While not all startups are high-tech, almost all of them include some kind of technology. This is usually where their innovation and scalability (hence huge upside potential) come from.
So, handling the technological side of your business effectively is crucial for your overall success. This doesn’t mean just understanding the actual tech, but also understanding how it integrates into your business and how to handle and invest in it strategically.
Here are some basic rules of thumb which are important to understand for both technical and non-technical founders.
2. Building Something For Too Long Without Customer Feedback
If you are a tech founder, your zone of comfort would often be to close yourself to the outside world and build the best possible version of your idea.
This, however, is the cardinal startup sin. Wasting a lot of money, time, and effort on something you are not certain the market wants is a sure way to set yourself up for failure.
Innovative ideas and offerings need validation. What you show to customers shouldn’t be flawless. It’s crucial to adopt the minimum viable product mentality. Even if your tech is barely working, this would usually be enough to attract customer attention if your tech is solving a real problem.
You’ll always have time to improve and polish it later on. Your first order of business is to make sure you’re building something people want.
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
This quote from Reid Hoffman (founder of LinkedIn) is one of the most famous startup quotes for a good reason. Follow it religiously.
2. Over-Investing In Tech
Developer salaries (or agency/consultancy fees) are often by far the biggest expense of (software) startups. This is not a problem in itself, but you should be careful because it makes it easy to over-invest in non-essential product features.
According to the Startup Genome project, premature scaling is the biggest reason for startup failure. One of the easiest ways to scale prematurely is to invest money in development before you are sure you need it. Remember that in the early stages your job is to deliver to market a functional MVP (minimum viable product). Going beyond that in the early startup stages is a mistake. You have other important work to do before proceeding further (validating and adjusting your offering, marketing it, etc.).
Over-investing in development will starve other aspects of your business that need the resources just as much.
3. Building An Over-Complicated Tech Solution
Early on, complexity in any area (tech included) is your enemy. Complexity is a big source of problems, and early on you wouldn’t have the manpower (and other resources) to constantly solve these problems.
For an MVP, the optimal number of features is one.
Ideally, you’d have a single-feature tech solution (your MVP) that solves a real problem of a certain, specific type of person (your MVS – minimum viable segment). This would keep the level of complexity to a minimum and would make your job both in terms of tech and marketing as simple as possible.
Of course, this ideal is usually impossible to achieve. Nevertheless, you should strive toward it.
In conclusion, as an early-stage startup founder you should adhere to the following rules of thumb when it comes to managing the tech side of your project:
- Don’t worry about polish. Instead, worry if you’re building something people need. Be in constant touch with your customers when you are building. This would make sure you’re not going in the wrong direction.
- Don’t spend too many resources on tech. All aspects of your business need to walk in lockstep.
- Avoid complexity as much as possible. Different people would request different features and even custom builds of your solution. Don’t give in to those requests lightly. Only do it if you are entirely certain this is the direction in which you need to take your product.