So you know just how to change the world? Or maybe you found a way to shape up a popular solution? If your head is full of startup ideas that beg for implementation while your shy invention hobby has slowly begun to turn into a profession, you’ve probably thought about making a startup once or twice. At FORDATA we started up ourselves – and today we know it was worth it. Allow us to share some tips that can help your project get off to a good start.
Ten years ago, when our company was founded, “startup” was a buzzword that referred to an almost entirely different phenomenon from what we are dealing with today. Not only the organization of the venture has evolved, but also have the project financing system and promotion channels. There are many entrepreneurship hubs around the world which specialize in forging the success of young companies now.
Currently, startup is associated more with a professionally planned business rather than an enterprise implemented with private funds and semi-amateurish, as it used to be a decade ago. It would be a sin not to take advantage of the opportunities that are at our fingertips today. What is worth considering so that our efforts have a greater chance of success?
01. Starting up? Use your university's resources
University is a place that gives you the opportunity to review startup plans before it spreads the sails (and we make bad mistakes). Often, interesting and innovative ideas are born within the academy walls, which was also the case with FORDATA. Currently, many universities run programs strictly focused on developing student entrepreneurship. For example, Duke University has a startup-friendly facility called “The Foundry”, where students can request work space to run projects. Stanford runs “StartX”, which offers students its SIR program granting financial aid and more. Academies worldwide organize events and meetings that promote startup idea with the participation of famous people from the world of media and business. In addition, the academy is a place that allows you to establish valuable relationships with other students and co-create projects with them. In our case, it gave us a chance to create a basic team involved in the startup and develop trust at the very beginning of cooperation. We could also consult our plans with the lecturer. University staff work as a team of trusted advisors, so it’s worth using their free expertise. The university is also able to provide us with physical space where the project can grow safely. This applies to laboratories, laboratories and other workplaces, for which we will not have to bear additional costs. Even if the academy does not have the official status of incubator, by definition it has most of its advantages. The availability of tools, methodologies and experienced people whose knowledge can push our project forward is truly invaluable. Forging your startup ideas can be the time of your life!
02. Business incubators – hubs for startups
These are specialized institutions that provide comprehensive assistance to young projects. FORDATA also benefited from this form of support. Due to the fact that incubators can take on many tasks related to the legal, financial and tax aspects of the venture, they are a great relief for startups, especially those created by inexperienced people and those without capital. In the case of FORDATA, the possibility of using the offices located in the buildings of both institutions we worked with turned out to be an important convenience, which directly influenced our further development. In the initial period of a startup, when the development costs are incurred, such a relief of finances is a huge plus. By deciding to cooperate with one of such hubs, we can also count on professional marketing activities or coverage of internship costs. One of the co-founders of FORDATA had a chance to travel abroad for several months under the Erasmus program, which gave her the opportunity to explore the market and gather contacts. There are many incubators on the market today, like Y Combinator, Seedcamp and AngelPad just to name the few of the most popular. The offer is wide, so there is a chance for it to be well adapted to the needs of our project.
03. A good team should complement each other
At FORDATA, the team is one of the core values. In our case, what proved successful was a proper division of roles based on the diverse competencies we had at the start. This enabled us to have a good start. At the beginning, the team consisted of only three people, but the tasks were split in such a way that the project could develop without the need for additional specialists. We notice that in case of many projects, especially technological ones, the situation often looks completely different. Core teams are made up of people with very similar skills: they are very often programmers who, although able to lead the project from the technological side, may have problems with adopting roles going beyond their main competences. It happens that a promising project fails due to the lack of a team that is ill-balanced in terms of staff skills. Even the best idea may not work if we don’t make sure that the marketer deals with its promotion, and the engineer with the development of technology. Even at the stage of creating a startup business plan, it is worth considering the team’s composition and tools to improve its cooperation. Good practices are scalable. They allow fuller insight into the functioning of the project and easier implementation of solutions and new employees also at later stages.
04. Where to get an idea for a startup?
The landscape of small and medium-sized companies is very wide and detailed today, but this does not mean that each of these companies comes up with innovative products. Don’t let the impossibility of starting a second Google dare you. There is a good chance that there is a group of customers for whom your proposal will prove to be the number one choice, although it does not introduce any revolution. In this case, your competitive advantage may be good communication or product modification for the needs of a given group of recipients. For instance, this is how our Virtual Data Room, a technology well known to companies in the West way earlier than ten years ago, happened to get returning clients thanks to boutique format that was 100% devoted and focused on the clients’ needs. If your project is not innovative, think about how to improve or apply a known solution and which customers can benefit most from it. In the case of our VDR, a significant advantage turned out to be, among others, quality of customer support: available in 15 seconds, taking over tasks and personalized. In addition, we managed to create a product that from the technological side boldly competes with older global brands, as it allows fast upload of data and nice UX.
05. Startup security – it’s more than information protection
If we had not dealt with the issue of data security from the very beginning, we might not have known how important the proper protection of information is. For example, when sharing a pitch deck or financial documentation with investors, it is worth using … the Data Room. We write more about this in the article “What is Virtual Data Room – Everything you need to know”. Thanks to this, it will be possible to control what we send and to whom. We will also minimize the chance that someone will share our great idea with bystanders – email just does not offer this class of security – as well as gain image in the eyes of investors who use such solutions on a daily basis in conducting transaction processes. The Deal Room will also serve as a secure document and file repository.
The above five tips, of course, do not exhaust all the experiences that we have been able to gather in ten years of operation. We hope, however, that we were able to inspire and motivate you to act. What we can say for sure today is that we still have energy from our early years and that it helps us grow. Cultivating the precious state of bliss is always worth the effort. Good luck!
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