Everybody would agree that launch of a startup is extremely popular these days. Startups are created all the time while software development is in constant evolvement. Of course, creating a company from scratch is a quite challenging and uneasy task. Nevertheless, at the same time, it is totally possible and plenty of examples in a recent history can prove it.
It is true that startups struggle to be successful. So what does it take to create prosperous and outstanding project? Which characteristics do successful startups have? Here is a list of the ones they definitely share. Among them, there are the general and more specific features for those who perform software development.
Being passionate about your project
Although it may sound too naive and even too simple, it is where the entire process starts. Having a dream to develop a product and being passionate about it is the first step towards creation of a successful and ambitious project, which is going to satisfy customers’ needs and bring considerable profits in the future. Passion pushes you to work harder, overcome obstacles, never give up, and, eventually, succeed.
Providing an innovative solution
Lack of innovation is often the reason why startups fail. There is a theory that nearly 90% of startups fall flat because of the shortage of this feature. Innovation is something that distinguishes your product from the others, creates a new solution to some specific problems, attracts investors, and gives your startup a potential to become great one day. Moreover, coming up with innovative idea of your product is only the strong beginning. Innovations have to exist on a regular basis. Even big companies have to make some changes and updates constantly as far as there is a great deal of competitors appearing on the market every day and offering their differentiated products.
Focusing on your market niche
Sometimes, entrepreneurs want to encompass as much as possible. But it is always better to have a product whose functionality is narrower than the one that strives to solve all the problems and do everything, but in the end does nothing really well. As it was mentioned before, you need a solution to a problem and you have to focus on it. Your product must have a competitive advantage over the others. Finding your own market niche and target audience also belongs to this topic. Sometimes, companies want to encompass more, so they search for new territories, which results in huge difficulties and confusion. Growing within the territory you chose at first place, having researched it before, and being familiar with it will give you more guarantees and make you better and more competitive on that market.
Knowing what your customers want
The award-winning companies usually know their customers and treat them really well. Having proper knowledge about your target audience enables creating the right product for them and meeting their needs. Eventually, you build your product for the customers, so it is essential to give them what they want, since their opinion about the product is crucial for you. Maybe, Steve Jobs’ method was not based on what customers want, but on building something new that they would need eventually. However, it does not mean that it will apply to other entrepreneurs. In most cases, you have to make a thorough research on your users and understand what they need. It is essential here to keep up with the time because in IT sphere everything, including customer desires, changes really fast.
Providing good user experience
Apparently, a recently created startup company does not have any customer loyalty, and it means that it has to impress. Giving impressive user experience may be something that will help to earn that long-desired success. If you develop a software application, you have to provide your users with a smooth learning curve and intuitive navigation regarding the target audience you aim at. Your users must be sure that they will get what they want from your product as soon as possible. What is more, one should not underestimate the role of customer support.
Questions, suggestions or complaints may come from your clients, and they must be taken into consideration. Especially, if something repeats all the time. Moreover, satisfied and positively impressed customers usually share their impressions with their friends thus creating a truly good reputation. Launching a startup implies making mistakes and some things going wrong, so when users experience this, it is always better to apologize, accept your mistake, and assure them that you will make changes and that they are important for you. If a customer faces some difficulties in technologic or any other ways and receives good customer support from a company – it can guarantee you some level of customer loyalty, which is worth fighting for.
Your idea and vision of what your project is going to be as well as how it will look in the future may not be valid all the time. While there are startups, which start from scratch and break through with their main idea implementing only small adjustments, there are the others, which face big changes not only in size but also concerning the content of their product. That is why you have to deal with flexibility and make it your feature. Therefore, there may be constant need for new adjustments, either small or big ones. It is probably not pleasant to know that your team’s hard work may appear to be in vain at one moment, but being able to get over it and make changes in order to get more customers and meet their needs will definitely pay off in the future.
Forming a strong team
What you need is not only group of professionals who know their thing and have appropriate level of knowledge. You need people who are passionate about your idea and project, who share the vision and values of the company, who are willing to strive for the success of your startup, and are ready to work on it. One person is not enough here. So if you are about to launch a startup it is your task to communicate your idea and vision to your potential employees and hire a strong team of professionals and team players.
Valuing your employees
Hiring good people is not enough. There is a common problem of companies that put too much emphasis on attracting human resources than retaining them. Unfortunately, this approach is wrong, because your task as an employer is not only hiring great staff, but also making them stay in your company as long as they can. Employees must feel valued (and it does not matter whether it is a recently hired trainee or a senior developer with a lot of experience), interested, and motivated in order to continue working with the project.
Providing constant communication
You should never underestimate this trait as long as communication skills are crucial for any business. Everybody knows that launching a startup takes a lot of effort and time, and founders are usually busy with plenty of work to do. Meanwhile, it is of the utmost importance not to forget about your stakeholders, who actually move your business. They need to feel taken care of as well as to clearly understand their tasks and be aware of what you want from them. There are different platforms including social networks, which help to make communication easier. Moreover, knowledge transfer is also something that must be mention here. Team work implies sharing knowledge all the time, so either employers or employees must be aware of it and share useful information with each other.
Running a business is not a spontaneous thing. Of course, there are a lot of unpredictable situations and those, which do not depend on you. Nevertheless, you need a strategy and business plan of how your business will grow and how you are going to achieve your success. Starting a successful business implies considering more than just the next day. Your strategic plan has to be deliberate, easily implemented, and reflect the future and potential of your business.
Marketing your business
While being focused on technology, some startups sometimes forget that there is also marketing, which requires a great deal of attention. Even investors are interested in a marketing strategy and the ways you are going to promote your product to its potential users. You have to describe your project with a branding, and nowadays branding is much more than just a logo. It is the way you position your company and your product, the way you show yourself to the public. With your branding, you have to deliver a message to your audience, which will be easily understandable, even if your product belongs to the software industry. Nowadays, marketing has a lot of tools and instruments which may be used. Among them there are blogging and social media that can help a lot in making your startup more popular.
Learning all the time
There is no time to stop learning, even if you have good technical knowledge and experience, and know exactly what are you doing. Especially in the IT world, where everything is in constant evolvement and does not stay at the same place, it is very important to be able to keep up with the changes and market tendencies. So, in order to stay productive in the software industry one should be able to learn all the time whether in formal or informal way.
Accepting that it’s a risky business and dealing with it
It may be obvious but still it is worth mentioning. You may face a money loss, a lot of stress and failures. There may be plenty of unplanned situations, which cause you troubles in financial and mental way, but you have to be ready for it. It is a risky business not only for founders, but also for investors and employees. Nevertheless, successful companies did not avoid such pitfalls on their way. The route for prosperity will probably not be very smooth. This way, you have to be ready for it, figure out and examine the possible risks, and be prepared to deal with them.
Of course, following all the characteristics above does not guarantee an immediate and constant success for your startup, but these features are the ones that successful companies definitely share. When you are about to launch a startup, your product and your customers must come first. You should find your market niche, focus on it, decide on your target audience, and deliver your customers a solution, which would satisfy their needs. Do not forget about hiring and valuing the team, which must be not only a group of professionals, but also the people who share the vision of your project. Software industry is evolving all the time, so be open to learn new things on a regular basis and follow the trends.
As it was already mentioned several times before, running a startup is a difficult business. However, if you follow the characteristics above, it will have all chances to be rewarding and bring you success.
Author: Oleg Maykher
Co-founder and CEO at Exoft