Ensuring Your Startup's Success: 4KTA

Date:   Wednesday , September 05, 2012

Naveen Bisht is a serial entrepreneur and Board Member, Chair- Programs, The Indus Entrepreneur(TiE) and member of TiE Angels Steering Committee, based in Silicon Valley, California.

The difference between an idea and a successful business is its flawless execution. There are many insightful articles by a number of successful entrepreneurs. I would recommend reading Steve Blank's article, "The New Internet Bubble and the New Rules for Startup Success" that appeared on The Huffington Post blog in March 2011. My focus in this article is to outline, in my view, four key take away (4KTA) points that could improve your chances for your startup’s success. I have also included some points from my discussion with Preetish Nijhawan, Managing Director of Cervin Ventures, an early stage venture capital firm.

1. Be Passionate – The word passion can go both ways. It can bring tons of positive energy. It can make you inflexible and rigid in your approach. As an entrepreneur, you have got to be really passionate about your idea, your startup, your purpose and the problem that you are solving. At the same time, you need to be careful about falling in love with your idea and approach ignoring the real customer need. For all you know, the actual customer need may turn out to be a variation of the original idea. Make sure that you maintain agility, flexibility and promptness in adapting to the actual customer need and the changes occurring in the market place. Most successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists tell you to dream big and focus on a huge market opportunity. Here are some of the reasons. When you solve a big problem, it can make a tremendous impact for your customers and marketplace. Secondly, you have room for making errors in case the approach needs to be tweaked for the market. Thirdly, you and your team will be highly energized and attract smart people for a disruptive idea.

2. Execute Flawlessly – The execution of your idea is of paramount importance and involves having a holistic view. This starts with an awesome team with complementary skills in business, product, design and development. The team needs to have absolute trust, be in harmony with one another, and have a fearless and positive attitude to make it happen no matter what it takes. A clear definition of your idea with customer requirement and design document is a must for your team to execute effectively. You need to ensure that the first release of your application or your mobile application or your ecommerce website is launched rapidly. The post launch activities must be planned in advance for supporting and resolving the customer feedback and availability of operational infrastructure for scaling up in case millions of customers download and start using your application. Thanks to cloud compute and storage services from Amazon, Rackspace, Google and host of other service providers these days that your company does not need to build your own operational infrastructure. Have a process for rapid re-iteration to keep your innovation engine running to stay ahead of competitors while meeting customer requirements. The scaling issues and timing them in startups are immensely critical. By not scaling at the right time, startup can burn a lot of cash. By hiring and investing in resources prematurely such as building a sales team before the business model and market demands are fully understood, you can waste a lot of capital. Similarly, setting up a production line while the proto is still being developed and the processes are not fully optimized can burn cash. Other points to keep in mind are like waiting for a 100 percent perfect product before launching it only to find out that customer needs are different. You could avoid it by creating an ongoing customer interaction and feedback loop while product is being developed. Similarly, raising too little or too much money has its pros and cons. Having too little money always keeps you constrained in what all you can do and having too much capital lets you spend more freely.

3. Delight Your Customer - Your customer needs to feel loved and have a delightful experience. The online retailer, Amazon's mission is to be the earth's most customer centric company. In executive meetings, they have an empty chair that represents "the customer", so executives would include the customer in their thought process and the implications of their decisions. If you are an ecommerce startup, you need to keep in mind that the person buying your product or service on the other side is a human being. Create an awesome experience for your customer to feel appreciated and loved. For instance, you should try Flipboard app on iPad. It gives you an awesome experience as if you are reading the print version of a magazine. I have shared this delightful experience with so many friends. The point is if you create a delightful experience for your customers, you will end up acquiring more customers by them voluntarily sharing the experience with others. Ease of use is an overblown buzz word that everyone touts. However, nowadays companies need to live up to it. For instance, Google has kept their search page simple and clean from day one. Apple with its iPhone changed the dynamics of the smart phone market worldwide and set the standard for other companies to emulate.

4. 100% Commitment – Nothing but absolute 100 percent commitment is a must from an entrepreneur for his startup to have a better chance for success. My belief is that if you persist, you will find a way to succeed. If you are putting your heart and soul into it by thinking, breathing and dreaming about it all the time, and continuing to persevere, then you will eventually find success. You must be fearless. There is an unforgettable video by Buddy Media CEO, Michael Lazerow on living your life without fear that he made after acquisition of his company by Salesforce.com. Make sure to check it out on YouTube. Here is a quote by him, "If you live without fear, anything is possible," "Is fear holding you back?"

In summary, my four 4KTA points to improve your chances for your startup's success are be passionate, execute flawlessly, delight your customer, and have 100 percent commitment. The final KTA, not mentioned above, is that you've got to be lucky, so take all the luck that you can.