From A Founder’s Lens

May 31, 2016

An outsider might think that a successful startup founder is like a prodigy: breathing miracles in and out while exuberating sheer control and knowledge all the time.

But just ask 100 entrepreneurs; 99 will admit to a different reality. It is a much tougher game. Apart from the public glories, there are a lot of private sacrifices the founders go through.

So while you are thinking of taking the plunge into starting your own venture and do your own innovation, it is important to have a glimpse into the major challenges that startup founders face. At each stage of their companies’ lifecycle the face challenges. While working with about 40 Founding teams, we discovered that there are three key issues at each phase that most startups founders encounter and admit to.

The Seed Stage

Building the Right Team

The startup founders gather a lot of attention and praise for the quality of work done in the early stages. But this is largely determined by the team behind them. Teamwork makes the dream work. If the team is not a mix of right talent, driven by a common mission then you may trudge along but won’t go far. Thus, these employees have to be talented enough to churn out top-notch work and juggle several tasks at a time. Finding these gems is a huge challenge. And creating the right culture for them to deliver is even bigger challenge.

Getting Initial Validation and Traction

The perpetual challenge faced by founders is how to get customers to use their product or service? In this chicken and egg situation, customers are looking for a proven track recor, and since nobody is willing to take a bet, the record doesn’t get to build up. While this is a tough nut to crack, getting first 10 customers is crucial for the morale of the team. At this make-it or break-it stage, the responsibility falls on the founder, who must do the initial hustling to validate the hypothesis. Validate the hypothesis, fail fast and pivot quickly.

Fast Execution

Speed is everything at the seed stage when your startup is trying to catch its breath on little or no resources in the big race. A founder needs to figure out how to do more in a short period of time without the big bank account or team. Here is when the ‘agile mindset’ comes into play. Fail fast but learn quickly and improve till the competition is beaten out. Founders can build an MVP, reach the market quicker and receive validation (hopefully) if they execute fast. Biggest asset that founders have is the “Time”. How methodically and diligently they use it, defines their success.

The Growth Stage

Hiring and Retaining Talent

Now that the market-product fit has been established, founders need to empower specialized roles to drive certain metrics. For such important positions, only the best-in-class talent will do – and that is a big challenge to find and keep. Keeping employees motivated through the ups and downs is another pressure, given the natural landscape of a growing startup is full of peaks and troughs. Thus, establishing a great team culture and preserving it is critical here. A founder must gel employees as a team driven by a common goal, guided by a set of core values on the same page.

Installing a Good Management Team

As the startup scales, a founder runs out of the capacity to look after everything. An all-star management team is needed to take over the reins at the growth stage. Ideally these people must be talented enough to make those big decisions with very little data and in a short time. Finding such leaders is always challenging and sustaining them is even bigger challenge. It takes more than a remuneration to bring such people on board.

Fixing Efficient Processes in Place

It is never enough to have a group of brilliant minds. In order for a startup’s products/services to stay at the top of its sales, efficient and optimal processes must be established. It is essential to have a standardized service commitment to the customers in order to be scalable. Growth is directly dependent on sales. Sales are driven by happy customers and referrals. All of this is only possible if a good team is equipped with efficient processes.

We wish you to create the epic work and make a gorgeous impact with your creation. We leave you with a quote by our own founder who has been through it all:

“In pursuit of success, all you need is continuous learning, constant self-reflection and willingness to audaciously push your limits.”
Jamil Goheer

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