convey why you are doing what you’re doing, thereby giving purpose to your mission along with a picture of what the long-term intended benefits and outcomes will be as a result of your mission.
To succeed, a startup must have a competent, well-organised and dedicated team of wonderfully bright people. In the very beginning a startup is in actual fact little more than just a bunch of people embarking on a mission to do something new and different, giving their absolute best to achieve the vision with whatever resources they have at hand.
The people within a startup will, quite literally, make it or break it. Those who make it are all united through a mutual understanding of the business mission and are further inspired by their shared vision. More importantly, the people who make a startup successful are the ones who can tolerate and appreciate other people’s differences including annoyances and can see past any prejudices that might otherwise divide them. Moreover, the people who make it love what they’re doing despite all the difficulties and uncertainty that constantly threaten their job and the ongoing operations of the startup as a business.
In short, of all things that improve the chances and likelihood of startups success, wonderful, dedicated and ambitious people are vital for success.
To succeed, a startup needs (some) technology.
With clear mission and vision statements and a solid team of dedicated people (or person, if you’re a sole founder) the next piece of the startup puzzle is that of building some kind of technology with which you can test and validate your idea. The key word here is validate and you do this with an Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
There are many kinds of MVP, the most basic of which is a simple landing page that aims to capture people’s interest simply through stating the idea or concept and how it will provide value to potential users.
Beyond a basic landing page one can build a static prototype which is a simple click-through display of the UI/UX designs, the key features and overall user journey on the app. It’s important to note that static prototypes are not live products; they do not possess a functioning backend/ API.
Once a prototype is built, the next step is to build the backend so the app becomes functional. This allows you to start testing the app with real users, collect data and gain feedback on the product. Again, the primary purpose of an MVP is to validate your main hypothesis and to test whether users find real value in the product.
In many cases prototypes often consist of a good many number of features, say 12 features in total for example. Your functional MVP might however only consist of 2 or 3 core features for they will be sufficient for testing and validating your main hypothesis. Thus it is not necessary to build all 12 features from the outset; doing so would only be a waste of time and money. Instead, just start with the minimum number of core features which are sufficient enough for testing your product with real users.
With an MVP built, a growing database of users who are providing insightful feedback on how the product is working and the value they receive in using the app, you should now be gaining traction.
Traction is important because it proves whether or not your product is growing towards that of becoming a valuable product. More importantly, traction will reveal the potential business that can be created around the application; i.e. where or how the app can be monetised and/or what features users are willing to pay for.
In order to show traction it is necessary to establish metrics and set KPIs from the very beginning. Over time the data collected from users on the app will feature in your KPIs and hopefully, the numbers will show positive signs of growth. If the numbers show negative signs then it’s crucial that you understand why the numbers are in decline and what the root cause of this is exactly. It might be that a certain feature is creating too much friction (e.g. it’s too time consuming for users to deal with). Removing or improving this feature might reduce the friction and be enough for users to remain on the app and to utilise with better or maximal effect.
A solid foundation is necessary for startup success
Mission, Vision, Team, Technology and Traction – these five aspects form the foundation upon which a startup will either succeed, flounder or fail. Despite all the variables that confront and challenge startups, all five of the above are with your control – you can change, tweak, refine and improve all of them at any point in time. Pay close attention to these and you’ll form a strong foundation upon which to build and launch your startup successfully.