How can startups survive and grow given their understaffed and under-resourced natures?
You can’t do everything by yourself.
Startups are notoriously understaffed and under-resourced, so founders often feel the need to do everything themselves – especially when the pressure is high. This is more true today since new companies need to develop products and respond to market changes quicker than ever. As MIT professor of innovation and entrepreneurship Rory O’Shea notes at Forbes:
“Up until recently, many Internet companies could expect to benefit from the growth stage of their organizational cycle for a period of up to 10 to 15 years. Now, the next generation of these companies is seeing business cycles as short as five years, which includes the product launch, scaling and decline…Products must be developed faster in order to bring them to market quicker, if not in record time. For born-on-the-Internet companies, new product development is a competitive necessity. Two to three years ago, it might have taken up to three years to fully develop and launch a computer software product. Today, it’s typical to see that cycle in less than one year.”
Companies and products can all be created, grown, and destroyed in the blink of an eye. O’Shea cites Zynga as one example: “At its IPO in 2011, it was valued at $9 billion. However, it failed to appreciate how easily users could (and would) switch to competitors’ games, and has encountered severe financial turbulence over the last year.”
So, how can startups survive and grow? Focus on the product as much as possible. (Without your product, you are nothing.) Every business – startup or not – always needs to worry about investors and accounting and business intelligence and everyday administration. But startups especially cannot afford to spend too much time on such things. To accelerate a startup in a hypercompetitive environment, it is crucial to accelerate the product and not to get bogged down by administrative work.
Chuck Cohn offers some additional tips including that companies need to create a long-term vision as they grow or pivot to a new direction, hire curious people so that staffers will be flexible, and gather feedback often.
But entrepreneurs are busy—having the time to get everything right can be challenging without some help. Here are a few tools that I recommend that startup founders use to minimize the amount of time they spend thinking about things other than the product.
Foudersuite is a startup-management software suite that helps startup founders to work more efficiently and effectively by streamlining operations, finance, hiring, and planning. This allows the company to focus more on tasks that relate to product development, sales, and more. Foundersuite can be used for:
- Validating ideas – Developing a specific idea and testing how different versions of its positioning and messaging will be received by peers, advisors, investors, and customers.
- Creating corporate documents – Using pre-made spreadsheets and templates to spend less time on internal operations and decisions.
- Managing investors – Tracking fundraising work progress in conjunction AngelList (see below) and LinkedIn plugins.
- Tracking company progress – Logging important events and presenting key data to relevant parties quickly and easily.
- Monitoring the competition – Seeing what other companies in your industry or vertical are doing in just a few minutes each week. Have they obtained new funding? Have they written new blog posts? Something else?
AngelList is something like a social network for startup founders, investors, and workers – it is a version of LinkedIn that is specifically for this niche area. On AngelList, you can:
- Create a profile as a startup founder and/or investor and/or employee
- Connect with and pitch to investors
- Look for candidates to fill positions
- Tap into the global community of people at universities, startup incubators, VC funds, and more to get feedback on your ideas
- Post updates as you or your company
- Back other investors in their investments via syndicates
Geckoboard is a solution to the problem of tracking an increasing number of marketing and sales efforts over numerous channels. Veteran marketers will recognize this partial list of places:
- Google Analytics to track organic search, website conversions, and e-commerce sales
- Google AdWords to see paid-search performance by keyword, campaign, and ad
- MailChimp or Constant Contact to measure e-mail outreach
- Zen Desk to monitor customer-service tickets and related issues
- Hootsuite or countless other tools to look at social media success (of the countless number of social networks!)
It can take a lot of time to go through the data, export and organize it into reports, compare the results based on the identified business and marketing goals, and then adjust and allocate resources accordingly. Geckoboard helps by bringing all of this data into one place and on one screen (as in this example screenshot at the top of this post).
I’ve seen that these three, among others, can save startup founders and executives a lot of time. And time is the one thing you don’t have much of in the entrepreneurial world. Good luck!
This post was originally published on LinkedIn Today.