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Betaout is not my first entrepreneurial venture. Before co-founding Betaout, a marketing software platform, I have founded other startups and have been through the cycle of raising funding, developing product, customer base and team, and exciting as well.
That said, every new venture is like a brand new baby. It doesn’t matter if it’s your second or third, they each come with their unique personalities, presenting a set of scenarios not experienced before! However, there are a score of books and classes to help parents and to-be parents prepare for this life-changing addition to their world.
In that spirit, here are some of the teething experiences we’ve had and continue to do so with Betaout, which other entrepreneurs will hopefully relate to as they take their venture through a similar growth phase.
People, people, people
Hiring for a startup is always a challenging task and most leaders will tell you it’s the people mandate that gives them more sleepless nights than cash or product issues! Most startups can’t offer high salary packages, fancy offices and a 5-day week.
Startups need people who are self-motivated, eager to learn, and can adjust with ease in the startup culture. If money is the only factor for the candidate being interviewed, then there’s always a handsome salary package waiting around the block.
That said, finding the right talent is extremely crucial as going forward, it does decide the startup’s fate. Not focusing too much on resumes, but on the characteristics the candidate reveals; giving defined projects to judge their abilities; and gauging through the exercise their nature whether they are a team player or not, flexible or not are some things that have worked for us.
Last but not the least, design an attractive employee referral scheme, because no one knows better than existing employees the kind of person it takes to succeed in your startup. Entrepreneurs need to be as convincing in selling the job to prospective employees as they are selling product or service to customers and business model and value proposition to venture capitalists.
Retaining the talent
Once you manage to hire the right candidate and think all is well, think again, because more often than not, it isn’t! Next thing you know, she puts in her papers and wants to move on to greener pastures.
Right here is the next bump on the road – being able to retain your best talent. As a founder, you will need to continue to sell the new hire on the opportunity throughout their first few weeks at work, maybe even months or years.
Add to this equation the fact that startups typically hire young people who are more restless and want to see quickly how they impact the business and their role in the bigger picture. Therefore sharing on an ongoing basis the vision and future roadmap, including execution plans and the role new team members are expected to play, will hold founders in good stead.
Getting in the first few customers
This is a typical chicken-in-egg situation startups faces wherein they need solid existing customers to prove their credibility and value proposition so as to bring in more customers into the fold.
Convincing your prospects to work with you when you’re not a big name, have limited resources, no case studies, and specifically in our case, convincing them to trust you with their customer data, isn’t easy. Add to the equation the fact that you are going up against big players loaded with cash.
They are like big gorillas, which can be very scary when you have to face them in the ring. The only way you can beat them is to be extremely agile, move quickly, and be extremely sharp in finding new opportunities.
Building a brand name
Here too, startups are faced with a double-edged sword, whether to focus on building trust and the best capability in their product or on grabbing the marketing limelight by racing to be first-to-market, thus compromising on some capability, in an already crowded marketplace etc.
Both are important but a tough feat to accomplish, especially when resources are limited. The traditional brand building tropes are cost-prohibitive; therefore, startups need to be innovative and organic in their approach.
Social platforms such as Medium can be used creatively to develop impactful communication. Half the battle is won, and that too not on the steep if your offering and customer use cases speak for themselves.
A recent report released by NASSCOM, “Startup India-Momentous Rise of the Indian Startup Ecosystem”, says India is amongst the five largest startup communities in the world and ended 2015 with more than 4,200 startups, which helped create 80,000 new jobs.
Helping each other out, networking to be a connector and giving before asking will certainly take this community a long way, as they undoubtedly will grow from strength to strength.
Also, enroute this roller coaster ride, remember to have fun, celebrate small victories, and keep your sense of humour in tact.