The startup world is constantly evolving. However, most of these fails are not new. I would really like other entrepreneurs to learn from my mistakes. Avoiding these simple fails will increase your chance of building a successful startup and reduce the time it takes you to get there.
Don’t build before you are certain there is a burning need
Probably the most common mistake for founders to make is to build an MVP before establishing a need. You may have read articles that suggest that it is important to get an MVP out as quickly as possible. Right, but not before you can verify that there is a burning need for what you are about to build. It is easy to test demand for your product using pen and paper and open questioning. Check that you are solving a real problem and that there are no valid alternatives that the user might use. Obsess at this stage and do not move forward until you are absolutely certain that your solution will address the issue in question. If you do build an MVP without validation of the problem you will find engagement to be slow or non-existant and total reluctance from investors to get involved.
Don’t do it alone
Building a tech startup is a team activity. A single founder will never have the full set of capabilities or bandwidth to launch a startup on their own. At early stage there is very little else, apart from the team, for investors to judge the startup on. As well as the core team, surround yourself with experts. Persuading an advisory board to support you is good way to get validation for what you are doing. If they won’t come in, they probably don’t have confidence that you will make it. Listen to what they say and tweak your proposition if it makes sense.
Don’t be closed-minded
Although founders are expected to be strong, driven individuals, close-mindedness is a red flag to investors (and probably to clients and employees). It is important to listen to advice and decide what to act upon. Select advisors with relevant knowledge; either existing successful founders or individuals with deep sector experience. Don’t look for yes-men. It is much more valuable to find people who will give blunt feedback. Learn how to take tough love.
Don’t misjudge timing
It’s easy to be either to early or too late with an idea. A lot of what you read is hot is from a Venture Capital perspective. However, by the time you have got your startup off the ground the VCs will be exploring the next big thing. If what you are working on seems too familiar then you are probably too late. Many consumer apps are in this category. If you are coming in late, make sure that you can improve on whats already out there and be totally sure that users will switch from what they have become familiar with. It is also possible to be too early. Think Google Glass or the first iterations of tablets. Remember there is a difference between pure research and being a first mover in a commercial marketplace.
Don’t under-estimate how long it takes to raise capital
Raising capital is much more difficult than first-time founders ever imagine. It is also important to remember that it is not just the first round of funding to take into consideration. There is nothing worse than raising a simple seed round only to find that you can’t get VCs (or anyone else) interested, once you have burned through the cash. Work backwards from the VC round and estimate how much you need to raise at the seed stage to get there. Venture Capital firms are moving upwards and this has created a nasty gap, sometimes calling for a bridge round. In building the first seed round, find a lead investor and build around this individual. They will bring confidence and attract other investors. Allow 6 months for each round and make sure that you are investment ready before starting the process.
Blog by Paul Dowling — Co-Founder of Dreamstake the world’s first tech accelerator platform focusing entirely on taking startups from inception to Series A. Dreamstake identifies promising startups from universities and accelerators and provides them with access to the resources they need to achieve later stage success. This is achieved through a large programme run out of Google Campus in London and our own network of experts and investors.